Northern Mariana Islands Territory Energy Profile



Northern Mariana Islands Quick Facts

  • The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) meets nearly 100% of its energy needs with imported petroleum products, including 22 million to 24 million gallons of diesel fuel annually for both electricity generation and transportation.
  • Electricity customers in CNMI pay a fuel surcharge that varies with the price of diesel fuel. In recent years, the price of electricity for residential customers ranged between 1.5 and 3 times the average price in the 50 U.S. states.
  • The Commonwealth Utilities Corporation, CNMI's public utility, is looking for long-term alternatives to petroleum-fired electricity generators, which are 20 to 35 years old and cannot run at full capacity.
  • CNMI's renewable portfolio standard requires the islands to get 20% of their net electricity sales from renewable energy if cost-effective resources are available.
  • In 2016, GDP per capita in CNMI was less than half that of the 50 United States, but the CNMI had one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

Last Updated: October 18, 2018



Data

Last Update: October 18, 2018 | Next Update: November 15, 2018

+ EXPAND ALL
Economy  
Population and Industry Northern Mariana Islands United States Period
Population 0.1 million 325.7 million 2017  
Gross Domestic Product $ 1 billion $ 18,121 billion 2015  
Prices  
Electricity Northern Mariana Islands United States Period
Residential NA 13.12 cents/kWh Jul-18  
Commercial NA 10.98 cents/kWh Jul-18  
Industrial NA 7.34 cents/kWh Jul-18  
Reserves  
Reserves Northern Mariana Islands United States Period
Crude Oil -- NA 2018  
Natural Gas -- 322 trillion cu ft 2017  
Recoverable Coal -- 254,896 million short tons 2015  
Capacity Northern Mariana Islands United States Period
Total Electricity Installed Capacity -- 1,064 million kW 2015  
Imports & Exports  
Total Imports Northern Mariana Islands United States Period
Natural Gas Imports -- 2,718 billion cu ft 2015  
Coal Imports -- 11,318 thousand short tons 2015  
Total Exports Northern Mariana Islands United States Period
Natural Gas Exports -- 1,784 billion cu ft 2015  
Coal Exports -- 73,958 thousand short tons 2015  
Supply  
Production Northern Mariana Islands United States Period
Total Energy 0 trillion Btu 84 trillion Btu 2015  
Crude Oil, NGPL, and Other Liquids -- 14,461 thousand barrels/day 2017  
Natural Gas - Gross -- 32,915 billion cu ft 2015  
Coal -- 896,941 thousand short tons 2015  
Total Utility-Scale Net Electricity Generation Northern Mariana Islands United States Period
Total Net Electricity Generation -- 4,092 billion kWh 2015  
Petroleum, Natural Gas, and Coal Net Electricity Generation -- 2,727 billion kWh 2015  
Total Electricity Generation from Renewable Sources -- 572 billion kWh 2015  
    »  Hydroelectric -- 249 billion kWh 2015  
    »  Other Renewables -- 323 billion kWh 2015  
Consumption  
by Source Northern Mariana Islands United States Period
Total Energy 0 trillion Btu 93 trillion Btu 2015  
Total Petroleum Products -- 19,687.0 thousand barrels/day 2016  
    »  Motor Gasoline -- 9,317.0 thousand barrels/day 2016  
    »  Distillate Fuel -- 3,877.0 thousand barrels/day 2016  
    »  Liquefied Petroleum Gases -- 1,340.0 thousand barrels/day 2016  
    »  Jet Fuel -- 1,614.0 thousand barrels/day 2016  
    »  Kerosene -- 9 thousand barrels/day 2016  
    »  Residual Fuel -- 326 thousand barrels/day 2016  
    »  Other Petroleum Products -- 3,204 thousand barrels/day 2016  
Natural Gas -- 27,244 billion cu ft 2015  
Coal -- 798,115 thousand short tons 2015  
Carbon Dioxide Emissions  
by Source Northern Mariana Islands United States Period
Total Fossil Fuels -- 5,269 million metric tons 2015  
Petroleum -- 2,295 million metric tons 2015  
Natural Gas -- 1,488 million metric tons 2015  
Coal -- 1,485 million metric tons 2015  

