Waste not, want not: Unusual fuel for Pacific green energy needs
Around the world rapid development and population growth have outpaced the capacity to deal with the waste produced. In parallel, large sections of communities lack access to clean, affordable energy sources. These challenges are particularly pressing in the Pacific due to the remote locations, small land mass, and the compounding complications that are a result of the region being on the frontline of the climate crisis.
Currently 64% of Pacific peoples lack access to regular energy supply and the challenges are especially acute for households in rural areas where less than 60 per cent of households are connected to grid electricity.
One relatively new kid on the renewable energy block is ‘Waste-to-Energy,’ which sees new energy sources developed from waste. Today, Pacific policymakers and researchers are investing in the potential of waste usage to meet the growing need for affordable renewable energy in the Pacific.
In 2019 Pacific Transport and Energy Ministerial Pacific Ministers agreed to a target of a renewable Pacific by 2050. They also established more ambitious targets to reduce the region’s Greenhouse Gas emissions through Nationally Determined Contributions with a view towards achieving a high mix of renewable delivery by 2030.
In support of these objectives, the Pacific Community (SPC) in partnership with the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) launched the Pacific Adoption of Waste-to-Energy Solutions project (PAWES). The project brings partners together to enhance solid waste management and energy security in the Pacific region. This further supports the adoption by Pacific nations of some of the world’s most aggressive renewable energy targets.
By recovering energy, usually in the form of electricity, steam, and fuels from waste, there is great hope modern technologies can reduce the volume of the original waste, create the infrastructure to capture this waste, and allow communities to repurpose their waste. Mulch, old tyres becoming roads or playgrounds may come to mind but ultimately the desired benefits include economic development, the creation of new jobs, and cheaper energy. Renewable solutions cover a combination of hydropower, solar, wind, geothermal, wave, tidal, waste, and modern biofuel.
Matthew Tasale, Acting Director of Energy Vanuatu sees huge potential in this technology, "developing energy sources from waste has become a new focus for the renewable energy network. Vanuatu, as incoming Chair of the 5th Regional Energy and Transport Minister Meetings in September, looks forward to the stimulating discussion on its future potential for energy transition in the region."
Waste in the Pacific is mainly found in landfills (Municipal), sewage and sludge, livestock, biomass, industrial and inorganic waste, and agricultural crop residual. Being able to harness this waste to generate power addresses both waste management and energy needs – the combination is a no brainer for the region.
Energy security remains an enormous challenge for the Pacific region. This has been attributed to a lack of an indigenous natural resources (with PNG the exception), the high cost of extending services to rural and remote communities, lack of skilled workforce in the energy sector, dependence on development finance for most energy infrastructure, and electricity pricing that leaves inadequate resources for effective maintenance.
The successful creation, transfer and application of new knowledge, research and/or technology solutions to create investment opportunities and inject finance and policy settings that enable emerging business to participate in the sector is paramount. Investment estimates are US$3 billion to meet the region’s renewable energy targets. Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu will form part of this waste to energy programme supporting the development of a sustainable waste-to-energy sector for its near 10 million population.
While Pacific nations are at different stages regarding policies, road maps, energy aims and regulation on energy efficiency, developing policies that promote the use of renewable energy technologies and energy-efficient measures is a common priority for them all. Thanks to projects like PAWES, the Pacific is well on the way towards developing an integrated renewable energy strategy for the Waste-to-Energy sector, with support from government, education, private sector and local communities.
PAWS is funded through the financial contribution of the European Union and the support of the Secretariat of the OACPS, Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States.
For more information, please contact Akuila Tawake, Deputy Director - Georesources and Energy Programme | [email protected].
Feature Photo by Pacific Grow, Fiji
This is the 1st HomeBioGas system 2.0 installed for Tikina o Udu, Cawaro, Vanua Levu. Choosing clean and sustainable energy is being promoted by Mr Lailai and his wife, the district is learning about this waste management model. Feeding it animal manure and kitchen waste creates fertilizer for crops. Protecting communities and creating livelihoods. HomeBiogas is distributed throughout the Pacific.