Spotlight: Priyatma Singh, Lecturer and Head of Department for Science, University of Fiji.

Date: 27 September 2017

Related Project: Renewable energy in Pacific islands: Developing Skills and Capacity

Priyatma SINGH is 34 years old and lives in the District of Ba in the Island of Fiji. She acts as lecturer and Head of Department for Science at the University of Fiji and also coordinator for EPIC project.

The EPIC Project and its relevance?

The EPIC project (Renewable energy in Pacific islands: Developing Skills and Capacity), was conceived to react to the challenges and immediate needs regarding renewable energy development in the Pacific. The project has established a Centre of Renewable Energy (CORE) which will foster and enhance regional co-operation in the field of renewable energy. A Masters' Degree in Renewable Energy Management (REM) has been developed and is currently unique in Fiji.

The partner universities i.e. The University of Fiji, University of Alicante and University of Papua New Guinea have established a strong academic relationship through this partnership.

Fiji has committed to improving its energy security and contributes effectively to mitigating climate change through a robust portfolio of locally available renewable energy resources. Fiji is well endowed with a range of renewable energy resources, including solar, hydropower, wind, biomass, and geothermal energy. However, the full potential still remains to be properly evaluated. Substituting imported fossil fuels with local renewables has been recognized as one of the key mechanisms to attain policy objectives.

The EPIC Project and your role?

I was part of the proposal development at the initial stages when the concept was being developed and naturally became an active team member once the project was approved.

The project began in October 2013 and I was initially involved as an active team member. I took up the position of project coordinator in 2016. I have been part of the committee responsible for developing courses for Masters in Renewable Energy Management programme and for setting up of the Centre for Renewable Energy.

My tasks mainly required organization and coordination of local and regional meetings, lectures, delivering trainings and attending conferences. I am the contact point for EPIC project in Fiji and I have been liaising with local stakeholders, researchers in the field of RE and the policy makers

What are your expectations from the results?

The introduction of the Masters' Degree in REM and the establishment of CORE are timely in view of Fiji’s adoption of the Green Growth Framework in 2014, and the need to re-inforce the workforce to enable the country’s move towards a green economy as the keystone of its future development strategy. Its importance is further enhanced by Fiji’s appointment to the presidency of COP23 and as co-host to the UN Conference on Oceans that was held in New York from the 5th to 9th of June 2017.

There is a huge potential for Fiji to access external grants such as the Green Climate Fund to develop technological projects linked to climate change adaptation and mitigation actions and as such MREM will be in high demand as this will be the most relevant and equipped programme to train the necessary workforce.

The green economy will provide a budding marketplace that will encourage wide-ranging environmental practice through approaches that place environmental sustainability at the core of all businesses. Industries and companies are already investing in green power in the Pacific and will require knowledge and expertise to set-up, monitor and operate solar, wind, hydro power, bio-fuel and other renewable sources of energy systems.

In regards to the student clientele, the MREM will be opportune for the tourism industry as well, which is continually trying to “go green” to attract the climate-conscious tourist and provide further chance of expertise.

Have you identified any impact to date?

The project has enhanced my understanding of the RE in the Pacific. Since the inception of the project I have been better able to understand the energy requirements and policies. I also realize that the RE sector faces several challenges and requires a holistic approach to overcome them. Over the past years, the wheels have been set in motion to induce RE evolution, but a concerted and incessant effort will be necessary to completely accomplish it. I have gained tremendous project management experience and have established several contacts with RE experts. Indeed this project has amplified my professional skills and I am in a better position to understand the RE status in Fiji and would now be able to react to RE issues swiftly. It has also enhanced my teamwork and organizational skills.

The project has provided an added drive to the Universities and the nation’s plans for a greener Fiji. Through various training sessions, workshops and the two regional conferences carried out over the course of the project, we have established strong partnerships with industry (both private and public). Functions hosted through the project have provided a platform to raise issues, exchange information, share experiences and best practices by bringing together key actors in the energy industry for the advancement and large scale deployment of renewable energy in the region.

Any Impact at national and or regional level?

The masters' programme in Renewable Energy Management is targeted at innovative researchers from within the Pacific region.  The programme has been accredited and commenced at both Pacific Universities (University of Fiji and University of PNG) in the first semester of 2017.

The Centre of Renewable Energy (CORE) has been established at the University of Fiji to facilitate collaboration at local, national and regional levels. Through the dissemination of masters' programmes and CORE, public awareness in RE and climate change will be enhanced.

The Fijian government’s effort towards securing a sustainable energy future for Fiji is commendable and the implementation of the Masters programme in Renewable Energy management by the University of Fiji will promote the much needed research into further harnessing renewable energies for power generation. The project has helped address the urgent need for alternative energy supply to reduce our vulnerability to the impact of climate change in the region.

The Fijian government has been extremely supportive of the project as it promotes renewable energies. This mirrors the government’s intentions to having 90% renewable energy generation by the year 2030.
The conferences and meetings were well represented by the Fijian Government at all times .The Project team also received great support from Fiji Higher Education Commission who evaluated and accredited the REM program.

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