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ASU partnership provides solar training for Pacific Island technicians, entrepreneurs

August 06, 2013

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and Arizona State University will work together to familiarize Pacific Island technicians and entrepreneurs with cutting-edge solar power technology.

The two institutions signed a project agreement last month to jointly build capacity in the Pacific Islands for the deployment of solar photovoltaic systems – a fast-growing form of renewable energy with tremendous potential for energy security and economic development.

The partnership brings together IRENA’s Capacity Building Initiative in the Pacific Islands, mainly funded by the Governments of Germany and United Arab Emirates, and the ASU-led Vocational Training and Education for Clean Energy (VOCTEC) program in the Pacific, funded by the United States Agency for International Development. Under the agreement, a full-day training session on solar photovoltaic business development and entrepreneurship will be added to the VOCTEC program, while ASU will support the development and implementation of an industry-based certification scheme for technicians in renewable energy.

IRENA is actively promoting renewable energy for islands – such as those of the expansive, widely scattered Pacific region – to reduce their dependence on costly fossil-fuel imports, strengthen economic self-reliance and ensure a sustainable future.

“The energy needs and opportunities in the Pacific region, coupled with the political will of its leadership, made it an early programmatic priority for IRENA. Through our work in the region, we know that the deployment of renewable energy remains a challenge; in part this is due to a lack of capacity,” said Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA’s director-general. “IRENA’s approach, therefore, is to realize synergies with active players in the region and to provide targeted programs to bolster the capacity that will enable transformational change in the Islands.” 

ASU will lead the implementation of the program, working closely with IRENA staff, as well as national technical institutes from the region.

“We are excited to partner with IRENA and for their support in advancing the future of sustainable energy and entrepreneurship in the Pacific Islands,” said Mitzi Montoya, vice provost and dean of ASU’s College of Technology and Innovation. “This is only the beginning of a collaborative partnership between ASU and IRENA, and we look forward to growing the relationship between the two like-minded institutions.”

The program is designed in response to the growing need to ensure long term sustainability of solar photovoltaic projects. The first component aims to boost business and technical skills of entrepreneurs for off-grid solar home systems, create localized product distribution channels and contribute towards the gradual transition from donor-based to sustainable markets. In the second component, ASU will work closely with the Sustainable Energy Industry Association in the Pacific Islands and relevant institutes to develop and implement industry-based certification schemes, in compliance with internationally-adopted competency standards, for technicians in the renewable energy sector for the Pacific.

Building the technical capacity of the local workforce is a crucial step to attract investment in renewable energy and ensure long-term sustainability of projects in the region.

“With IRENA’s support of the technician certification program, we can help build local technical capacity to strengthen the sustainability of renewable energy investments in the Pacific Islands,” said Anshuman Razdan, associate dean of the College of Technology and Innovation.

Gauri Singh, director of Country Support and Partnerships – which leads IRENA’s capacity building efforts – also welcomed the partnership with ASU as the “seeding of a fruitful collaboration, leveraging resources to strategically help create a positive, long-lasting impact in the Pacific Islands”.