When the Association of Pacific Island Legislators (APIL) met in Honolulu last week, the membership heard from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) on the efforts in Micronesia to drive forward into the future less reliant on foreign fuels. Each and every day islanders from Majuro to Yap spend each day without the modern amenities of power as a means to help drive their respective island societies and economies. While the larger island like Guam may enjoy such technologies across much of the unincorporated U.S. Territory, there are many isolated areas of Micronesia that still do not have electricity serving residents.
Legislators listened intently to an SPC presentation that was not exactly an "eye opener", but allowed them all to re-think their collective positions on this important quality of life issue and how to help bring every part of their respective island communities into the 21st Century. GET, LLC was privileged to be part of this important audience held at the Hawaii State Capitol Building.
We learned that there are fascinating things happening across Micronesia related to advancing the use of renewable energy. Solar power is bringing 6,000 people in the Marshall Islands access to basic electricity for the first time ever. Solar powered-lanterns are bringing light to isolated parts of Yap that was previously done courtesy of kerosene-fueled fires or other means. This is the first time that at least 7,000 people there will have access to electricity and specifically lighting. Also, Hydropower is changing lives in Pohnpei. Other renewable energy sources like wind and Biofuels are allowing commerce and job creation to thrive throughout the remote islands of the FSM. Palau is adding grid connected solar photovoltaic systems into their Capitol Building and Guam is anxiously awaiting the completion of a 100 kW solar array construction project in Inarajan. There is no question that electricity can change lives all while preserving centuries old cultural practices. The SPC study did highlight the need to protect culture and preserve our way of life by finding smart policies to make this work for every man, woman and child across our great region of the Pacific.
Legislators remarked of ways to bring affordable solutions to the islands. Policies that endorse technologies with multiple applications were encouraged. Commitments to create modern laws and new regulations related to this important issue were shared with the shared concern that they all are driven with community input was broadly accepted best practices for island communities.
There were some missing components. Renewable Energy targets were outlined but associated policies were are not placed on the front burner-low hanging fruit to begin the trek to wean ourselves from fossil fuels. Energy efficiencies to include the changing of light bulbs or the use of energy efficient appliances can help this across the islands, but many see food and other staples more important that these swift and largely sustainable moves. Lawmakers were intrigued with this, but challenged to bring about such policies that would be of great help to reduce energy. Even transportation-the means that connects us to the world around us all-is complex and makes this issue even more important, especially related to energy security.
We as a global community should get behind the APIL's efforts on the energy front. They all are committed. They all are prepared to be leaders in energy. They all know the fallout for not taking action or by a misstep to satisfy small constituencies that benefit financially while the greater communities of Micronesia remain left behind with such a simple amenity of life in the island and part of the world community.