Professor Harrie Vredenburg from the University in Calgary, Canada was in Tonga this week to visit the Tonga Department of Energy, the Tonga Power Limited and the Pacific Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (PCREEE). Professor Vredenburg is currently pursuing a study in renewable energy among the small island developing states (SIDs) which is part of a comprehensive book that he is collating, titled “Energy Nation, Energy Planet; Reconciling the Economy and the Environment”. According to the Professor the discussions in Tonga has been an eye opener for him in terms of the challenges faced by the Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) in their fragile environments. He truly believes the opportunities posed by utilizing renewable energy is indeed the way forward for PICTs.
According to the PCREEE Manager, Mr. Solomone Fifita despite the situation there are numerous impediments that serve as obstacles for renewable energy development in the region. One of these impediments is the boundless subsidies that are accorded to fossil fuels within our economies to make it affordable for use in the region. In doing so it makes renewable energy less attractive as a viable option for the region. Notwithstanding the above, the Professor was grateful to note the progress in the PICTs and particularly the commitments in terms of Roadmaps, Plans and Charts that has been put in place for the various countries.
In addition at first he was taken aback on the mandate of PCREEE with respect to encouraging Private Sector participation. However, he was thankful to note that most of the labour employed at the recent set up of the China funded Matatoa Solar Project facility were locals. These according Professor Harrie is certainly a deviation from the norm and goes along way in building your economies. Despite the developments at both ends of spectrum(for renewable energy), he is optimistic that the future is looking bright.
Professor Harrie will be in Fiji and will also visit other PICTs as part of this important work. He has been very thankful for the assistance that has been rendered to him on this important work.