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L’énergie dans le développement de la Nouvelle-Calédonie

Yves Le Bars
Elsa Faugère
Philippe Menanteau
et al.

Section 2: Review and recommendations. English Version


Texte intégral


1An initial report request was submitted on 21 May 2007 in which the government of New Caledonia limited the board of experts’ investigation to the field of renewable energy. The report was requested in order to provide the “stakeholders and decision-makers in the energy sector a valuable work tool to create a well-rounded development plan for electric power and multi-year investment planning for electrical production (PPIPE). In addition, this tool would also be used by Enercal to create an electric power transmission plan”.

2The scope of the expert report was then significantly broadened. At the close of the initial workshop held in Nouméa on 15 and 16 October 2008, it was decided in the presence of all the stakeholders that the focus of the report would be “energy in the development of New Caledonia”. This decision was made in order to provide the most comprehensive information possible for the energy section of the Land Use and Development Plan for 2025, which in compliance with article 211 of the institutional act that governs the Territory, must be adopted by the end of 2009. Thus, this publication pro-vides a complete picture of all the available scientific information that can be used to define the country’s energy policy, including the issue of green-house gas emissions, and prioritize the efforts of the various authorities, communities, and stakeholders in these fields.

3In addition to the objective considerations on the need to meet the growing challenges of energy dependence and energy management, this change in the information requested for the report results from the excellent dialogue conducted by the New Caledonia public authorities and the Development Research Institute (IRD).


4Because future development decisions were to be based on the country’s research potential, it was essential that the experts thoroughly understand the country’s current situation from an economic, energy, political, and social perspective. The starting point of our expert report was the New Caledonia energy audit, which is included in another chapter that the reader will find in the following pages.

5In regards to the economy, let us quickly review some data, mainly derived from the “New Caledonia 2025” project, which the experts found very beneficial. A sparsely populated territory (10 inhabitants/km2) greatly marked by the growth of the Southern Province and Nouméa metropolitan area (60 % of the total population), in which most of New Caledonia’s economic activity is concentrated. With nearly half the population under the age of 25, the country clearly has a dynamic demographic profile.

6Industrially, the nickel sector has dominated the Territory’s economy for decades, making up more than 95 % of its export revenues, and represents the largest portion of energy needs in New Caledonia. Today, it is estimated that the economic variability of nickel, the technological advances that reduce its use (already nearly half of the nickel used in metallurgy is recycled) and the country’s strong dependence on it, are among the risk factors that could be controlled by finding ways to diversify.

7New Caledonia has been experiencing strong economic growth since 1998, with an average annual increase in GDP of more than 3.5 %. This in turn has created a large number of jobs (more than 4.3 % per year on average), particularly in the dominant service sector, even though the country has not reached full employment (7 % of the active population is unemployed). Nevertheless, with the exception of the lowest salaries, including the minimum wage (SMG), which significantly increased (between 15 and 20 %), wages for both private and public workers have declined in constant francs during the last nine years (source: Institut national de la statistique et Direction du Travail [National institute of statistics and work bureau], March 2009).

8It is also noted that the country is highly dependent on imports, including in vital areas such as agricultural products and fossil fuels. The cost of living is particularly high in New Caledonia. Based on a study published by the Syndex firm in 2009, the operating margin rate for business jumped from 48.6 % in 1998 to 61.1 % in 2007, which is significantly higher than mainland figures.

9The public sector, which represents 34.9 % of salaried employment, is widely involved in development that has been initiated or supported in the provinces by local public-private partnerships since the Matignon-Oudinot Agreements were signed. The network of companies is shared between several major corporations and a multitude of small businesses, with no real middle level. Outside of nickel, tourism and aquaculture, business in New Caledonia revolves almost entirely around the domestic market. It is faced with a specific set of obstacles such as remote location, isolation, an insufficient labour force, and an almost internationally unknown currency, the Pacific franc.

10However, New Caledonia has a series of assets that can serve as a base for developing new sectors, including natural resources, a lagoon listed as a World Heritage site, a developed industrial infrastructure, relative proximity to Asia, which carries considerable economic weight, and its location in the Pacific (growing regional trade with Australia and New Zealand).

11Finally, with regard to the environment, the amount of resources allocated for waste treatment, water management and sanitation, biodiversity protection, energy demand management and renewable energy remains low.

12From a political and social perspective, the 1988 Matignon Agreement successfully resolved a major issue for New Caledonia by enabling separatist Kanaks to share power in a country in which they had become minorities. The 1998 Nouméa Agreement ratified the new model in effect, a model that was unprecedented in the history of the French Republic: a consensual democracy instead of a majority democracy, a government with proportional representation, and a gradual transfer of powers from France to New Caledonia. Thus, the pluralist government has been operating for ten years based on what Dr. Jean-Yves Faberon, a professor at the University of Montpellier, calls a “required consensus” desired by all parties.