Analysis



Last Updated: October 18, 2018

Overview

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), a chain of 14 islands and a handful of islets in the western Pacific Ocean, is located three-fourths of the way from Hawaii to the Philippines.1 CNMI includes all the islands in the Mariana Islands Archipelago except Guam, the southernmost island of the chain.2 The islands of the Commonwealth stretch northward in an arc from Guam toward Japan. The northern islands are the tops of volcanic mountains, some of which are active, and several of the southern islands and islets are uplifted coral reefs on top of volcanic rock. The island chain rises from the ocean floor at the western boundary of the Mariana Trench, which reaches depths of more than 35,000 feet below the sea's surface and is the deepest known place on earth.3,4,5 The Commonwealth has no fossil fuel energy resources but does have renewable resources. CNMI meets nearly all of its energy needs with imported petroleum products. However, the islands continue to develop their wind and solar resources.6

In 2016, GDP per capita in CNMI was less than half that of the 50 U.S. states, but the Commonwealth had one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

The Northern Marianas are collectively about 179 square miles in area, or two-and-a-half times the size of Washington, DC.7 The territory has a tropical marine climate with little seasonal temperature variation, although there are variations at higher elevations because of increased altitude. There is a dry season from December to June, and a rainy season from July to November. Typhoons occur between July and January and can be devastating.8,9 About two-thirds of the territory's land is forested and another nearly 7% is used for agriculture, which includes cattle ranching and small farms.10

Virtually all the territory's population and economic activity is based on three islands—Saipan, Tinian, and Rota—at the southern end of the island chain.11 About 9 in 10 residents live on Saipan, the largest island. CNMI's total population of about 52,300 in 2017 has declined from more than 69,000 in 2000.12,13 The population decrease was the result of a shift in the CNMI economy, as garment factories, once the largest industry, closed and foreign contract workers left.14 As manufacturing decreased, accommodations and amusement activities increased. Tourism, led by vacationers from Asia, and gaming now contribute a significant share of the territory's gross domestic product (GPD).15 In 2016, GDP per capita was less than half that of the 50 U.S. states, but the Commonwealth had one of the fastest growing economies in the world with a GDP that increased by more than 28% that year.16,17

Electricity

CNMI's electric system is operated by the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation (CUC), a government corporation that provides electric power, water, and wastewater services on the populated islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.18 The utility is regulated by the Commonwealth Public Utilities Commission.19 Each of the populated islands has a small electric grid. Electricity in the territory is generated by five diesel-fueled power plants. Three are operational on Saipan and one each on Tinian and Rota.20 Generating capacity is about 70 megawatts on Saipan, 20 megawatts on Tinian, and 4.5 megawatts on Rota.21 However, the generators are 20 to 35 years old and cannot run at full capacity. Additionally, the power systems on the islands are vulnerable to tropical storms. Saipan's power generation and distribution system was badly damaged by Typhoon Soudelor in 2015, which led to several months of power outages and disruptions of the public water supply and wastewater treatment systems.22,23,24,25 More recently, Typhoon Mangkhut devastated Rota Island in September 2018, and destroyed much of that island's energy infrastructure.26 Because of increased focus on tourism and development on the islands, the CUC has a long-term plan that requires 80 megawatts of capacity on Saipan from 10 new diesel generators and associated hardware, 20 megawatts on Tinian from four 5-megawatt generators, and 3 megawatts on Rota with the phase-out of old units.27

The commercial sector, led by tourism, is the largest electricity-consuming sector in the Northern Mariana Islands.

In 2010, before the recent tourism-related increase in GDP, Saipan's commercial sector, including tourist facilities, consumed more than one-third of all power and was the largest electricity-consuming sector. Hotels use electricity mainly for air conditioning, water heating, and water purification. Most large hotels have generators and make electricity for their own use when grid supply is unreliable, or fuel surcharges are high. The residential sector is the second-largest consuming sector, using about one-fourth of all power.28,29 The CUC operates street lighting, drinking water, and wastewater disposal systems, which together consume about one-twelfth of the electricity generated on Saipan.30,31 On Tinian, home to only about 3,100 people, the federal government's International Broadcasting Bureau relay station and a hotel and casino are the largest electricity customers.32,33

