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Friday 27 November 2015 | Published in Regional


APIA – Proposed plans for diversifying Samoa’s energy supply, to include energy produced from biomass gasification, are now a step closer to becoming reality.

Biomass gasification is a process that uses organic material to make electricity.

The Government of Samoa, the Samoan Trust Estates Corporation and the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa have been investigating the potential of using Samoa’s senile coconut plantations to produce energy for a number of years.

The proposed project seeks to establish the biomass supply chain necessary to attract external investment to construct the country’s first gasification facility.

It builds on earlier feasibility assessments that demonstrated that the production of energy from biomass is both technically and financially feasible.

On Friday, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi signed a financing agreement for a US$665,000 contract to lay the ground work for the proposed facility.

The funding will include conducting the necessary biomass and economic feasibility assessments, developing harvesting plans, revising the legislation to encourage investment and tendering for the construction of the plant.

Consultations on the implementation of the programme will begin with key stakeholders.

Key partners involved in the project include the Samoa Trust Estates Corporation (STEC) that manages the majority of Samoa’s coconut plantations, including the proposed 2500 hectare plantation at the Upolu airport and the Samoan Electric Power Corporation (EPC), a government-owned utility responsible for the generation, transmission, distribution and retail of electricity in Samoa.

Currently, Samoa produces 35 per cent of its electricity from renewable energy and the government is committed to increasing this in line with its renewable energy target of achieving 100 per cent renewable energy by 2017.

“Energy sources such as solar will play a big role in helping to meet this target, but solar energy depends on the sun and can cause grid instability issues if used as high percentages of the energy mix.

“The proposed gasification facility would add more diversity to the energy mix of the country and balance some of the solar infrastructure currently being installed,” said Sione Foliaki, acting CEO of Energy Division, Ministry of Finance.

The project is part of the Adapting to Climate Change and Sustainable Energy (ACSE) Programme, a regional initiative funded by the European Union, that aims to enhance sustainable livelihoods, strengthen Pacific countries’ capacities to adapt to climate change and enhance their energy security.

The proposed gasification facility, which the government will tender for in 2016, is expected to contribute up to 10 per cent of Upolu’s energy supply once operational.

The development will create additional employment for the rural population in the project area.

Communities that will benefit from the project include the villages of Mulifanua and Falelolo, as well as the residents living on the STEC plantation itself. - Samoa Observer