Spotlight on Role of Energy Regulator, Promotion of Local Capability and Solutions

Supporting the recent Forum Leaders’ decision that COVID-19 must not delay global climate action but should promote recovery investments that are climate-smart and in line with a low emissions development pathway, the first ever Sustainable Energy Investment Forum (SEIF) in Vanuatu took place on 2nd of September 2021 at The Melanesian Hotel.

The SEIF brought together government authorities and the energy regulator, power utilities and investors as well as the financiers and project developers to address the need to accelerate investment in Vanuatu’s energy sector. Vanuatu has a target to be 100% renewable energy by 2030. Significant progress has been made but there is still a long way to go.

In opening the SEIF, the Acting Director General of the Ministry of Climate Change, Abraham Nassak stated that the Forum came about the right time when this country needs it the most. “The current COVI-19 pandemic has put pressure on all aspects of Vanuatu’s sustainable development,” he said.

“We need to do business differently and smarter in order to spring back and build stronger, better and be more resilient and access to sustainable energy must be an integral part of this development.”

The SEIF heard Vanuatu’s raised energy ambitions through its revised energy targets and the power utilities’ planned contributions through their respective energy roadmaps and projects.

Case studies of award-winning investments by Oceania’s largest private operator of renewable energy assets (SUNERGISE) were presented to the SEIF. These case studies include the Iririki Island Resort at Vanuatu, a 600-kW solar and rainwater harvesting project in the Marshall Is as well as the 1.1 MW grid-connected solar project at the Coca Cola Amitil in Suva, Fiji.

Project financiers such as the ADB, the Private Financing Advisory Network (PFAN), GET.invest as well as the EU Electrification Financing Initiative (ElectriFi) were presented as sources of finance and financial expert advice that are available to investors in Vanuatu.

Camco Clean Energy (Camco), a London-based investment manager, presented its Transforming Island Development through Electrification and Sustainability (TIDES) to the SEIF. TIDES is a flexible financing vehicle that is available for innovative energy projects in Vanuatu and is aligned with Vanuatu’s energy priorities.

The SEIF highlighted earlier experiences where financing in the Pacific are not fit-for-purpose and there is hardly a financial agency with the right product or knowledge of energy and the region. While energy regulation has significantly supported investments to date, there is a need for strengthened support to build the capacity of energy regulators. Case studies presented to the SEIF highlighted that the capability exists in the island countries and local solutions have worked very well and should be promoted

The SEIF is a follow up to earlier collaborations between the PCREEE and the Department of Energy in Vanuatu. These included a National Energy Dialogue in September 2019 and the establishment of a Sustainable Energy Association of Vanuatu (SEAV).

The SPC Regional Director Melanesia, Ms Mia Rimon reiterated that the establishment of the PCREEE is a special vehicle to support the Pacific Island Countries to achieve their national energy targets including their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). “SPC is a trusted partner in Vanuatu and will always be here to assist,” she said.

The Director of the Department of Energy, Mr Antony Garae acknowledged PCREEE and URA for their support in the first energy forum and urged participants to continue to liaise with each other and to explore ways of making use of the financial resources and technical expertise that are now available to them to realize Vanuatu’s energy and development aspirations.