Particularly vulnerable as a result of their geographic location, the islands of the Pacific Ocean are gradually emerging from their dependence on oil by developing green energy sources. These eco-friendly options are demonstrably more innovative and more resistant to the effects of natural disasters. We take a closer look at the example of Vanuatu, an island nation where ENGIE has been contributing its expertise since 1939.
Although the islands of the Pacific Ocean are on the front line when it comes to the effects of global warming, and were successful bringing their distress to a wider audience on the fringe of the COP21 climate conference, a great deal of work is still required to improve their economic circumstances. To deliver those improvements, a change of energy policy is essential in this region of the world, where local residents are struggling with the rising price of oil, their main source of electricity. Here, north-east of New Caledonia, Vanuatu is leading the way thanks largely to the expertise of ENGIE, which has had an operating presence on these islands since 1939. This tropical island nation is subject to severe storms and recurrent hurricanes. So there are two challenges: moving away from fossil fuel energy in favor of a cheaper green energy source, and developing techniques with the level of reliability needed to offset climate extremes.
Two solutions have been adopted in Vanuatu and throughout the rest of New Caledonia: onshore wind power and coconuts. The wind power generators manufactured in France by ENGIE partner Vergnet for this country have a special feature: they can be folded flat and fixed to the ground when a hurricane strikes. This cutting-edge technology has already enabled a 13-generator wind park to survive Hurricane Pam, which caused devastation throughout the archipelago last year.
The coconut oil derived from copra is also a perfect substitute for diesel fuel. Exploited for more than a century, it is now used as a biofuel for power generating sets. The ENGIE plantation of 30,000 coconut palms relocated to a 120-hectare site can produce enough oil to generate an additional 8 MW of energy with no additional investment or new planting. The unsuspected power of this natural plant resource is also there in the copra residues prized by livestock farmers. This new model for sustainable development also represents a great boost for local employment, generating hundreds of jobs.