HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

Decision time for future of renewable energy
In January 2012 Te Aponga Uira released a tender to international companies to complete a series of reports on the Cook Islands including turning waste into energy, storage of renewable energy and economic viability of producing renewable energy by 2020 to “firm up” options the Cook Islands can embark upon to achieve government’s goal of 100% RE by 2020. In the 8 months following 3 reports have finally been produced and released initially to key stakeholders with official public release due to take place in the coming weeks via Te Aponga Uira ‘s website. On Wednesday, the Herald spoke to CEO Apii Timoti.
Why were the reports produced?
Government has set quite an ambitious goal for us to achieve 50% renewable energy by 2015 and 100% by 2020 which has never been done by any other country, the magnitude of that is huge and it’s not an easy challenge and we are not just going to plonk solar panels on roofs so it’s critical that it’s done right. It’s a big challenge and important to get the facts right, basically the biggest challenge is to understand the issues of RE intermittency then we can gauge what technology we can exploit so that we can get the results we want quickly and that we don’t make the wrong decisions.
What is the background of the writers of these reports?
8 months prior the job was tendered with interest form 7 international companies with the final decision for global energy consultancy company KEMA to produce TAUS reports. KEMA Australia is a subsidiary of the Danish/Dutch global energy consulting company and stood out mainly because of their experience not only in RE but particularly with small island nations, they have done similar jobs in the Caribbean, which is similar to the Cook Islands geographically, Hawaii and South Pacific, so they understand our issues. Because they have experience with island power systems and understand the challenges small island communities face KEMA displayed the best skills in understanding the situation of the Cook Islands.
What are some of the challenges highlighted in the reports?
Intermittency remains one of the main challenges highlighted from the three reports. Solar is only available on average 4 hours a day, which leaves the remaining 21 hours so there is a challenge in trying to meet the power needs in the other 21 hours is catered for. At the moment we have the conventional system where the energy is stored in a bulk tank and burnt when people need it, now it’s different it’s solar and the whole thinking process is reversed. Because solar is available your need is not necessarily in sync with the availability of the sun the technology to harness the power of the sun out there but the technology that has not matured is the storage technology. While there are technologies available on the market it is very expensive and none of them have matured to the extent that it is feasible.
Where does that put the Cook Islands in being able to reach the goal of producing 100% electricity from Renewable Energy?
We will get there. We have some strategies that we can employ; some of the suggestions include grid reinforcement to strengthen our system that may entail installing larger cables and automatic engines. It’s important to remember to not focus on one renewable energy source but wind, solar, hydro and bio diesel as a collective.
What are the first steps need to take in initiating the report’s recommendations?
First and foremost we will need to conduct a consultation with all our major key stakeholders as the government cannot achieve this alone. We have a reference document to talk with our key stakeholders and then from there we hope to develop some key milestones. While our main goal is to achieve the goal of government however we will need to plot the path with all our key stakeholders and decision makers involved as our adopted attitude is that we can achieve this. -Maria Tanner

Herald Issue 608 21 March
- Terms of one China Policy document should be reviewed
- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

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