13The 2025 New Caledonia plan goes beyond the implementation of the Noumea Agreement, and includes a future land use and development plan that will offer a solid framework for establishing public policies. We wish to emphasize that this framework will be the focus of our expertise. However, the current definition of expertise set forth by the institutional act poses major difficulties (legal insecurity affecting certain texts, complex discussions on who possesses which legislative jurisdiction, lack of procedure to secure consensus, etc.). In our area of interest, there is relative ambiguity about the responsibilities of the different stakeholders due to the fact that both energy and the environment concern the provinces, certain municipalities, New Caledonia, and the State.

14The question of land is also a political and social issue. The status of land ownership is complex, particularly due to the customary claim to New Caledonian land, on which the Kanak identity is based. The experts measured the complexity of the land, which must be taken into account for possible access to biomass forests to substitute fossil fuels or store CO2 in carbon sinks.

15Also note that, although there has been no opinion survey on the subject, there is no real awareness yet of the environmental and energy constraints. However, New Caledonia shows significant promise in this area, marked notably by the recent addition of its coral reef to the World Heritage list. Efforts have already been undertaken, such as an awareness campaign conducted by the Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME) and the New Caledonia Department of Mines and Energy (DIMENC) as part of the Territorial Energy Management Committee (CTME) on the High Quality Environmental Standard (HQE) for building. For its part, the University of New Caledonia has established an education program that focuses on training geologists for jobs with major employers in the administration and the nickel industry. Needless to say, the Territory has an obvious role to play in this issue and needs to find partners. New Caledonia could even join forces with Australia to become an innovative laboratory for energy security, energy conservation, and renewable energy for the entire South Pacific region, which in turn could provide them with significant industrial advantages. This expert report is designed to support this ambitious plan.


16To provide solutions to meet the main challenges of energy security, environmental protection (particularly reducing greenhouse gases), and New Caledonia’s regional integration through energy, the board of experts created a logical, five-part plan based on the initial list of submitted questions. A coordinator is responsible for each part, which in turn is organized into two sections: a documented review of the issue addressed and recommendations classified by priority and date.

17References to scientific literature and academic papers on the subject can be found on CD-ROM.

Energy management: a major challenge to the sustainable development of New Caledonia and its energy security

18Energy management offers a significant amount of flexibility and can have major consequences for other components of an energy policy. Therefore, it made sense to focus the report on this area first by providing all sector-specific information, particularly regarding the energy efficiency of equipment in the building (notably, air-conditioning). Reducing energy consumption also implies changes in behaviour. Therefore, it is important to fully explain the diagnosis, tools (environmental education and raising awareness about eco-friendly behaviours) and possible means (tariff, regulatory, tax) of promoting energy management.

New energy production and storage technology

19This part presents all of the new production (water and land) and energy storage technologies. It also analyses their impact, particularly on jobs, and studies their feasibility for New Caledonia, taking into account environmental data and occupancy restrictions in the Territory. In the previous section, there is also a focus on regulations and how they can strongly influence the development of renewable energy (tariff and tax differences and solutions, support systems, etc.).

Greenhouse gas reduction and compensation methods

20Here, too, we identify all of the existing technology (or technology being researched) for capturing and storing CO2, highlighting in particular storage assessment tools. Among possible compensation methods, there is a great deal of interest in the possible use of forest biomass to replace fossil fuels (coal), paired with geological storage for sites that emit large amounts of CO2 (factories, power plants, etc.) We will also address the economical aspects of reducing CO2 emissions by evaluating the medium and long-term costs of various capture and storage options.

Energy geopolitics and regional cooperation

21This part studies the scenarios for fossil fuel supplies and the way in which it can affect New Caledonia’s energy security. We will then explore all aspects of regional energy cooperation (experience and skill sharing, access to resources, etc.). Particular attention will be paid to possible scenarios for integrating New Caledonia into the international United Nations climate convention effort, as well as legal analysis of the related global obligations and their impact on governance.

Energy governance in New Caledonia

22Based on all of the information in the previous sections, what are the responsibilities of the various stakeholders, both institutional and private communities, provinces, congress, government, the nation, producers, and businesses? This topic will cover all of the legal (regulatory measures), economic, land, and planning aspects of various scenarios envisioned for the New Caledonia energy policy. This section will include proposals for training and developing technical skills, as well as ideas for energizing markets (through business start-up incentives) in the areas concerned.

© IRD Éditions, 2010

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