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Central concern: cut reliance on imported oil

By Moneth Deposa SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Oct. 20, 2010) - Government leaders in the Pacific Islands and energy experts from the U.S. mainland graced the opening of the energy symposium at Hyatt Regency Saipan yesterday where over 60 participants registered on the event’s first day.

The Pacific Island Energy Symposium is a three-day event organized by the Northern Marianas College and the U.S. Department of Energy Office of the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Philip Voss, senior project leader for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, said the event’s primary goal is to educate island people and develop a holistic approach for the island nations to address their energy challenges.

One ultimate goal is to reduce the importation of fossil fuel among islands and states and provide them a range of renewable energy alternatives such as solar and wind turbines, he added.

Yesterday’s discussions focused on case studies as well as presentations such as how Cuba survived its oil crisis; the integrated deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy in U.S. Virgin Islands; the Hawaiian clean energy initiative; and the utility scale renewable energy on Kodiak Island in Alaska.

On the second day, energy experts will talk about specific renewable energy opportunities for the islands while strategic planning and implementation will cap the event on Thursday.

Ian Baring-Gould, a senior engineer for NREL, likened Saipan’s energy challenges to that of Hawaii’s which factors included high cost of power and assessing the right technology for the island.

Baring-Gould, who talked about the business case for clean energy in his presentation, said their coming to the island was sparked by the "great interest" of Saipan for renewable energy.

Among yesterday’s participants in the symposium included Pohnpei Lt. Gov. Churchhill Edward who is counting on the knowledge he would gain from the event.

"We have the same challenges as the other islands and states; so it’s important for me to engage in this kind of event to solve these challenges. We’re starting to look at renewable energy and we’re now finding the best suitable technology for our island," he told Saipan Tribune yesterday.

Saipan Sens. Ralph Torres and Juan Ayuyu, for their part, assured participants of their support for renewable energy for the Commonwealth.

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