Pumped hydro energy storage to be highlighted at Pacific Climate Conference

SPREP, APIA: Mr Nicc Moeono, a Renewable Energy engineer for Samoa’s Electric Power Corporation, will be speaking about pumped hydro energy at the third Pacific Ocean Pacific Climate Change Conference (POPCCC).

The world-leading conference is a partnership between the Government of Samoa, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), National University of Samoa (NUS), and Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington.

The 24-year-old Mr Moeono will present at the conference on the topic of ‘Climate Change Power Resilience – A look into Pumped Hydro Energy Storage Systems for the Pacific’.

Mr Moeono says, “You want to think of pumped hydro as a lithium battery—how it holds energy which can be discharged whenever it is needed. Energy in batteries is stored electro-chemically, but with pumped hydro, it is stored in water in higher elevations. It’s really pumping water up to a higher elevation so that whenever there is energy needed, there is a supply of water there to generate it.”

“I will be giving an introduction on what pumped hydro is, because this is a fairly new concept to a lot of people in the Pacific,” he added.

Many countries in the world, especially in Europe, have large pumped hydro stations. This is the direction the world is heading towards in terms of energy storage and is something that can also be suited for the Pacific. EPC has multiple pumped hydro projects underway and in the pipeline.

“Pumped hydro also has the potential to provide clean energy, clean water and sanitation, and desalinisation,” says Mr Moeono.

Mr Moeono moved to Samoa in 2011. He attended Samoa College for Years 11, 12 and 13, where he developed an interest in Maths and Science. Upon graduating from Samoa College, he moved on to the NUS Foundation programme, from whence he received a scholarship to undertake studies in renewable energy at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand.

“I absolutely loved Science, especially Math and Physics. During Year 13, I was not really sure what I wanted to do. All I knew is that I wanted to help people, and I knew that Samoa needed engineers and scientists, as well as teachers in science. Through various connections and by talking to people, it became apparent that Samoa, especially EPC, needed a renewable energy engineer.”

During his fourth year of undergraduate studies, he undertook a design project on pumped hydro to improve electricity supply for the island of Manono, with EPC. Mr Moeono’s and his colleauge’s project was presented at the engineering design show at his university, where it won the Engineers Social Responsibility Sustainable Project award.

He graduated from the University of Waikato with a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Mechanical Engineering, and immediately returned to Samoa and joined EPC, where he has been working for almost two years.

Samoa is looking to reach 100% renewable energy by 2025, and Mr Moeono is one of the people working to ensure that Samoa reaches that goal. 

“We are already at 50%, and while progress has slowed down because of COVID-19, it has not stopped. We are still pushing to meet that target by 2025.”

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