2006/02/22

Fiji Embraces Renewables

In my August 2005 post, Coconut Crude I wrote about how coconut oil can be turned into an excellent fuel for diesel motors and is being put to that use now in the tropics.

The combined effects of peaking world oil production and increased demand from developing countries is causing international tensions to rise along with the price of oil. For economies in small countries such as Fiji, the tripling of price of oil in this decade has had a very damaging impact.

The Fiji Electric Authority (FEA) has announced that it plans to eliminate the use of fossil fuels for power generation by the year 2011 and become a "100% renewable energy power utility". They are already working on two new hydroelectric systems, a wind energy farm, and coconut oil diesel fuel for the island of Rotuma. A 3.3 MW generator that runs of coconut oil is being tested. Geothermal energy is being looked into as well.

As some people have pointed out, there is much more that needs to be done in Fji, and perhaps there are better ways to go about it. There needs to be a coordinated approach which involves not only the electrical utility, but also building codes (to require new buildings to utilize solar energy), the planning of new businesses which require energy, and new fuels for the transportation sector, such as coconut diesel and perhaps sugar cane ethanol.

The double edged sword of world peak oil production and global warming is hanging over our heads, and the only way out in my view is to shift away from fossil fuels to renewables as quickly as possible. This will entail some challenging changes to our lifestyle that will be much better handled if faced early on rather than after the conditions reach a point where they are forced upon us.

I for one am happy to see the FEA set this goal and hope other parts of the Fiji government, businesses, and community will also contribute to weaning Fiji off of fossil fuel.

Thanks to laminar_flow whose mention of this story on his blog drew my attention to it.

13 comments:

Don Snabulus said...

It is a good thing to go alternative. I am curious about whether hydroelectric will affect the ecology there. In the Pacific NW in America, our salmon runs are threatened by the dams and in India large people displacements have occurred to make room for the backwaters.

Are there issues like that in Fiji?

Pandabonium said...

Fiji is relatively small, so I don't think there are any fish runs. The mountains are high and steep, so even the surface area of the lake of the main project is very small. The total population of all of Fiji is only about 850,000. Environmental impacts are minimal. Fij is in an enviable possition with regard to alternatives.

96% of electrical use is on the main island of Viti Levu and the two damns there provide over 80% of the electricity there. Mini and micro hydro schemes are being built to electrify some smaller towns and villages, but those plants have almost no impacts.

My house will be solar, but with very small power requirements. No A/C, dishwasher, TV, etc. I have a design which easily converts a chest freezer into a frige that uses less that 100 watts per day. My radio uses a wind-up generator. LED lighting. Coconut diesel back up generator. Won't be totally roughing it - there will be a microwave oven and a clothes washer.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

My daughter-in-law's family who live on the island of Moala have solar panels which work well in the village. Friends are going to Taveuni shortly to look at setting up a small hydro scheme on the east side. Savusavu already have their electricity rom a hydro scheme. There's a blogger in Suva who writes postings about ethonol from sugarcane. He's at (I think) http:baleta.blogspot.com or find him in a search for baleta.
W.

Pandabonium said...

Cool. Thanks for the info. I didn't know that Savusavu had hydroelectricty. Thanks for the blog reference too.

agus said...

Here in Malaysia we're trying to use palm oil for our cars. Word has it that a select few regularly buy used frying oils from KFC and McDonalds to fuel their cars, clean and cheap. It's like a chicken frying machine on wheels! The smell must be salivating...yummy!

Not sure how true it is though.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Cars running on cooking oil have been reality for some time and are still being being built and experimented with by different people (and are currently illegal in Britain!). Basically, they go around to restaurants asking for their waste oil! Apparently it is fairly easy to convert an ordinary diesel engine into a cooking oil burner. They say they are quite clean and efficient, too. The only problem is that they have to heat the oil (usually with electricity). Otherwise it congeals.

Pandabonium said...

There is a company on Maui, where I used to live, that recycles restaurant cooking oil into diesel fuel for cars and trucks. They do a good business, and believe it or not, the vehicle do smell faintly like french fried potatoes!

Ronald McDonald said...

Got a problem with that?

Pandabonium said...

Heck no Ronald, Exxon used to say "put a tiger in your tank". Now I guess we're going to "put a clown in our tanks!"

That should give Corncob Bob something to chew on.

FH2O said...

I would say it's about time that countries everywhere look at renewable energy seriously. Good on the FEA.

@ロウ 。LOW@ said...

I think renewable energy are much more advance than what we know today.

Problem with some people is if everyone is using cheaper alternative energy, what happen to the oil business?

Pandabonium said...

Alternative energy won't necessarily be cheaper, but the fact is that the world cannot produce more oil than it does today. It will be less every year. At the same time the economies use more oil every year. So that's the problem, we are no "running out" but we can't get as much as we want. And even if we find huge unknown reserve of oil somewhere (not likely), or use coal based liquids, we face climate catastrophy if we do.

As for jobs, the big oil companies have plenty to do for years to come, and are already shifting over to renewables. British Petroleum now calls itself BP which they say stands for "Beyond Petroleum" and is now one of the biggest solar panel producers in the world.

Sweden has announced that it will end its use of oil by the year 2020. It already used 26% renewables, compared to 6% for other European countries.

YD said...

well, Brazil has made a huge leap in alternative energy - sugar, to produce ethanol as substitute. and now the price of sugar is rising, and investors actually started buying sugar in commodities investments.

to add on to panda's comment, BP is actively advertising its renewable energy production here. It is researching into the wind energy too, to achieve efficiency in energy production.

actually, in Malaysia, we have good supply of palm oil. ever think of research into that sort of 'alternative' and see what we can come out with? i wonder... Brazil took more than 10 years, plus heavy government subsify. can we find a way too?