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American Samoa   American Samoa Profile

Territory Profile and Energy Estimates

Profile AnalysisPrint Territory Energy Profile
(overview, data, & analysis)

Last Updated: September 21, 2017

Overview

American Samoa, the southernmost territory of the United States, is part of a tropical island chain located about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. The territory lacks fossil energy resources and depends on imported petroleum products to meet most of its energy needs. However, American Samoa also has solar, wind, and geothermal renewable resources.1,2

American Samoa depends on petroleum imports for almost all its energy needs.

The volcanic Samoan Islands chain, which includes both American Samoa and the independent nation of Samoa, lies at the northern end of the Tonga Trench, a highly active seismic zone.3 The volcanic region gives the island group geothermal resource potential.4 The territory consists of the adjacent islands of Tutuila and Aunu'u; the Manu'a group of Ta'u, Ofu, and Olosega; and two coral atolls, Swains and Rose islands. The total land area, 76 square miles, is slightly larger than that of Washington, DC.5,6 Following Polynesian tradition, nearly all land is communally owned by extended families.7 Nearly all of American Samoa's population of about 54,000 people live on the largest island, Tutuila, where the deepwater port of Pago Pago is located.8,9 The climate is tropical marine, with little seasonal temperature variation. A rainy season runs from November to April, but rain falls throughout the year, and some areas receive as much as 300 inches of rain annually.10,11,12

American Samoa's largest private sector industry is tuna fishing and processing, and canned tuna is the territory's main export.13 American Samoa's tuna industry shrank when one of two canneries shut down in 2009. Although that cannery reopened under a new owner in 2015, it closed again in late 2016.14,15 The territory's other major economic sectors are government and agriculture, primarily fruits and vegetables for local consumption.16 Government agencies employ more than one-third of all workers. American Samoa's potential for tourism is limited by its distance from major population centers. The territory's gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is about one-fifth of the GDP per capita in the 50 U.S. states.17 American Samoa expends more energy per dollar of GDP than the 50 states, although per capita energy consumption has been less than one-third of the average for the states.18,19,20 An earthquake and tsunami devastated the main island of Tutuila in 2009. The economy has been recovering after the tsunami, aided in part by infusions of federal economic and disaster recovery assistance; but, the recovery has been slowed by the 2016 cannery closure.21,22,23,24

Petroleum

American Samoa does not produce or refine petroleum and is dependent on imported fuel supplies.25,26 Volatile world petroleum product prices are a major concern for the islands' economy.27 Petroleum products are imported in tankers, which unload at a terminal and tank farm adjacent to the main harbor at Pago Pago. The territory imports distillates, mainly low-sulfur diesel fuel, high-sulfur marine diesel fuel, jet fuel, and motor gasoline.28 Before the 2008 oil price spike and the 2009 tsunami, American Samoans typically consumed more petroleum per capita than the average for the U.S. states. By 2011, island residents' petroleum consumption fell and has been consistently below the average per capita consumption for the 50 states.29,30,31

Natural gas

American Samoa has no known natural gas reserves and does not produce or consume natural gas.32,33

Coal

American Samoa has no known coal reserves and does not produce or consume coal.34,35

Electricity

Electricity use per capita is much lower in American Samoa than in the states, but the price per kilowatthour is much higher.

Nearly all of American Samoa's electricity is supplied by generators burning diesel fuel. The American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA), a government corporation, owns and operates two generating plants and the electric grid on Tutuila, as well as two other small generating plants and grids serving the Manu'a island group. Generating capacity totals about 40 megawatts, most of it located at the Tafuna and Satala power plants on Tutuila.36 ASPA also provides drinking water and wastewater treatment.37 Pumping, treating, distributing, and collecting water requires a significant share of ASPA's electricity. The September 2009 earthquake and tsunami destroyed the Satala power plant, reducing generating capacity on Tutuila by more than half.38 Leased generators burning ultra-low sulfur diesel temporarily replaced those destroyed in 2009, which had used high-sulfur diesel fuel.39 A 24.5-megawatt replacement Satala plant, with ultra-low sulfur diesel-fueled generating units that are 25% more efficient than Satala's old units, came online in the spring of 2017. The plant was built on higher ground to avoid floods and re-engineered to better resist earthquakes.40,41 Additional federal grants were awarded to assist in funding ASPA's Underground Mitigation Project, which will place transmission lines underground, protecting them from high wind damage.42

