The Solomon Island's Government, a State Member of IUCN, is currently reviewing its National Energy Policy (NEP). As part of this process, a National Energy Forum (NEF) was convened from 19 - 20 June. IUCN Oceania was amongst various stakeholders from the region that attended this forum.
The current NEP was endorsed by Cabinet in 2007. Following a stakeholder consultation held in 2012, a revised draft version has been developed and this was discussed during the NEF.
The country's dependence on petroleum is evident from the drastic increases in its fuel import bills, amounting to USD 58 million in 2004 and USD 98 million in 2009. In opening the NEF, the Hon. Moses Garu, Minister for Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification said that is imperative that the NEP comes up with strategies to reduce this ever increasing burden.
At the NEF, Anare Matakiviti, Energy Programme Coordinator at IUCN Oceania, highlighted a number of issues appropriate for the NEP strategies and activities, including:
- Energy is often treated as a goal in itself rather than as a tool towards achieving the goals of major development programmes such as enhancing public services delivery (education, heath, telecommunication, etc.), income generating activities, creation of employment, establishment of micro and small and medium enterprises, infrastructure development, etc, and this is the major reason for the failure of several energy projects.
- Solomon Islands is well endowed with renewable energy sources e.g. solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and biomass. Using proven and mature technologies these resources can be effectively utilised to electrify rural and remote communities.
- The shift from carbon based energy systems to renewable energy must be treated with utmost care for renewable energy can also cause adverse impacts on the environment which may result in biodiversity and ecosystems loss. For example, hydro schemes can disturb stream flows which may be detrimental to fresh water species; clearing of forest for biomass resources may result in endemic species loss; wind farms require large areas of land; and batteries used for solar PV systems contain toxic materials which are harmful to plants and other species including humans.
“The review of the National Energy Policy provides a platform for the Solomon Islands to mainstream renewable energy into its national policy in order to overcome some of the barriers to achieving sustainable development. It is hoped that the Solomon Islands will take advantage of the social, economic and environmental opportunities that renewable energy offers,” states Matakiviti.
The NEF was attended 40 participants from regional and international organizations, non-government organizations, government ministries and development partners.
Since 2010, following the endorsement of the Framework for Action on Energy Security in the Pacific, by the Pacific Island Forum Leaders, other Pacific Island countries have also either revised their national energy policies or adopted new energy strategies, investment plans and roadmaps.