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Am Samoa Energy Plan updated — exploring the use of electronic vehicles

Reduce petroleum use by land-based vehicles and explore the use of electronic vehicles, is one of the four renewable energy strategies outlined in the updated 2016 report of the American Samoa Energy Plan, released in September by the American Samoa Renewable Energy Committee, established some six years ago.

A Strategic Energy Plan — which established the overall long-term goals for energy consumption and generation in American Samoa — was initially released in 2012. Then in 2013 the Energy Action Plan was released with a selected handful of specific strategies that were achievable in the short term (1-3 years). The 2013 action plan was envisioned as a living document that would be regularly updated by ASREC.

Early this year the committee moved to update the Energy Action Plan, which focused on mature, proven technologies that are commercially available and financially viable today.

Care was taken to ensure the actions selected do not duplicate existing efforts, and that they leveraged work in other agencies and organizations as much as possible, according to the 2016 Energy Plan.

One of the four strategies in the updated 2016 plan is to reduce petroleum usage by land-based vehicles. According to the plan, nearly 9,000 road vehicles in American Samoa consume approximately 6 million gallons of petroleum fuel annually. And roughly 5% of these vehicles are owned by ASG.

 A 2012 study by Westmoreland found the average fuel efficiency of vehicles in the Territory was in the range of 13-15 mpg. Given the high cost of imported fuel, during the May 2016 action planning sessions, ASREC decided to investigate options for stimulating adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) in American Samoa.

However, there are potential challenges and among them is the absence of EV/HEV dealerships with mechanics qualified to service the vehicles; lack of EV charging stations; lack of funding for infrastructure; higher up-front costs of EVs/HEVs; and American Samoans do not qualify for federal EV/HEV tax credits. Additionally, the local preference is for large vehicles.

The report calls for three actions to be taken first and this includes conducting a thorough transportation study for land vehicles. This action, includes among other things:

•     Update the 2012 study

•     Number of vehicles by type

•     Average miles per week traveled in various sectors (ASG, commercial, private, etc.)

•     Analysis of the emissions-and fuel-consumption reduction benefits of road improvements, such as filling in potholes and using roundabouts at traffic intersections instead of traffic lights

•     Potential value of using EV batteries for load leveling, including the benefit of increased resiliency to disasters

•     Incentives that would encourage private vehicle owners to purchase EVs or HEVs

•     Input from car dealerships regarding their interest in stocking EVs and HEVs

Action 2 recommended in the report is exploring legislative options to allow American Samoa residents to qualify for EV credits. The report requests the Governor’s Office to co-write with ASREC a petition to the American Samoa Congresswoman’s office to assist in the creation of legislation to include American Samoa in all federal incentive schemes for EVs, hybrids and charging stations.

Action 3 recommended the implementation of a pilot program for ASG vehicles. To achieve this action, the report suggests identifying funding for procurement of electric vehicles. This could for example include applying for grant funding that already covers vehicle purchases to the purchase of EVs instead of internal combustion vehicles.

The report also recommends the installation of charging stations at ASPA, Territorial Energy Office and Public Work sites. Additionally, identify a supplier for home-based fast-charging systems.

Samoa News will report next week on other strategies in the Energy Plan, which gets support and financial assistance from the US Department of Interior.