By Elenoa Dimaira

Fiji and perhaps other Pacific Island nations are losing their experienced and skilled citizens to migration, which could have an impact on the countries’ ambition to increase renewable energy supply.

Minister of Infrastructure and Meteorological Services, Ro Filipe Tuisawau said at the 5th Pacific Regional Energy and Ministers Meeting in Port Vila, Vanuatu that Fiji was facing a huge brain drain challenge.

“The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) had mentioned local capacities, which is a huge challenge in terms of renewable energy,” Ro Filipe said. “We might need to look at our national human resources, we have a lot of our experienced and educated people moving abroad…I know that the other countries are facing the same issue.”

Ro Filipe suggested having incentives for skilled workers to entice them to remain in their countries of birth and contribute to the national cause for renewable energy.

Fiji with host country Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Niue signed the Port Vila Call for a Just Transition to a Fossil Fuel Free Pacific last month and has called on other Pacific Island nations to follow suit.

“Pacific natural disasters have not only grown stronger intensity, but also grow in frequency. The impacts of COVID 19 pandemic and the effect of the ongoing war in Ukraine, causing increases to fuel prices and cost of living, has contributed to the high inflation rate on our small island economies, which many people are struggling to cope with daily.

“However, we are the people of the Pacific, we are very strong and resilient to whatever calamities that hit our shores and we must fight that for the sake of our people and our existence. We have set ambitious targets in the Paris agreement to reduce our carbon emissions, increase the uptake of renewable energy and energy efficiency and to further progress on decarbonisation targets by 2050.”

Meanwhile, Ro Filipe said that one of the challenges in Fiji was making people understand the importance of the country’s commitment towards renewable energy.

“One of the issues mentioned by IRENA is that people still lack access to electricity whether it’s fossil or renewable energy. Sometimes, when we go to our communities, they just want electricity. So, we need to explain to them what we are talking about at this level- it is an ongoing challenge at the local and community levels. So overall, it’s a work in progress,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Coalition Government’s Cabinet has approved the National Energy Policy 2023-2030.

Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka said in his announcement Wednesday that the implementation of the policy would be overseen by the National Energy Policy Steering Committee.

He said the committee would be chaired by the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Public Works and Meteorological Services and Transport.

Rabuka said the policy was formulated after an extensive review of the earlier energy policies and aimed to support the effective development of Fiji’s energy sector.

He said the policy supported Government’s commitment to providing access to affordable, reliable, secure, and sustainable energy services to all Fijians through a safe and efficient transition of Fiji’s energy systems, transport, and infrastructure from its existing reliance on imported fossil fuels to low carbon and renewable-energy based technologies.