July 31 (UPI) -- The World Bank said it was rolling out new mapping tools to help countries in the Pacific determine where best to develop solar energy.
At a regional energy summit in Samoa, the World Bank said it was detailing the potential for its online solar atlas, which gives interested parties the means to find where solar power potential is most concentrated.
"The World Bank is seeing greater interest from our clients in solar power, largely due to a dramatic drop in solar prices over the past few years," Riccardo Puliti, the head of the bank's energy and extractives arm, said in a statement. "We hope that the blobal solar atlas will help inform the crucial planning and investment decisions needed over the next decade to shift to more sustainable forms of energy."
The Marshall Islands, located in the northern Pacific Ocean, has a population of about 68,000 spread over 34 low-lying coral atolls, comprising 1,156 individual islands and islets. The average height of the islands is about 6 feet above sea level.
Already, it is experiencing the effects of climate change, mostly from rising sea levels which have caused flooding and inundation of crops. Government officials said that if climate change continues as it is now, there could be 2 million people from the Pacific region who will become refugees.
With many of the low-lying Pacific Islands facing the earliest risks from the impacts of climate change, a report from the Asian Development Bank found that, if left unchecked, climate change could lead to the loss of about $52 billion per year for regional economies.
A U.S. decision to step away from the international climate agreement has opened the door for other economic powers to take advantage of the momentum building behind renewable energy. With rising protectionism, consultant group Frost & Sullivan said the economies in the Asia-Pacific will take up the mantle as a means to buffer against the impacts of global policy shifts.
"This new tool provides an initial indication of solar resource potential before governments and investors carry out their own more detailed analysis and will likely make it easier for Pacific island countries to adopt solar power where appropriate," Andrew Daka, the executive director of the Pacific Power Association said.