History was in the making on 29th October 2018 when close to 100 people gathered at the Waigani Campus of the University of Papua New Guinea for the inaugural annual general meeting of the Solar Energy Association of PNG or SEAP.
Known as the land of the unexpected, PNG is very rich in energy resources yet has a major challenge of making electricity accessible to the majority of its population. Solar energy is abundant in PNG and can make a difference.
In welcoming the participants, Mr Christian Lohberger, Interim President of the SEAP, said that “Solar Power has a key role to play in the electrification of PNG but we must ensure there is a solid platform for the industry to operate from. The industry needs to present a united voice to government and development partners alike, to establish some standards and quality assurance in the market and to network and to train and upskill its members on the latest development in the technology, hence, the need for an industry association like SEAP.”
In opening the meeting the Acting Managing Director of PNG Power, Ms Carolyn Blackrock, delivered a very powerful presentation titled – Building a Nation – and the role of solar in that nation building. “PNG power averages 1,600 connections per year and Government’s target implies 125,000 connections per year or 1 million customers per year for 12 years at around a US$1.4 billion investment. PNG has capable people and the natural resources to deliver on this and solar is in our growth plans. But we must be very careful because electrification will plateau due to affordability issues if we do not undertake a Least Cost approach to ensure we can underpin our country as an investment destination with low cost, quality power. Small hydro and solar are likely to be the lowest cost technologies between 2020 – 2030 to meet new demand. The SEAP and PNG Power can build a harmonious and mutually beneficial relationship by working together on low cost, quality solutions as solar remains the solution of choice for off-grid and PNG Power continues to be supportive of enhancing the quality offered on products in the market.”
Left: President of Solar Energy Association, Mr Christopher Lohberger, delivering the welcome speech to the conference attendees. Right: BSP Wabag Branch Staff and local contractors laying out solar panels for a school
The SEAP was established and registered in PNG in 2016 by a group on dedicated business owners and individuals and this inaugural annual general meeting is the first time it is opened to the public. Representatives at the meeting were from Government, the Power Utility, Small and Medium Enterprises, Energy Contractors, the Banking Sector, students and interested members of the public.
The meeting unanimously endorsed the establishment of the SEAP and its five pillars. It accepted the need for membership fees. It agreed to accept volunteers to the SEAP Board who will then take SEAP through a six months transitional period until the next AGM where the substantive members of the Board will be selected according to the SEAP Constitution.
Supporting the establishment of National Energy Industry Associations is one of the strategies the PCREEE is adopting to increase the impacts of the private sector on the local renewable energy and energy efficiency market. The National Associations provide a platform for a united voice, position and representation regarding the industry. It provides a platform for upholding the professionalism and a culture in the industry, bridge the gap between policy makers and the industry and provides a forum for capacity building and networking.
The PCREEE is working together with the Pacific Islands Development Forum to establish a similar association in Fiji and discussions are already underway to establish the same industry association in Tonga too.
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Solomone Fifita, Manager-PCREEE email@example.com
Mr Christian Lohberger, Interim President of the SEAP - firstname.lastname@example.org
Manu Rawali, Lecturer & Acting Director of UPNG Centre of Renewable Energy - email@example.com