Electricity customers in CNMI pay a fuel surcharge that varies with the price of diesel fuel. In recent years, the price of electricity for residential customers was between 1.5 and 3 times the average price in the 50 U.S. states because of fluctuations in the fuel surcharges.34,35,36,37 Given the historic volatility of petroleum prices, the CUC is improving its existing power system and adding renewable electricity sources to diversify its diesel-dependent system.38 The utility also has worked on an integrated resource plan (IRP) to help evaluate its options, particularly in light of new tourist facilities proposed for development on the islands39,40,41

Renewable energy

Solar panels and small wind turbines provide power for schools and government buildings across the Northern Mariana Islands.

The CNMI government enacted a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) in 2006, which was amended later. The most recent RPS required that 20% of electricity supplies be obtained from renewable resources by 2016, but only if there was a cost-effective way to meet the standard. Progress has been limited.42,43 The CUC solicited private sector project proposals for renewable energy technologies, most recently as part of its IRP effort.44,45 Several projects are in development.46,47

Saipan, Tinian, and Rota are believed to have wind resources suitable for commercial turbines, but potential sites are limited because the islands are mountainous, land is scarce, and turbines may interfere with airstrip and military facilities. Additionally, turbines must be designed to withstand typhoons, and there are concerns about turbine impacts on several threatened bird species.48 However, there are several small onshore wind installations in the Commonwealth, and, in 2018, legislation was introduced in the U.S. Congress that would amend federal law to authorize offshore wind development in all five U.S. territories. Under the legislation, the U.S. Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management would conduct feasibility studies, gauge interest, and offer wind leases on promising offshore tracts.49,50

Solar energy resources in the Northern Marianas are suitable for both solar hot water heating and for electricity generation by photovoltaic (PV) panels.51 CNMI law allows for net metering of up to 30% of the CUC system's peak demand, and some rooftop solar PV projects are connected to the grid.52 Projects with combinations of solar panels and small wind turbines have been installed at schools and government buildings across the three islands.53,54,55 Because of the small size of the three islands' transmission systems, the impact of intermittent and variable power from larger wind and solar projects requires careful integration into the islands' transmission systems, possibly by combining advanced energy storage with renewable facilities.56

Geothermal technologies may also offer energy potential on the Northern Marianas, as the islands are in an active volcanic region. Several of the uninhabited northern islands have active volcanoes.57 Other renewable technologies that have been considered for the Northern Mariana Islands, including the conversion of non-recyclable municipal wastes to energy.58 The U.S. Department of the Interior awarded a grant in July 2017 to the CNMI government to conduct a feasibility study on extracting methane gas from landfills, which would help reduce reliance on fuel imports.59 Additionally, the CUC has pursued energy efficiency projects, including the installation of high-efficiency bulbs in its street-lighting system.60

Petroleum

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands has no proved crude oil reserves and does not produce or refine petroleum.61,62,63 Petroleum products are one of the top imports, and accounted for about one-eighth of the territory's imports in 2016.64 Refined petroleum products are brought in by ship through harbors on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.65,66 CNMI imports a variety of refined petroleum products, including diesel fuel for electricity generation and diesel fuel and motor gasoline for transportation.67 U.S. law allows use of less expensive, high-sulfur motor gasoline in the Pacific territories.68 Other petroleum imports include jet fuel that is used at the three CNMI international airports, and propane that is used by businesses and households for cooking and heating water.69,70,71

Natural gas

The Commonwealth has no natural gas reserves and does not produce, import, or consume natural gas.72

Coal

The Commonwealth has no coal reserves and does not produce, import, or consume coal.73

