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During early 1982, a survey of the energy situation in ten countries of the South Pacific was undertaken to determine future energy policy options.
The ten survey countries fall into two natural size groups with larger countries (Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomons, Vanuatu) using 20 to 30% of export revenue to purchase imported oil. Western Samoa, however, showed an exceptionally high jump from 38% in 1979 to 60% in 1980. The smaller nations showed even greater balance of payment vulnerability with the most dramatic examples being Niue (where oil imports cost more than twice total exports) and the Cook Islands (where oil consumed 107% of export revenues). For all island nations, copra and other coconut products represent a substantial export earner which is relatively insensitive to energy costs so the possibility of a flow through of oil price increases to export revenues is considered to be unlikely.
Only in the region's largest countries do indigenous energy resources presently play a significant role with PNG and Samoa generating a significant (but declining) fraction of electricity from hydropower and Fiji utilizing bagasse for thermal generation. Many of the larger countries have hydropower schemes under construction or advanced study but the smaller and flatter nations have little hydro potential. For these nations, biomass potential will also be constrained by the limited land area and by competition with food export crops.
The energy survey concluded that feasible oil substitution strategies for South Pacific Island nations might focus on the generation of electricity and the provision of domestic fuels from biomass although a wide range of other options will play a part. One resource which has substantial potential throughout the Pacific are senisle coconut trees well past their productive economic lifetimes which could be developed through gasification or directly to generate island electricity. Beyond special circumstances favoring ethanol in PNG and Fiji, little potential for liquid fuel production is anticipated for the transportation sector over the next 10 to 15 years for most Pacific countries. Identified, as well, are policy changes leading to more efficient use, more rational mixes of fuel sup lies, and increases in security of existing petroleum imports.
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