Project Finance Specialist, Bryce Barbier, Travels to Pohnpei as part of the Professional Fellows Program’s Oceania Reciprocal Exchange

In January, Bryce Barbier, Mana Pacific’s Project Finance Specialist, traveled to Pohnpei, one of four states within the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), as part of the Professional Fellows Program’s Oceania Reciprocal Exchange. The Professional Fellows Program Oceania (PFP Oceania) facilitates a two-way global exchange program aimed at promoting mutual understanding, enhancing leadership and professional skills, and fostering lasting partnerships between emerging leaders from the Pacific Islands and the United States. Sponsored by the United States Department of State – Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and administered by Cultural Vistas, the program theme centers on economic empowerment and sustainable economic development. For the first part of the exchange, Mana Pacific hosted Mr. Yota Pacifico Oue for one month as a full-time fellow to gain experience working at the company, as well as skills and insights he could return to Pohnpei with to help facilitate their renewable energy transition. After Yota’s time at Mana Pacific ended, it was Bryce’s turn to visit him in Pohnpei and gain first-hand experience being in the state and listening to local perspectives. 

Yota and Bryce together in front of the United States Embassy in Kolonia.

Bryce’s trip commenced with a series of meetings with leaders shaping FSM’s energy sector, including Om Bhandari, an Energy Investment Specialist at the Pacific Community (SPC), and Andrew Posner the Public Affairs Officer from the U.S. Embassy in Kolonia. Both discussions provided insights into the region’s renewable energy targets, the pivotal role of private-sector initiatives, and strategies to promote renewable energy adoption at the local level.

Yota and Bryce with Om Bhandari from SPC.

Throughout his stay, Bryce continued to explore the intricacies of both the state and national level energy infrastructure, engaging with the Congressional Special Committee on Climate Change and Environmental Issues, as well as officials from the Department of Resource and Development and the Pohnpei Utilities Corporation. These meetings provided insights into the context-specific challenges that the FSM faces with its infrastructure and meeting its Sustainable Development Goals. This was showcased by Bryce’s visit to the Pohnlangas Solar Farm, the largest utility-scale solar plus storage project in Pohnpei. While this solar farm is a donor-funded success story thanks to international partnerships with the UAE and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, it also stands to demonstrate the nuanced challenges of funding the renewable energy transition in different contexts throughout the Pacific. In this case, there are various levels of regulation and restrictions around foreign investment within the FSM which make attracting private project financing and investment partners a challenge. 

Yota and Bryce with Ms. Cindy Ehmes, Assistant Secretary for Department of Environment, Climate Change and Emergency Management (DECEM) and Board Member of Pohnpei Utilities Company (PUC)
View of the Pohnlangas Solar Farm

Beyond energy-specific engagements, Bryce made sure to allocate time for cultural activities that allowed him to immerse himself in Pohnpei’s communities and culture. This included explorations of historic sites, such as the Japanese WWII Tank Graveyard in Kolonia, shared meals with local families, as well as attending free and open-to-the-public fitness classes at the Pohnpei Boxing Club.

Yota and Bryce attending a public boxing class after a full days work
Saturday at the Lehn River

Mana Pacific is extremely grateful to the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and to Cultural Vistas for the opportunity to participate in the Professional Fellows Program Oceania. Both Yota and Bryce’s immersive experiences have provided valuable insights into how to achieve renewable energy goals in Micronesia, which supports Mana Pacific’s mission to accelerate the renewable energy transition for the Pacific.