Low-cost solar batteries key to cheap electricity for Polynesian countries

A report on innovative solar energy technology for the Pacific. Video: NZIPR

By Sri Krishnamurthi with Peter Wilson in Auckland

Solar-powered batteries are the key to a future without electricity grids for Polynesian countries in the Pacific (Samoa, Cook Islands and Tonga), a study has found.

The study is funded by the New Zealand Institute for Pacific Research (NZIPR) to assess the feasibility of a low-cost, energy future – titled “Polynesian pathways to a future without electricity grids”.

The first phase of the research, conducted by Peter Wilson (principal economist and head of Auckland business for the NZ Institute of Economic Research) and his team of Professor Basil Sharp (Auckland University professor and chair in energy economics) and Gareth William (head of Solar City Energy Services), queries whether distributed solar electricity is a practical alternative to grid-based electricity.

“The project is investigating the impact of new technologies on electricity sectors in the Pacific, we are looking at whether solar panels and batteries could augment or eventually replace electricity grids and large diesel generators,” says principal investigator Wilson.

“First phase is showing that the costs of both solar panels and batteries is diminishing very quickly and it won’t be very long before they will be economic in the Pacific and so that you have the potential to start radically changing how energy is delivered to Pacific nations.”


While he believes it is technologically feasible now, the prohibitive cost of the batteries at the moment – the leading provider of solar batteries being Elon Musk’s Tesla Powerwall – is something that has economically got to arrive yet, but the trend is towards costs being reduced significantly.

He says that within 10 years batteries and solar panels together could have a large impact on existing electricity sectors in the islands, and he sees that as a positive development because it will make it easier to extend electricity to people who don not currently have it at a cheap cost.

Decisions needed
However, he says, it does mean that the island governments must consider what they do with their existing generators and existing distribution assets if they are found to be non-competitive against the new technology.

“While it is not economically feasible yet, the trends are there and so it’s something that the Pacific governments should start thinking about,” says Wilson.

“At the moment they’re focusing very much on using solar panels to replace their electricity generation, they’re just connecting to their existing electricity grids and existing technologies.

“We think the batteries are going to change the equation and that is something that should be looked at, and the point is that this is not just something for the Pacific Islands, it’s happening around the world and a lot of countries and a lot of companies are trying to work out what to do, but they don’t really have a solution.”

He is expecting exciting new technological developments in batteries as a means of storing electricity into the future.

“The basic technology is not changing. What is changing is the cost of the batteries and their efficiency, how much power they can hold,” says Wilson.

“We’ve all seen how cell phones have become smaller and smaller over the few last years, and a large amount of that is because the batteries getting smaller and better, electric vehicles are doing the same thing. It is the same technology just using it for a different purpose.”

Hawai’ian benchmark
Hawai’i is an example they studied because it is like the South Pacific countries.

“Hawai’i which has a similar geography to the South Pacific, it’s North Pacific and tropical country with small islands and they too have moved to replace the diesel-fired generators with solar panels,” says Wilson.

“That’s a good benchmark to look at on the technological side but the economics are slightly different because it’s bigger Island, but what we particularly looked is that is an example of what could happen.”

The next phase is due to begin as soon as the NZIPR give it the greenlight.

Peter Wilson explains the way forward. “Hopefully it starts sometime this year and that involves going out to the islands and doing on-the-spot investigations, talking to people, at the moment phase one was desk research based in New Zealand.”

“So far the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has been very supportive of the project They’ve been funding quite large numbers of solar panels into the Pacific and they are quite keen to look at this next development which is adding batteries to that investment.”

He says the electricity generation industries are facing a major change in the evolution of the technology with what they do in their business.

‘Technological revolution’
“These industries are facing a technological revolution. They have choices, how do they respond? do they try to get ahead the curve, do they bury head in sand, do they try and make it someone else’s problem.

“We are seeing around the world this issue is being addressed, in some countries, some companies are very supportive and wanting to get to get on the bandwagon.”

Ultimately the goal is renewable energy to expand access to affordable, reliable and clean energy in the Pacific. Renewable energy targets feature prominently in all their Nationally Determined Contributions submitted under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Already a change is underway in Australia and New Zealand with a slow but sure transformation to renewable energy.

“It’s starting to change now. You are seeing in Auckland the lines company Vector is starting to invest in large batteries (Tesla Powerwall batteries) rather than just look at extensions to the grid.

This is a project that can change the economies of scale of Pacific countries and Peter Wilson is banking on it to transform lives in Samoa, Cook Islands and Tonga.