Endnotes

1 U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook 2018, Northern Mariana Islands, Geography, accessed September 17, 2018.
2 "Mariana Islands," Encyclopaedia Britannica, accessed September 17, 2018.
3 Foster, Sophie and Dirk Anthony Ballendorf, "Northern Mariana Islands," Encyclopaedia Britannica, updated September 14, 2018.
4 Marianas Visitors Authority, The Islands, The Northern Islands, accessed September 17, 2018.
5 "Mariana Trench," Encyclopaedia Britannica, updated August 17, 2018.
6 Baring-Gould, Ian, et al., Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Initial Technical Assessment Report, U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50906 (July 2011), p. 5, 14.
7 U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook 2018, Northern Mariana Islands, Geography, accessed September 17, 2018.
8 Pacific Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments, Northern Mariana Islands, Climate, accessed September 17, 2018.
9 Perez, Jon, "Looking to expedite Rota recovery," Saipan Tribune (September 17, 2018).
10 U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook 2018, Northern Mariana Islands, Geography and Economy, accessed September 17, 2018.
11 Baring-Gould, Ian, et al., Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Initial Technical Assessment Report, U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50906 (July 2011), p. 3.
12 U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook 2018, Northern Mariana Islands, People and Society, Geography.
13 U.S. Census Bureau, "U.S. Census Bureau Releases 2010 Census Population Counts for the Northern Mariana Islands," Press Release (August 24, 2011).
14 Goodridge, Walt F. J., Saipan Factory Facts, accessed September 17, 2018.
15 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, "CNMI GDP increases in 2016, Growth led by gaming industry revenues and investments," Press Release (October 16, 2017), Table 2.1.
16 The World Bank, GDP per capita (current US$), Northern Mariana Islands and the United States, 2016.
17 U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook 2018, Country Comparison, GDP Real Growth Rate, accessed September 18, 2018.
18 Commonwealth Utilities Corporation, About Us, accessed September 18, 2018.
19 U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Energy Transition Initiative: Islands, Energy Snapshot, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, DOE/GO-102015-4683 (June 2015), p. 1.
20 Chan, Dennis B., "CUC Power Supply ‘Only Good to 2017,'" Saipan Tribune (March 16, 2016).
21 Baring-Gould, Ian, et al., Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Initial Technical Assessment Report, U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50906 (July 2011), p. 5.
22 Chan, Dennis B., "CUC Power Supply ‘Only Good to 2017,'" Saipan Tribune (March 16, 2016).
23 "Typhoon Soudelor Becomes World's Most Powerful Storm This Year After It Trashes Northern Marianas," ABC News (August 4, 2015).
24 Chan, Dennis B., "CUC: 2 to 3 Months for Power," Saipan Tribune (August 31, 2015).
25 "Interior Provides $584,000 to Assist NMI Typhoon Recovery Effort," Marianas Variety (October 2, 2015).
26 "Rota in shambles after Typhoon Mangkhut," New Zealand Radio (September 12, 2018).
27 Chan, Dennis B., "CUC Power Supply ‘Only Good to 2017,'" Saipan Tribune (March 16, 2016).
28 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, "CNMI GDP increases in 2016, Growth led by gaming industry revenues and investments," Press Release (October 16, 2017), Table 2.1.
29 Baring-Gould, Ian, et al., Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Initial Technical Assessment Report, U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50906 (July 2011), p. 6, 7, 10, 12.
30 Commonwealth Utilities Corporation, About Us, accessed September 24, 2018.
31 Baring-Gould, Ian, et al., Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Initial Technical Assessment Report, U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50906 (July 2011), p. 7, 10.
32 U.S. Census Bureau, Northern Marianas Islands: 2010 Census Summary Report, Tinian and Northern Island Villages.
33 Baring-Gould, Ian, et al., Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Initial Technical Assessment Report, U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50906 (July 2011), p. 9.
34 U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Energy Transition Initiative: Islands, Energy Snapshot, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, DOE/GO-102015-4683 (June 2015).
35 "CUC increases power rate," Saipan Tribune (May 31, 2018).
36 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (August 2018), Table 5.3, Average Price of Electricity to Ultimate Customers, Total by End-Use Sector, 2008-June 2018 (Cents per Kilowatthour).
37 Commonwealth Utilities Corporation, Schedule of Electric Charges and Rates (June 2018).
38 Todiño, Junhan B., "CUC: 17 renewable-energy projects this year," The Guam Daily Post (February 13, 2018).
