Link: Pacific Islands Report
Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

$21.2 Million Solar Energy Project In Samoa Put On Hold
Primary investors apparently unable to raise sufficient funds

By Lanuola Tupufia

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Nov. 14, 2012) – A multi-million-tala solar project, which promises numerous benefits for the people of Samoa, has encountered a setback.

Chairman of Solar Samoa Limited, Oloipola Terrence Betham yesterday confirmed that the "original financial support" anticipated to kick-start the project "has not come through."

The Chairman declined to say how much the financial support was, where the money was supposed to come from or who was behind it. But he is optimistic about the future.

"The original financial support we thought we had with investors lined up hasn’t been able to raise the finances," he told the Samoa Observer.

"The first investor we had hoped to come up with funding but unfortunately the size of the funding is large. They had tried their best. We’ve realized that it’s not their fault, the amount is large and it’s not easy [to find funds]."

Oloipola, however, assured that "we are in touch with other investors and we are very hopeful that the project will succeed."

The $50-million-tala [US$21.2 million] project was launched in July this year. It is a brainchild of Sunlogics Power Fund Management and Daystar's Eco Energy Solutions (Australia) Pty Ltd. and Solar Samoa Ltd.

Located on a land leased from Samoa Airport Authority at Faleolo, the project promises cheaper electricity and employment opportunities for nearby villagers. The solar farm is expected to generate 1.75 megawatts a year and further reduce Samoa’s reliance on fossil fuel.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, the Chairman repeatedly pointed out that the "financial risk is solely carried by the company."

"This is a private business, it’s not costing the government, taxpayers or costing EPC," he said. "Neither EPC nor the government is spending a cent on the project."

EPC is the Electric Power Corporation (EPC), the sole electricity supplier in Samoa.

Asked if the company did not foresee the problem with funding, Oloipola responded that "when you’re looking for money, you don’t dictate investors…it’s a decision by investors."

"They’re not charitable organizations," he said about the investors. "They’re out there to see the best return of where they put money. The company itself does not have the financial resources to get this project completed.

"We don’t have financial resources locally and shareholders and as a result, we go out to convince renewable companies to come and invest in Samoa."

Oloipola insisted that the company is not struggling.

"If we were struggling, then we wouldn’t have investors so we are working hard to work with investors."

If the project succeeds, it will result in Samoa having the largest solar power renewable project in the Pacific, said the Chairman.

In addition, Oloipola said it has taken three years to get to "where we are today." He said they have gone through several changes with EPC management and it is a long struggle as they have put in a lot of money since the project started.

"It’s a risk that we’re prepared to take," he said.

According to the Eco energy solution website, the project targets substantial reduction in carbon emissions and will replace about 10 percent of the current estimated diesel generated power.

The project also proposes "substantial reduction in carbon emissions as well as over WST$800,000 [US$338,954] savings per year to EPC by way of direct diesel cost reductions."

The project is scheduled to be completed in 2014.

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