The Pacific Media Centre shares content with the NZ Institute for Pacific Research as part of a collaboration agreement. The video was edited by Blessen Tom as part of the partnership.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

PMC Seminar series: Folk wisdom: Superstition and ‘old wives’ tales’ across the Pacific

Event date and time: 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018 – 16:30 18:00

PACIFIC MEDIA CENTRE SEMINAR: Why is folk wisdom important?  In this presentation, Jourdene Aguon will explore and discuss the intersection between Pacific island communities (Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand and the Cook Islands, Guam and the Marianas) and their oral traditions, focusing on folk wisdom and its two variants: superstition and “old wives’ tales”. Interpreting a collection of historic and modern reports of these islands’ folk wisdom, we determine the commonality among them: what was important to these colonised places and what it means to have certain folk wisdom survive today.

Who: Jourdene Rosella Cruz Aguon 

When: Friday, August 29, 2018, 4.30pm-6pm

Where: Sir Paul Reeves Building,
Auckland University of Technology,
City Campus 
Room, WG903A

Contact: Dr Sylvia Frain

Report by Pacific Media Centre

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Cook Islands, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu win medals at Games

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Cook Islands, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu win medals at Games

Celebrating Pacific successes at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. Image: SBS

By Stefan Armbruster of SBS News

Three countries that have never won a medal in Commonwealth Games history are celebrating after bagging bronze in weightlifting, javelin and lawn bowls competitions on the Gold Coast.

A quarter of the 71 teams entered the 21st games medal-less, but now Vanuatu, Cook Islands and Solomon Islands have joined the ranks of podium-finishers.

While the Commonwealth winners circle is getting wider, 15 competing teams have still never won a medal at any games.

READ MORE: Commonwealth Games coverage

Friana Kwevira, from Vanuatu, won bronze in the para-athletics womens F46 javelin. Image: SBS

Friana Kwevira, javelin (Vanuatu):
On Monday night, Friana Kwevira won bronze in the para-athletics women’s F46 javelin and then had a sleepless night.

“I didn’t sleep until two o’clock, they were all say congratulations, you make us proud of you, your family and your island too, as well as your country Vanuatu,” she said.


The shy para-athlete only took up the sport 10 months ago and she is now Vanuatu’s first ever Commonwealth Games medalist.

She said she wants to empower women – especially those with a disability – back home.

“Don’t look at disability, look at your ability, you can do it as I have. If I can make it, you can make it,” she said.

Her eyes are set on an even bigger goal: the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Lawn bowlers Aidan Zittersteijn and Taiki Paniani have won bronze. Image: SBS

Aidan Zittersteijn and Taiki Paniani, lawn bowls (Cook Islands):
Taiki Paniani, 19, and Aidan Zittersteijn, 20, made sporting history by claiming bronze in the men’s lawn bowls pairs, clinching the first ever medal for the Cook Islands.

“I guess a lot of elderly people, a lot of older people play it but the sport name is ‘lawn bowls’ not ‘old people’s lawn bowls game,” Paniani told Māori Television.

“To play against top players is actually a real good experience and it shows me and it shows the people back home we need to lift up our standard or our standard is pretty good and we just need to add a little bit more”.

Jenly Wini is the woman behind Solomon Islands’ success. Image: SBS

Jenly Wini, weightlifting (Solomon Islands):
Jenly Wini is the woman behind Solomon Islands’ success, lifting the country to victory in the 58kg weight division earlier in the games.

“It speaks to the whole relevance (of the Games), not just of the high-performance athletes, in terms of world record holders and achievers and Commonwealth record achievers, but also where this plays in the development of sport across the Commonwealth,” said David Grevemberg, CEO of the Commonwealth Games Federation.

“The Commonwealth is a great platform for that, the more we can do that consistently from games to games to games, the more legitimate the games become and the more credible the Commonwealth is as a movement.”

These Pacific nations are now inspired after stepping up in into all-time medal ranks.

“It means we have a lot of potential into the future and if we invest more resources into it we’ll be able to better results more medals,” said Vanuatu chef de mission Mike Masaovakalo.

Stefan Armbruster is Pacific correspondent of SBS News. This SBS article has been republished by Asia Pacific Report with permission.

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Ardern mission for post-Gita visit to Tonga, Samoa, Niue and Cook Islands

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Ardern mission for post-Gita visit to Tonga, Samoa, Niue and Cook Islands

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says the New Zealand government’s Pacific Mission will take place early next month and travel to Tonga, Samoa, Niue, and the Cook Islands.

“It will be an honour to have the Pacific Mission led by the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and is a further sign of the importance New Zealand attaches to our Pacific neighbours,” Peters said, confirming the dates as March 4-9.

