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IFC says renewable energy will help bring power to PNG

A global expert on power with IFC, the International Finance Corporation, says Papua New Guinea is blessed with natural resources and he’s optimistic the country can deliver more renewable energy.

The comment by IFC’s Stratos Tavoulareas, came at the end of a trip to Papua New Guinea, assessing the prospects for meeting the country’s energy needs, as part of IFC’s work under its Pacific renewable energy advisory project.

Tavoulareas said there was the will and interest to do more to bring clean, affordable power to the people of PNG through renewable energy.

Rates for electricity access for households in Papua New Guinea are among the lowest in the world with less than 15-percent of people with access to grid power.

Tavoulareas said IFC was working with the government of Papua New Guinea, as well as IFC’s sister organisation, the World Bank and donors to try to help the government achieve its goal of 70-percent of the population having power by 2030.

IFC’s advisory work on energy in Papua New Guinea is supported by the governments of Australia and New Zealand under the Papua New Guinea Partnership.

Describing Papua New Guinea’s goal as ambitious but achievable, Tavoulareas said Papua New Guinea had under-utilised sources of renewable energy including hydro, solar and biomass – the use of waste materials from plants or animals to produce energy. He said only a little over one-percent of hydro potential was being utilized.

He said that the National Electrification Plan developed by the World Bank on behalf of the Government seems rational and suggests that part of the country should be electrified through extension of the grid and part of it through off-grid/small grid systems.

He said the use of biomass, or waste material from plants or animals, to produce energy was another under-utilized resource in PNG.

“Papua New Guinea should look seriously and develop biomass in a sustainable way, but this doesn’t mean you should start cutting down trees here and there,” he said.” He said there is a lot of biomass in PNG that could help address part of the country’s energy problem.

Meanwhile Subrata Barman, who leads IFC’s energy advisory program in the Pacific, said parts of the country offered good opportunities for solar.

“The prices of solar have come down almost 80-percent in the past five years,” he said.

Tavoulareas said when batteries became cheaper, and electricity could be stored and used when needed, solar would become more attractive.

“Batteries are expensive, but we expect the prices will come down in the future but it’s difficult to predict when and by how much” he said.

Tavoulareas said IFC was bringing its experience in advising on renewable energy in other countries to PNG, citing the example of India, a country now making far greater use of renewables to generate electricity.

He said wind is another source of renewable energy and PNG has the potential to harness this, but wind is typically deployed in large scale and it needs to be carefully studied in PNG. The World Bank is currently undertaking wind resource mapping in PNG.

IFC’s Lighting PNG program, launched in 2013, has already helped 1.6-million people, or 20-percent of the population, gain access to phone charging and solar lighting for the first time. This project is being funded by Australia and New Zealand.

IFC is supporting PNG Power to trial a grid-connected rooftop solar power program for commercial and small industrial businesses in Port Moresby. IFC recently supported a hands-on training program for PNG power staff on rooftop solar, that was undertaken in Port Moresby.

IFC is further promoting solar energy in PNG by taking a village road show featuring quality solar products and live theatre to the provinces with some of the lowest electricity rates in the country.

Using the campaign slogan ‘Gutpla Solar, Gutpla Life’ the roadshow is currently touring the Highlands and Momase regions.

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