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By Scott Radway

KOROR, Palau (Pacific Daily News, Aug. 3) - With green in
their eyes but not much in their pockets, Pacific islands are looking to
renewable energy.

Leaders at the annual Pacific Power Association gathering said
they are determined to set an environmental example for the developed world by
replacing oil-burning power plants with renewable energy. It's the old "If
we can do it, why can't you?" said Tom Roper, a project leader for a
renewable energy initiative of Climate Change, a Washington, D.C.-based

But island leaders are trying to save more than their
environments - leaders claim pollution-triggered climate change is doing
everything from flooding shoreline homes to killing coral reefs - they are also
trying to keep their economies alive.

"A large part of our meager economies is spent on importing
expensive fossil fuels, in many cases 46 percent of a total national
revenue," said Enele Sopoago, ambassador for Tuvalu and vice chairman of
the Alliance of Small Island Nations.

Or for the 70 percent of the islands that do not receive
electricity at all because they are too remote for the infrastructure, renewable
energy might be the only way, Sopoago said.

That was the backdrop for the conference taking place this week
that draws together utility operators -- not environmentalists -- from small
islands to discuss how to improve power service in the Pacific. A sign that
times are changing in the Pacific. In years past, renewable energy would hardly
warrant a mention. Last week "Renewables for Sustainability" was the
theme of the talks.

Guam Power Authority officials were in attendance.

Roper said developed nations are slowly exploring renewable
energy sources, but fossil fuels remain considerably cheaper. But in the
Pacific, the cost of shipping could steadily make renewable energy the cheaper

But he warned projects must be considered carefully and advised
against having island countries becoming the guinea pigs for new technology that
most times fails and leaves islands with little incentive to try again. Islands
should employ the established technologies such as solar-, wind- and
hydro-power, and slowly phase out fossil fuels, he said.

August 4, 2003

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