The Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption and tsunami in the Kingdom of Tonga on 15 January 2022 is yet another serious reminder of the increasingly urgent need to look at energy security and resilience as part of the same challenge. Our ability to prepare for and adapt to changing conditions will be fundamental for the region if it is to withstand and recover rapidly from future disruptions.
In recognition of this reality, Pacific Leaders endorsed the Framework for Energy Security and Resilience in the Pacific (FESRIP): 2021 – 2030 in August 2021. Through the FESRIP, Leaders have envisioned a future where Pacific people have universal access to secure, robust, sustainable and affordable electricity, transport, fuel and household energy services.
Ensuring these services are secure means that energy supplies must be resilient to climate change and natural disasters. Just as importantly it means there is a growing need to expand the use of renewableresources, with more efficient energy systems, upgraded energy infrastructure and improved technologies.
The priorities of FESRIP include adopting design and installation standards and guidelines to improve the chance of withstanding natural disasters, as well as regularly assessing and updating each country’s energy security and resilience indicators.
The Geoscience Energy and Maritime Division of SPC together with the Pacific Regional Infrastructure Facility has developed the Pacific Infrastructure Performance Indicators which includes the number of days a country can still operate when there is no refuelling tanker. It also includes indicators about the ability of a country to meet its energy needs from local energy resources (energy independence). As with other similar disasters, the first question during the disaster impacts assessments and the provision of emergency supplies is whether there are sufficient energy (fuel and electricity) to transport water, food, shelter and personnel to the affected areas.
The Asian Development Bank and SPC have entered into a partnership to support Energy Regulators throughout the region through the Office of the Pacific Energy Regulators Alliance (OPERA). This partnership will strengthen the capacity of the Energy Regulators to place more emphasis on adopting national standards with regards to the security of energy supplies including the technical designs and installations of both renewable and non-renewable energy systems in the PICTs.
As with the recovery and rebuilding after natural disasters, there will be a lot of rewiring work and the Nuku’alofa-based Pacific Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency is taking the lead in the establishment of National Sustainable Energy Industry Associations in the region. It is also empowering members of these Associations to be able to comply with the prescribed national safety standards for the benefit of contractors and customers alike.
Resilience of energy infrastructure will be to top of the 5th Pacific Energy Ministers’ Meeting agenda, to be held in Vanuatu later this year - sharing and discussing information on security issues and practical measures to improve resilience of energy. Mitigation countermeasures for both environmental and national security and energy infrastructure discussion and policies on adaption.
Natural disasters such as the tsunami in Tonga and the COVID-19 pandemic have put enormous stress across the region. But Pacific Leaders are using this experience to build back stronger and cleaner. While most natural disasters are unpredictable, sound preparation and best regional practice will ensure investments in energy resilience and security today will provide strong dividends for the future.