Fijiís energy challenge
Fiji is one of the world's leaders in
renewable energy -- about half the nation's electricity comes from
rainfall. But recent droughts have reduced the supply of water to
the dams that generate hydro-electricity. Although the Fiji
Electricity Authority is working to increase the capacity to
generate hydro-electricity, it appears that in the future the nation
may not be able to rely on hydro-generation for much more than half
of the electricity it needs. Although heavy rains fell in 2009,
long-term changes in the reliability of rainfall will continue to
cause concern, as they have in recent years.
Diesel engines power the generators that generate most
of the other half of Fiji's electricity that is not generated by
hydro. Ten years ago, the cost of Fiji's fuel imports
(including fuel required to produce electricity) was less than 20%
of the nation's domestic export earnings. In 2008 it was more than
80%. The cost of fuel is a major factor limiting growth in Fiji.
Fiji's fuel imports as a percentage of export earnings, 1993-2008.
Compiled from data from the Fiji Islands Bureau of Statistics
[Overseas Merchandise Trade Ė Imports by SITC and Exports by SITC].
The conclusion is simple: Fiji needs more capacity to generate electricity if the nationís economy is to develop
strongly, but also needs to reduce the amount of diesel fuel used.
We are fortunate that geothermal energy is potentially able to provide that capacity.
The "Saudi Arabia of geothermal energy" gives a lead
Most people know that Saudi Arabia is very wealthy
because of its oil resources. But far fewer people know
about the country that is sometimes called "the Saudi Arabia of
geothermal" -- Iceland. In only three decades, Iceland rose from
being one of the poorest nations in Europe to the fifth most
wealthy (per capita Gross National Income) in the world in 2007.
The main reason for this transformation is that the people of
Iceland have been wise in putting their renewable energy
resources to work. 99.9% of Iceland's electricity is generated
from renewable sources: about three-quarters by hydro and
one-quarter by geothermal resources. Only the remaining 0.1% is
produced by fuel oil.