‘When Pacific region pulls together, the world listens’


Australian scientist Dr Kelly Strzepek, Tuesday emphasised the importance of having the Pacific region make the decision on how to conduct energy transition.

“We no longer speak of just greening our networks,” she said.

“We speak of a transition…away from fossil fuels. Because at this moment in time, if we don’t set a new course, we are committing to a truly unbearable future for so many,” Dr Strzepek said at the official opening of the 30th Pacific Power Association Annual Conference and Trade Exhibition in Saipan.

A scientist, Dr Strzepek is an assistant director for the Australian Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water.

“You have been warriors,” she said. “I have watched the Pacific fight and advocate on the global stage and when the Pacific region pulls together, the world listens.”

“Global advocacy only goes so far,” Strzepek added. “What I see before me are the faces of the people who translate this ambition into action,” referring to the more than 200 utility officials participating in the power conference.

In Australia, she said, “we know all too well that with the energy transition comes challenges. We have many lessons to share…. But in the context of the Pacific, we are definitely not the only partners.”

She added, “I think it is so valuable that there are many ways for the Pacific Island Countries to receive support, and in my opinion the more we can all work together and prioritise region-designed, led, and owned initiatives the sooner…projects can come together to provide…opportunities….”

Dr Strzepek said as “the pace of the transition globally is building, we must ensure Pacific decision-making is at the centre of each country’s transition journeys, as no one has more expertise on when and where things are needed, than you.”

As for financial readiness, she said: “We no longer have limited options, there are so many funds already in place, and more being designed.”

“But we have learned that even with all this finance accessibility, it can be hard for countries whose human resources are already stretched. Together we must ensure that the financing is and can be structured to the Pacific context and adapted to meet the needs and circumstances of individual countries,” Dr Strzepek said.

“It is an absolute delight to be here, it is a beautiful country, so remote, so pristine, and I think this is just a fantastic opportunity for all the utilities to get together and they ought to share their experiences,” she added.

“Technology and Finance Readiness for a Green, Sustainable and Resilient Power System Network,” is this year’s theme of the four-day conference hosted by the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation from 25 – 28 September.

In his remarks, acting Governor David M. Apatang said the “transition to renewables from fossil and coal power generation is the only way to save our planet for our children and their children.”

“Some would say that saving this planet weighs heavily on economics — money — but many would argue that it is money that is making our air quality less clean and costing more to keep it clean,” he added.

“On behalf of Governor Arnold Palacios, I want to ask each one of you to think about the future as you share experiences about the challenges you go through to keep the lights on at night,” Apatang said.

During the conference, the Pacific Power Association will also conduct workshops for utility boards and engineers, as well as a two-day trade exhibition.