“The government carefully considered whether the Pacific Mission would impose a burden on Tonga and Samoa in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Gita.”

“However the government decided to proceed to allow the delegation to see first-hand the ongoing response. We will also discuss with the governments of Tonga and Samoa, as much as able to be learned at this point, what support is required for long-term recovery,” he said.

The Pacific Mission delegation is made up of MPs, Pasifika community leaders, and NGO representatives.

The delegation size is smaller this year with the mission changing focus because of Tropical Cyclone Gita.

“New Zealand’s close ties with Samoa and Tonga are built on a deep bilateral partnership, and a shared commitment to Pacific regionalism. Niue and Cook Islands are constitutional partners for New Zealand and we share citizenship as well as a set of mutual obligations and responsibilities,” Peters said.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

Pacific knowledge, smart media used to tackle mosquito-borne diseases

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Pacific knowledge, smart media used to tackle mosquito-borne diseases

TechCamp in action … technology training and capacity-building workshops for Pacific health professionals. Image: US Embassy

By Dr Sylvia C. Frain of the Pacific Media Centre

An international TechCamp event, funded by the US Embassy in New Zealand and organised by the University of Otago’s Health Science division, has brought together public health professionals from across the Pacific to participate in technology training and capacity-building workshops.

Participants from Fiji, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Sāmoa, Solomon Islands and Tonga worked on developing local strategies to address mosquito-borne diseases and implement vector control on January 25-26.

Forty Pacific health communicators were trained in new media technologies to foster innovation and develop solutions to combat diseases such as zika and dengue fever.

The participants collaborated with other Pacific health workers to foster timely and accurate information to their communities, regional policy makers, and international funding bodies.

Smart phone strategies
One workshop, led by Mina Vilayleck of the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement), introduced smart phone interviewing techniques to health communicators from Aotearoa, Fiji, Hawai‘i and Palau.

As the communication adviser for the ePOP (e-Participatory Observers Project),  Vilayleck trains community members in photographic, video, and radio technologies to create impactful content to present to local, regional, and international communities and media outlets.


Based from New Caledonia, ePOP links science, society, and media, creating a platform to raise awareness, publicise online activities, and support action plans.

ePOP …. health storytelling with smartphones. Image: Sylvia Frain/PMC

ePOP is country-specific and flexible depending on the situation and context.

The project creates a community of observers who gather information to share, assists with creating an editorial narrative, and helps with new media production.

Local observers use smartphones to interview and document and gather comments to create content.

If needed, they send the raw visual data to ePOP which assists with the development of a storyline which includes bilingual text and local dialects.

This enables the communities to share with other intertropical countries facing similar challenges and enables them to exchange their experiences.

Training future trainers
In addition, ePOP conducts 3-day trainings in-country with the aim of “training future trainers” in the community.

The course covers how to create a storyboard and narrative before you film, how to use a smartphone and to always shoot horizontally, the importance of sound and ensuring that the light is behind you, video capturing basics of remaining stable and slow with your movements, asking the interviewee to remove their glasses and to wait three seconds before responding to making editing later easier, and editing and post-production.

The current Pilot Site 1, includes documentation points in New Caledonia, Fiji, Vanuatu, and Aotearoa New Zealand.

Specifically, for issues surrounding climate change, she emphasises the necessity of including local and indigenous knowledge along with new technologies to document the emotions and observations from the communities experiencing the changing environment.

The short videos communicate to the media and policy makers the resiliency of Pacific communities and highlights their perspectives and voices within climate change circles.

Vilayleck spoke of how receptive the youth are to this form of data collection and storytelling and adaptable to new technologies.

For her, the goal is to share the knowledge and ePOP is committed to community participatory approaches.

She encourages those working in the Pacific, and specifically in the Pilot 1 sites, to get in touch with her if interested in collaborating.

Dr Sylvia C. Frain is a postdoctoral research fellow with Auckland University of Technology’s Pacific Media Centre.

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Michael Powles: ‘Recolonising’ the Pacific would stir security backlash

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Michael Powles: ‘Recolonising’ the Pacific would stir security backlash

Australian Foreign Policy White Paper … “Opportunity, Security, Strength” but a step too far for New Zealand. Image: Aust govt

ANALYSIS: By Michael Powles with Anna Powles

Australia’s recent Foreign Policy White Paper says that Australia’s approach in the region will focus on “helping to integrate Pacific countries in the Australian and New Zealand economies and our security institutions”. Does this mean effectively a recolonisation of parts of the Pacific?