The residential sector is the largest electricity-consuming sector, using about one-third of all power generated on American Samoa. The commercial sector uses almost three-tenths of the electricity supply. The government consumes nearly one-fifth of the electricity generated on the islands. Large power users, including industry, and the territory's utility consume the rest.43 Per capita electricity consumption is about one-seventh of per capita consumption in the 50 U.S. states.44,45

Pacific island nations have some of the highest electricity costs in the world.46 Electricity cost varies with a fuel surcharge linked to world oil prices.47 ASPA fuel surcharges include a "Renewable Reduction" credit for electricity produced by renewable resources.48 In mid-2017, despite a decline in world petroleum prices and an increase in renewable generation, the monthly residential electricity rate was more than twice the average in the states, comparable to the rate in Hawaii.49,50,51

Renewable energy

American Samoa has a goal of meeting all of its energy needs from renewable energy by 2040.52 With American Samoa's high cost of electricity and geographic isolation, the government established a Renewable Energy Committee to work with federal experts to reduce the territory's reliance on fossil fuels by bringing sustainable renewable energy to the islands.53,54 The committee developed energy strategies to take advantage of solar, wind, and geothermal potential on Tutuila and launched a project to supply the tiny Manu'a island groups' grids completely with renewables.55,56

American Samoa obtains increasing amounts of its electricity from solar power and has substantial potential to expand solar energy use.

In 2016, the largest island in the Manu'a group, Ta'u, completed conversion to solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity generation, replacing the use of about 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year. Ta'u has a hybrid solar and energy storage system that now supplies 100% of the island's electricity. The 1.4-megawatt solar array is coupled with a battery storage system.57 As of May 2017, the other two islands in Manu'a group, Ofu and Olosega, fueled 80% of their electricity needs with solar energy with a 350-kilowatt solar PV array, batteries with 1,000 kilowatthours of storage, and three new fuel-efficient diesel generators. To reach the goal of 100% renewables, the American Samoa Renewable Energy Committee is considering adding an in-stream hydropower turbine at the shallow-water coral reef land bridge between Ofu and Olosega islands.58,59 Ofu and Olosega are expected to reach 100% renewable-sourced electricity by 2018.60,61 A larger 1.75-megawatt solar PV facility was completed near the Tafuna power station on Tutuila in 2015.62 ASPA has five active solar PV sites, with more in development.63 More than 700 kilowatts of distributed (customer-sited, small-scale) solar PV has been installed in American Samoa.64 Customer installations include arrays on rooftops of government and private buildings, and solar hot water heating.65 American Samoa is close to the equator, giving it substantial potential to expand its use of solar energy.66

ASPA is capturing waste heat emitted by diesel generators at its Tafuna plant to produce additional electricity.67,68 The utility signed an agreement to buy electricity generated at a waste-to-energy plant to be built at Tutuila's Futiga landfill, which could produce up to 10% of ASPA's electricity needs.69 The plant could also help reduce waste volumes at the landfill, which is nearing capacity.70,71

An ASPA study has identified some potential wind power sites around Tutuila, including sites for two 100-kilowatt turbine installations.72,73 Challenges for wind energy include typhoons, social acceptance, and grid stability. American Samoa's communal land ownership structure also makes long-term leasing for larger scale projects a potential hurdle for development.74 Geothermal energy is being actively explored as well, after preliminary studies of the island's geology indicated geothermal energy could provide a stable, economical baseload for the islands.75,76

American Samoa has encouraged distributed projects. In 2008, American Samoa adopted a net metering law that allowed owners of small solar or wind facilities, installed primarily for the consumer's use, to receive credit for excess power sent to the grid.77 Demand-side management programs are planned on several islands. The government also offers assistance for residential weatherization and energy audits.78,79

