Resorting to solar in Fiji

By Eric Watkins

LOS ANGELES, April 9 – Tokoriki Island Resort, an upscale tourist development in Fiji, has become a sponsor of the It’s Time Foundation, an organization devoted to helping schools in the region go solar.

“We are really proud to be able to help such a worthy foundation that helps so many schools and children benefit from a better education,” said Robert Ring, General Manager of Tokoriki Island Resort

“The money saved on fuel will now be used to buy books, computers and other desperately needed education resources,” said Ring, whose company’s sponsorship will help replace diesel-generated power with solar power at the Namamanuca Primary School in Yanuya Village.

Yanuya Village, the landowners of the Tokoriki Island Resort, is just a short boat ride away and is home to around 500 people, including many of the team working at the resort.

SOLAR SAVES MONEY

According to the It’s Time Foundation, the switch to solar power from diesel “frees up large amounts of money for books, computers, software and other much needed education resources.”

No less important, It’s Time Foundation points out that “the solar systems also provide reliable power” – a point underscored by the fact that much of the region’s diesel and other oil products come from Singapore.

That’s a distance of 5,496 nautical miles – long enough for all sorts of problems to occur, to say nothing of expense. But it must be remembered that Singapore gets the bulk of its oil from the Persian Gulf producers, and that adds another 4,209 nm. So, it’s a journey of 10,000 nm more or less – even more expensive and risky.

Even Total Fiji, one of Fiji’s main suppliers is aware of the need for energy security, raising the point in last December’s issue of its newsletter Fiji Link.

REFINERY FIRE IN SINGAPORE

“On the 28th of September 2011, Shell’s refinery in Singapore caught fire causing supply disruption on oil in the region including fuel products being supplied to Fiji and other neighboring countries in South Pacific,” said the report in Fiji Link.

“Security of supply is key to sustainable growth,” the report added. “That is why TFL pays importance on business continuity by ensuring two sources of supply in the region: Singapore & Korea,” it said.

The report went on to say that Total has a dedicated team in Singapore engaged in supply and trading to ensure uninterrupted oil supply to all Total affiliates in Asia-Pacific.

As a result, Total says the arrangement gives it flexibility on even getting supply from other refineries in the region such as Taiwan, Thailand, and other places as the need arises.

Those are reassuring words, and it is certainly good to know that a firm like Total SA can assure continued supply from diversified sources. However, even with diversified sources of supply, price can be affected by an outage.

OUTSIZED IMPACT ON PRICES

That was the case in the Singapore fire as noted at the time by traders and market watchers who said that the outage at Shell’s Bukom refinery could have an outsized impact on prices and trade flows, being centered in the Asia-Pacific trading hub.

“Because Bukom is a large, highly visible swing supplier located at the regional pricing hub, the market impact is magnified compared to outages in other areas,” JPMorgan noted.

In its report, Jet Fuel Intelligence was more to the point: “The fire at Royal Dutch Shell’s massive Singapore refinery sent a jolt through the Asia-Pacific middle distillate markets, boosting cracks and pushing the forward curve into steep backwardation.”

Security of supply is certainly a key to sustainable development, but security of supply must also be affordable. If not, one can only wonder how long a development could be considered sustainable if it has to operate in the red.

The decision by Tokoriki Island Resort to back the efforts of the It’s Time Foundation is highly commendable. Solar has a long way to go before it catches up to diesel in the Pacific Islands market.

But adding solar to the mix is a step in the right direction toward energy security in the region – security that is both sustainable and affordable.

© Glamma Productions 2012

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About Eric Watkins

Eric Watkins is a consultant specializing in oil diplomacy. A former journalist, Mr. Watkins's work has appeared in numerous leading publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, The Financial Times, and specialist media such as Oil & Gas Journal, Middle East Economic Survey (MEES), and Lloyd's List.
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