Terence O’Brien (Money, military keys to Australian foreign policy, December 15) refers to the Australian emphasis on the need for United States/Australian co-operation “to shape order” in the Asia Pacific.

O’Brien comments that the current aberrant behaviour of the Trump administration seems to be assumed by the White Paper to be a temporary phenomenon – “essentially bumps in the road on the highway of enlightened American-led progress”.

Few in New Zealand would agree the Trump administration is likely to change its ways. Recent presidential tweets suggest a determination to plumb new depths.

Many New Zealanders are puzzled by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s avowal that Australia and the Trump Administration are “joined at the hip” for security purposes.

Now, Australia is proposing changes which would have a profound impact on our own Pacific neighbourhood and on fundamental New Zealand interests.


“Integrating” Pacific countries into Australian and New Zealand institutions: to achieve anything, this would have to involve surrender of at least some sovereignty. It would be seen by many in the region as a form of recolonisation, a modern version of the way Britain colonised Fiji, New Zealand and others in the 19th century.

Compact-style arrangements
Australian analysts suggest this integration should be achieved by establishing arrangements with Nauru, Tuvalu and Kiribati along the lines of Compacts which the United States has with its former Trust Territories in the Pacific, Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.

In return for significant aid, these Pacific countries agree to deny access to their countries for all nations except the United States. The arrangements between New Zealand and the Cook Islands and Niue have also been mentioned.

But all these arrangements were negotiated by the United States and New Zealand respectively before the Pacific countries became independent or self-governing. For them to move to a more limited form of independence would be seen by many as a step backwards towards their colonial pasts; and at a time when the focus in the Pacific is on increased self-determination for Pacific Island countries, not less.

An experienced Australian commentator, Nic Maclellan, has suggested, however, that it’s folly to believe that Pacific countries would allow Australia to set the security agenda: “That horse has already bolted”.

One of the authors of this piece knows very well Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu, having visited many times. They are proud of their independence and to suggest in this 21st century that that should now be qualified or restricted is simply remarkable. There would be strong opposition.

Pacific leaders have become increasingly outspoken pursuing or defending their own interests.
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama of Fiji has developed his reputation for this over several years.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi of Samoa, current chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, has reacted angrily to the Australian government’s criticism of Chinese aid in the Pacific (“useless buildings” and “roads to nowhere”). The Prime Minister said these comments were “insulting to Pacific island leaders”.

Diminishing influence
The Australian initiative would hasten a trend which is already diminishing Australian and New Zealand influence in the region. Pacific island perceptions that the two countries are becoming less supportive of Pacific aspirations over recent years have already resulted in a significant backlash.

Climate change is understandably given a much higher priority by island countries than by Australia and New Zealand. Trenchant positions by these two countries have prevented the Pacific Islands Forum taking positions fully reflecting island countries’ intense concern about the potentially catastrophic impact of climate change on several Forum members.

A consequence has been an emphasis on island country roles outside the Pacific Islands Forum. This has given impetus to other regional groupings and there has been much talk of this “New Pacific Diplomacy”.

Without a change by Australia and New Zealand to more responsive reactions to island countries, giving them greater agency within the Pacific Islands Forum, this longstanding regional body is likely to continue to diminish in relative importance.

The new Australian policy, aimed at securing control of aspects of foreign policy in several island countries, will be seen as another, larger, step away from support for Pacific self-determination and agency.

The case against New Zealand supporting this latest Australian move is strong:

New Zealand support for national and regional self-determination in the Pacific, or “Pacific agency” as some call it, has been fundamental to its foreign policy for decades.

Significant break
Supporting this new initiative would be a significant break with this longstanding policy and would be deeply unpopular both in the region and overseas.

New Zealand’s relationships and influence in the Pacific would suffer from such a change, affecting also our influence on security issues – ironically the proposed policy is justified on security grounds.

New Zealand’s global reputation and influence, depending in part on our reputation and standing in our home region, would also suffer.

There is no evidence that interventions in the Pacific as proposed in the Australian Foreign Policy White Paper are actually necessary to preserve or ensure regional security, which is best served by effective collaborative diplomacy with Pacific partners.

Our Australian relationship is our most important and we should seek common policies where we can. This initiative, however, would be against fundamental New Zealand interests in our own neighbourhood. It would be a step too far.

Michael Powles, a former NZ diplomat, is a senior fellow of the Centre for Strategic Studies, Victoria University of Wellington. Dr Anna Powles is a senior lecturer at the Centre for Defence and Security Studies, Massey University, Wellington. They are currently writing a book about New Zealand’s role in the Pacific. This article was first published in The Dominion Post and has been republished by Asia Pacific Report with the permission of the authors.

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