Scholarship to create a roadmap for clean energy in Samoa

23 Mar 2023

Fogamomi Nicc Moeono working at the Tafitoala hydro power station where he was the team leader on a project to disassembled a vertical Pelton turbine and alternator.

Creating a roadmap for Samoa to transition to 100 percent clean energy and fight climate change is the focus of doctoral scholarship recipient, Fogamomi Nicc Moeono.

Nicc received the University’s Academic Pathway Doctoral Scholarship to support his study, building on his industry and consultancy experience and Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) Mechanical Engineering completed at Waikato. The scholarship is open to doctoral students of Māori and/or Pacific descent.

He will spend 12 months at ETH Zurich furthering his understanding of energy transitions and renewable energy.

The University launched two new doctoral scholarships for Māori and Pacific students in 2022 which support up to 30 Māori and Pacific doctoral students for the duration of their studies.

Nicc has been working for Samoa’s state-owned power utility, Electric Power Corporation (EPC), for the past three and a half years, the company generating and distributing 99 percent of Samoa’s electricity. Nicc also started his own consultancy firm - Moeono Energy Consultants with a focus on energy-efficiency and improving energy-saving practices at a grassroots level.

“Working as a renewable energy engineer, I’ve had hands-on experience working with Samoa’s power plant assets from hydro to wind farms and solar. I could also see the disconnect between the industry and the research we need to help us transition to 100 percent renewable energy,” says Nicc.

Samoa is looking to reach 70 percent renewable energy by 2031, and Nicc is one of the people working to ensure that Samoa reaches that goal.

Transitioning to clean energy is also key in the fight against climate change and Nicc hopes his research will also help other Pacific nations.

“You're seeing the impacts of climate change in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. We need to create a better, cleaner future, now.”

Nicc first came to Waikato in 2015 as a scholar on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Manaaki Scholarship. In his honours year, he undertook a design project with EPC on pumped hydro to improve electricity supply for the island of Manono, off Samoa’s mainland.

“The island is currently connected to the grid with a submarine cable. The idea is to make that tiny island with about 1000 people a stand-alone system.”

He says pumped hydro is like a lithium battery - holding energy that 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.

“Samoa has developed a national development plan to achieve its renewable energy goals. There needs to be an incremental way forward that is realistic and sustainable to ensure that we are on the right path.

“The energy transition is a complex and complicated concept that impacts our society. Whatever this pathway is and how it impacts my small Island of Samoa, is what I am researching in my PhD. There is one thing that is clear. We all need to work together," says Nicc.

His research will be supervised by Dr Martin Atkins and Professor Michael Walmsley within the University’s Ahuora Centre for Smart Energy Systems.

“Without the PhD Scholarship I wouldn’t be able to do this work. It’s not only the financial support but the expertise and like-minded research environment where I’m well supported,” says Nicc.

Nicc is the first of his siblings to attend University and to his knowledge, he is only one of three engineers in Samoa who have worked towards a PhD.

“I want to show that there is a pathway. You can go further than your undergraduate or Masters. There is a need for engineers, particularly in the energy industry, and we don’t have the capacity in Samoa to drive these projects forward that we so desperately need,” says Nicc.

“For me it’s about making an impact and helping us do better. It’s for my family and my community and all the people that came before me and will come after me,” says Nicc.



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