39 U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs, Commonwealth Utilities Corporation, 2015 Integrated Resource Plan, accessed September 21, 2018.
40 "Visitor arrivals grow 24 pct. in 2017," Saipan Tribune (January 26, 2018).
41 Todiño, Junhan B., "MVA says it's for sustainable tourism development," Marianas Variety (August 13, 2018).
42 U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Energy Transition Initiative: Islands, Energy Snapshot, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, DOE/GO-102015-4683 (June 2015), p. 1, 2.
43 Baring-Gould, Ian, et al., Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Initial Technical Assessment Report, U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50906 (July 2011), p. 15, 16.
44 Commonwealth Utilities Corporation, "CUC Seeking Proposals for Power Supply Resources," Press Release (November 18, 2014).
45 Todiño, Junhan B., "CUC Board Looks Into Renewable Energy Proposals," Marianas Variety (March 7, 2016).
46 Todiño, Junhan B., "CUC Gets over $60M in Grants," Marianas Variety (June 8, 2017).
47 Todiño, Junhan B., "CUC: 17 renewable-energy projects this year," The Guam Daily Post (February 13, 2018).
48 Baring-Gould, Ian, et al., Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Initial Technical Assessment Report, U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50906 (July 2011), p. 27-37.
49 U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Energy Transition Initiative: Islands, Energy Snapshot, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, DOE/GO-102015-4683 (June 2015), p. 3.
50 Offshore Wind for Territories Act, Extensions of Remarks, Congressional Record, Volume 164, Number 133 (Friday, August 10, 2018), p. E1137.
51 Baring-Gould, Ian, et al., Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Initial Technical Assessment Report, U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50906 (July 2011), p. 39-43.
52 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Northern Mariana Islands, Net Metering, updated March 5, 2015.
53 "Kilil: $658,692 for Marianas Energy Projects," Saipan Tribune (June 30, 2017).
54 Todiño, Junhan B., "CUC Gets over $60M in Grants," Marianas Variety (June 8, 2017).
55 U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Energy Transition Initiative: Islands, Energy Snapshot, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, DOE/GO-102015-4683 (June 2015), p. 1.
56 Baring-Gould, Ian, et al., Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Initial Technical Assessment Report, U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50906 (July 2011), p. 43.
57 Baring-Gould, Ian, et al., Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Initial Technical Assessment Report, U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50906 (July 2011), p. 43-46, p. 65-72.
58 Baring-Gould, Ian, et al., Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Initial Technical Assessment Report, U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50906 (July 2011), p. 47-50.
59 "$3.5M Energy Grants for Territories," Saipan Tribune (July 5, 2017).
60 Commonwealth Utilities Corporation, Latest LED Lights Installed, accessed September 24, 2018.
61 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), International Energy Statistics, Crude Oil, Proved Reserves, Northern Mariana Islands, accessed September 18, 2018.
62 U.S. EIA, International Energy Statistics, Total Petroleum and Other Liquids Production, Northern Mariana Islands, accessed September 18, 2018.
63 U.S. EIA, Number and Capacity of Petroleum Refineries, Total Number of Operable Refineries, Annual as of January 1, 2018.
64 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Observatory of Economic Complexity, Northern Mariana Islands Imports, accessed September 18, 2018.
65 CNMI Department of Commerce, LFP Measures 2017 by Island and District, LFP Measure by Island and District, Total Population by Island and District, accessed September 18, 2018.
66 Commonwealth Ports Authority, Port of Saipan, Tinian Harbor, and Rota West Harbor, accessed September 18, 2018.
67 Baring-Gould, Ian, et al., Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Initial Technical Assessment Report, U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-7A40-50906 (July 2011), p. 6, 21.
68 U.S. Government Printing Office, Title 40, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 80 (July 1, 2013), Section 80-382.
69 Commonwealth Ports Authority, Saipan International Airport, Tinian International Airport, and Rota International Airport, accessed September 18, 2018.
70 Bagnol, Raquel C., "Saipan International Gas Says LPG Prices to Rise," Marianas Variety (July 8, 2008).
71 "Shortage of LP Gas, Cement on Tinian," Saipan Tribune (March 22, 2012).
72 U.S. EIA, International Energy Statistics, Natural Gas, Production, Consumption, Reserves, Northern Mariana Islands, accessed September 18, 2018.
73 U.S. EIA, International Energy Statistics, Coal, Reserves, Production, Consumption, and Imports, Northern Mariana Islands, accessed September 18, 2018.


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