Fiji Sun

El Niño Surge to Increase Power Outages

- A PLOTEC Feedback: frederica.elbourne@fijisun.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheri­c Administra­tion (NOAA)’s Climate Prediction Centre said El Niño is expected to gradually strengthen into the year.

The climate phenomenon favours strong hurricane activity in the central and eastern Pacific Basins, with impacts on the climate extending far beyond the regions.

The anticipati­on of severe weather conditions follows strong storms, cyclones and typhoons causing power outages.

This year, Vanuatu faced already category four Cyclone Judy followed in the same week by a category three storm, Cyclone Kevin. “Depending on its strength, El Niño can cause a range of impacts,” said Michelle L’Heureux, climate scientist at the Climate Prediction Centre.

According to data from the Asia Pacific Energy Portal, most Pacific countries – particular­ly the Small

Island Developing States (SIDS) – remain highly dependent on imported fossil fuels.

Outside of Australia and New Zealand, oil makes up about 80 per cent of the Pacific’s total energy supply. Renewable energy accounts for only 17 per cent of this total.

As fuel imports cost the region US$6 billion (FJ$13.22bn) annually, or around 5 to 15 per cent of GDP for each economy, this is an enormous burden.

Possible solution

PLOTEC consists of a consortium of seven companies experts in Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC), plastic composites engineerin­g, research and infrastruc­ture, economics and environmen­tal aspects, computatio­nal modelling tools and others.

“PLOTEC addresses a vision where the future of tropical islands is to be empowered to supply all the electricit­y, water and food they need, and create new industries for export such as alternativ­e green fuels and critical minerals”, said Dan Grech, founder and CEO of Global


“The PLOTEC team set out to design a cost-effective floating platform which can hold out in the 100-year, even category 5, storm. Islands already know the feeling of having vulnerable infrastruc­ture... for a breakthrou­gh in energy generation to truly be island appropriat­e it must address as many of the challenges which the status quo faces as possible,” Mr Grech said. OTEC is a renewable energy technology where surface warm seawater is used to vaporise a working fluid, which then drives a turbine to generate electricit­y.

Cold deep water is used to condense the working fluid, and the cycle is then repeated.

OTEC harnesses the power of the tropical ocean, the main natural resource of islands, to provide a continuous, cost-effective supply of clean energy, with significan­t environmen­tal advantages over fossil fuels and nuclear power

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project to develop a severe-weather resistant OTEC structure.

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