Endnotes

1 U. S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Energy Transition Initiative, Islands, Energy Snapshot, American Samoa, DOE/GO-102015-4682 (June 2015).
2 Busche, Sarah, et al., American Samoa Initial Technical Assessment Report, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50905 (September 2011), p. 3, 4, 25-39.
3 Visser, Charles, "Geothermal Potential of American Samoa," American Samoa Renewable Energy Committee (August 22, 2013).
4 U. S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Energy Transition Initiative, Islands, Energy Snapshot, American Samoa, DOE/GO-102015-4682 (June 2015).
5 Busche, Sarah, et al., American Samoa Initial Technical Assessment Report, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50905 (September 2011), p. 3, 4.
6 U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook, American Samoa, Geography, updated July 31, 2017.
7 U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs, American Samoa, Land Ownership, accessed August 25, 2017.
8 U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook, American Samoa, Geography, updated July 31, 2017.
9 Busche, Sarah, et al., American Samoa Initial Technical Assessment Report, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50905 (September 2011), p. 3.
10 U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook, American Samoa, Geography, updated July 31, 2017.
11 TripAdvisor, American Samoa Weather and When To Go, accessed August 25, 2017.
12 National Park Service, National Park of American Samoa, accessed August 25, 2017.
13 U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook, American Samoa, Economy, updated February 25, 2016.
14 U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook, American Samoa, Economy, updated February 25, 2016.
15 Sagapolutele, Fili, "2016 GDP for territory decreased by $17Mil," Samoa News (August 17, 2017).
16 Busche, Sarah, et al., American Samoa Initial Technical Assessment Report, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50905 (September 2011), p. 4.
17 U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs, American Samoa, Economy, Industries, Labor Force & Employment, Tourism, accessed August 25, 2017.
18 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), State Energy Data System, Table C12, Total Energy Consumption Estimates, Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Energy Consumption Estimates per Real Dollar of GDP, Ranked by State, 2015.
19 Sagapolutele, Fili, "2016 GDP for territory decreased by $17Mil," Samoa News (August 17, 2017).
20 U.S. EIA, American Samoa Profile Data, Consumption and Economy, accessed August 25, 2017.
21 American Samoa Department of Human Resources, National Emergency Grant American Samoa, From Tsunami to Renewal, Recovery, accessed August 25, 2017.
22 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, "Gross Domestic Product for American Samoa Increases for the Second Year in a Row," Press Release (August 8, 2016).
23 American Samoa Department of Commerce, American Samoa's Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, 2012 (August 6, 2012), p. 9-11.
24 Sagapolutele, Fili, "2016 GDP for territory decreased by $17Mil," Samoa News (August 17, 2017).
25 U.S. EIA, American Samoa Profile Data, Reserves and Supply, accessed August 27, 2017.
26 Busche, Sarah, et al., American Samoa Initial Technical Assessment Report, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50905 (September 2011), p. 7.
27 Busche, Sarah, et al., American Samoa Initial Technical Assessment Report, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50905 (September 2011), p. v.
28 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, NPDES Compliance Evaluation Inspection, American Samoa Terminal (February 25, 2011), 1.1 Background, p. 2.
29 Busche, Sarah, et al., American Samoa Initial Technical Assessment Report, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50905 (September 2011), p. 44.
30 U.S. EIA, International Energy Statistics, Petroleum, Total Consumption, American Samoa and United States, 2000-16.
31 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, American Samoa and United States, Table P1, Total Population 2000; American Samoa Table P001, Total Population 2010; United States, Table PEPANNRES, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015; and United States, Table 1, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, Regions, States, and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2009.
32 U.S. EIA, American Samoa Profile Data, Reserves and Supply, accessed August 27, 2017.
33 U.S. EIA, International Energy Statistics, Natural Gas, Consumption, American Samoa, 2007-14.
34 U.S. EIA, American Samoa Profile Data, Reserves and Supply, accessed August 27, 2017.
35 Index Mundi, American Samoa Coal Consumption by Year, accessed August 27, 2017.
36 Busche, Sarah, et al., American Samoa Initial Technical Assessment Report, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50905 (September 2011), p. 7, 8, Appendix A.
37 American Samoa Power Authority, About Us, accessed August 27, 2017.
38 Busche, Sarah, et al., American Samoa Initial Technical Assessment Report, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50905 (September 2011), p. 12, 45.
