Fri. Sep 20th, 2019

Making amends with nature: a year in review

A typical sunset in Palau as seen in Meyuns Causeway. (Rhealyn C. Pojas)

Not even the most vocal climate change skeptics can stop the tiny country of Palau from pursuing its goals in combating the effects of global warming.

While others try to reduce climate change into nothing less than a myth, Palau strongly believes otherwise being a nation comprised of people so attuned with nature.

There is no denying what climate change had brought to Palau this year – the drought this summer that had led the government to place the most populated states under water rationing and of course, we have heard about the golden jellyfish population in Palau’s famous lake recovering only recently when the warm sea temperature started to cool down somehow.

We could not agree more when Palau President Tommy Remengesau, Jr. reiterated that “the environment is the economy and the economy is the environment” as these two are inseparable things, that if treated with utmost regard, can benefit a lot the people.

It is for this reason that Palau has been really proactive in its commitment to achieve its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) of generating 45% of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025. In fact, this year has been marked by some important events and decision-makings that are anchored on this commitment. And while these efforts can be traced back to April 22, 2016 with the country’s official signing and ratification of the Paris Agreement, this year set the foundation to that ambitious goal.

To start with, President Remengesau broke earlier this year the partnership with New Zealand and the European Union to transform Kayangel into the country’s first state to be fully powered by renewable energy next year through a funding worth 1.4-Million NZ dollar. What is worth noting about this solar panel installation in Kayangel is that it includes a battery system. Through the same fund, grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) systems will also be installed at the Palau Community College (PCC).

The PCC and Palau Public Utilities Corporation (PPUC) had already signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)for the installation of solar PVs on December 10 and are set to begin the construction of the project come January.

Although not getting so much attention, another partnership is also being forged with the Institute for Environmental Analytics (IEA), an organization that provides data tool that can analyze energy generation capacity and grid impact of different deployments of wind, solar and wave renewables.

Through a grant, the IEA will provide Palau with a Renewable Energy Space Analytic Tool (RE-SAT) which is a renewable energy analytics platform that allows “planners to simulate energy mixes with varying penetrations of renewable energy sources” but has the capacity to acquire real time data for weather forecast. Trainings with personnel from relevant government agencies here in Palau were already conducted to provide skills and understanding on how to utilize the tool.

The RE-SAT is capable of acquiring real-time data that will enable planners to have broader understanding on what kind of renewable energy can be obtained from specific sites in the country and at the same time, provide insights on their economic factors.

But among all the actions taken by the government to achieve its NDC target, nothing equaled the buzz made by the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with France-based company, Engie-EPS.

Remengesau, who has been really optimistic since the beginning that Palau will be able to achieve its NDC target through Public-Private Partnership (PPP), faced the most challenging response from the Senate who refused to adopt the resolution that will supposedly ratify the PPA. But no one can actually blame the Senate if they choose to be smart and get the best deal for Palau out of this proposed project especially if you would take into account the three decades that will be at stake in the future should the PPA turn out to be not the best deal at all. The senate found themselves on the hot seat during leadership meetings with their refusal to sign the resolution for the PPA ratification but they have also gained supporters outside. Likewise, President Remengesau also got his share of supporters. The Ngarchelong State Assembly, for instance, had passed a resolution expressing support for the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) and urging the Congress to approve the deal.

There is no doubt that the end goal of the microgrid project to be implemented under the PPA is a very interesting prospect but careful examination of the deal should not be taken for granted as well in the pursuit of this.

The road is still long and winding for Palau’s initiatives to achieve its NDC. But all these boil down to one vision and that is to make amends with nature. (Rhealyn C. Pojas)