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SECRETARIAT OF THE PACIFIC COMMUNITY (SPC) Noumea, New Caledonia Suva, Fiji Islands

News Release January 17, 2000


January 1, 2000 marked the beginning of an historical three-year program on renewable energy for the Pacific Islands. The goal of the Program (PREFACE), funded by Australia and France, is to provide sustainable electricity, particularly from the sun and wind, to the rural and remote communities of SPC’s 22 island members.

According to its Coordinator, Mr. Solomone Fifita, the Program should be labeled "The Millennium Renewable Energy Program."

"The Pacific region, as other parts of the developing world, has had enough of its share of the learning curve. It is now time to move forward by consolidating international, regional and national initiatives, to learn from past lessons, to maximize the use of local capacity and existing structures and demonstrate that renewable energy programs can do a lot more and a lot better," says Mr. Jean Michel Durand, an international renewable energy expert with the new program.

The focus is on sustainability. "We are guided by this principle. If a proposal submitted to us meets our criteria for sustainability, then we are 100% behind it. When it is sustainable, it is automatically replicable," say the SPC renewable energy experts. "We therefore see our effort as part and parcel of the national and regional initiatives. We are seeing a lot of new renewable energy projects coming into the region and we are well placed to coordinate these with our own initiatives and ensure there is no duplication of effort. Failure to effectively coordinate national and regional activities would be a sure way of repeating some of the not-too-encouraging stories of the 1980s and 90s."

The Program is not just about spending available donor dollars here and there. It is about creating partnerships and making effective interventions that make a difference to the lives of the people of the SPC region. This is probably what distinguishes SPC’s effort from earlier similar initiatives.

"Our approach is to treat renewable energy as a tool to meet the demand for sustainable development and better living conditions rather than just as a power source for rural folks. We believe strongly that the use of renewable energy is a tool for mitigating climate change too. By using solar or wind energy instead of diesel, for example, we will help reduce the fossil-fuel emissions that hasten climate change," say the SPC experts.

The key to making the use of renewable energy truly sustainable, they say, is renewable local capacity and renewable funds -- renewable capacity because if the only local technician for a project is away, there is some other trained local guy to rely on; renewable funds because users must, by collecting fees, generate enough revolving money to pay for maintenance and spares parts.

In any case, the Program is the first major regional renewable energy initiative to be managed by a Pacific Islander. That is already the first page of a PREFACE to new chapters.

Contact: Solomone Fifita Coordinator, Regional Australia-France Rural Renewable Energy Program E-mail: [email protected] 

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