39 American Samoa Power Authority, Notice to the Public, Satala Power Plant TPGS Commissioning (June 2011).
40 Louis Berger, "Louis Berger Commences Power Plant Replacement Project in American Samoa," Press Release (September 17, 2014).
41 Sagapolutele, Fili, "New Satala power plant dedicated," Samoa News (May 26, 2017).
42 Congresswoman Aumua Amata, "Aumua Announces Nearly $2.5 Million FEMA Grant for the Tafuna to Malaeimi Underground Powerline Project," Press Release (March 7, 2016).
43 Busche, Sarah, et al., American Samoa Initial Technical Assessment Report, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50905 (September 2011), p. 15.
44 U.S. EIA, International Energy Statistics, Electricity, Consumption, American Samoa and United States, 2011-14.
45 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, American Samoa and United States, Table P1, Total Population 2000; American Samoa Table P001, Total Population 2010; and United States, Table PEPANNRES, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015.
46 Samoa News, Pacific News Briefs, "Pacific Power Assoc. Gathers for 26th Annual Conference" (August 2, 2017).
47 Busche, Sarah, et al., American Samoa Initial Technical Assessment Report, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50905 (September 2011), p. 15.
48 American Samoa Power Authority, Monthly Fuel Surcharge Notification (April 21, 2017).
49 Macrotrends, Crude Oil Prices, 70 Year Historical Chart, accessed August 28, 2017.
50 American Samoa Power Authority, Billing Rates, May 2017.
51 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (July 2017), Table 5.6.B.
52 Sagapolutele, Fili, "100% renewable energy by 2040 still a viable goal for the territory," Samoa News (November 12, 2016).
53 Haase, Scott, et al., American Samoa Energy Action Plan (August 2013), p 1.
54 Ness, J. Erik, et al., American Samoa Energy Action Plan (September 2016), p. 4.
55 Haase, Scott, et al., American Samoa Energy Action Plan (August 2013), p. 5-11.
56 Conrad, Misty Dawn, et al., American Samoa Energy Strategies (December 2013), p. 19.
57 Curtis, Henry, "Achieving 100% Renewable Energy One Island at a Time," Ililani Media (November 24, 2016).
58 American Samoa Renewable Energy Committee and American Samoa Power Authority, Renewable Energy Strategic Action Plan for American Samoa (August 2015), slides 10-14.
59 American Samoa Renewable Energy Committee, Talofa and Welcome, slide detailing award to Pacific Solar Innovations, accessed August 27, 2017.
60 Sagapolutele, Fili, "Ofu and Olosega islands now powered 80% by solar energy," Samoa News (May 5, 2017).
61 American Samoa Renewable Energy Committee, Manu'a Islands 100% Renewable Energy (May 24, 2017).
62 Business Wire, "SunWize Completes the Largest Solar Installation for American Samoa Power Authority, Generating 50 Local Jobs," Press Release (April 18, 2012).
63 American Samoa Power Authority, Monthly Fuel Surcharge Notification (April 21, 2017).
64 U. S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Energy Transition Initiative, Islands, Energy Snapshot, American Samoa, DOE/GO-102015-4682 (June 2015).
65 Busche, Sarah, et al., American Samoa Initial Technical Assessment Report, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50905 (September 2011), p. 30.
66 Busche, Sarah, et al., American Samoa Initial Technical Assessment Report, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50905 (September 2011), p. 48.
67 American Samoa Renewable Energy Committee and American Samoa Power Authority, Renewable Energy Strategic Action Plan for American Samoa (July 2015), slide 16.
68 Busche, Sarah, et al., American Samoa Initial Technical Assessment Report, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50905 (September 2011), p. 13.
69 American Samoa Renewable Energy Committee and American Samoa Power Authority, Renewable Energy Strategic Action Plan for American Samoa (July 2015), slide 16.
70 "ASPA moves forward with Waste-to-Energy project," Samoa News (November 3, 2014).
71 Conrad, Misty Dawn, et al., American Samoa Energy Strategies (December 2013), p. 20.
72 American Samoa Power Authority, Request for Proposals for the Development of a Wind Map for Renewable Energy (September 16, 2013), p. 5, 6.
73 American Samoa Renewable Energy Committee and American Samoa Power Authority, Renewable Energy Strategic Action Plan for American Samoa (July 2015), slides 18, 19.
74 Busche, Sarah, et al., American Samoa Initial Technical Assessment Report, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50905 (September 2011), p. 16, 27.
75 American Samoa Renewable Energy Committee and American Samoa Power Authority, Renewable Energy Strategic Action Plan for American Samoa (July 2015), slides 21-33.
76 Feagaimaalii-Luamanu, Joyetter, "ASPA Moving Forward with Renewable Energy on Several Fronts Says Lolo," Samoa News (January 22, 2015).
77 American Samoa Power Authority, "ASPA Adopts Final Net Metering Policy," Press Release (April 15, 2008).
78 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Transition Initiative, Islands, Energy Snapshot, American Samoa, p. 3, accessed August 27, 2017.
79 Conrad, Misty Dawn, et al., American Samoa Energy Strategies (December 2013), p. 15.