[Radio New Zealand] Pacific Nations Receive Funding Commitments For Energy Security
$533 million for clean energy projects announced at Auckland Summit
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, March 29, 2013) – Pacific islands seem more optimistic about energy security after obtaining more funding and investment at this week’s summit in Auckland.
The New Zealand government and the European Union initiated the meeting to try and boost investment in renewable energy generation.
A total of 533 million US dollars was secured at the summit for clean energy projects in the Pacific.
Donors committed 212 million US dollars in aid and 317 million in concessional loans to support more than 40 of the 79 clean energy proposals put to them.
New Zealand foreign affairs minister, Murray McCully, says clean and efficient modern energy services are the cornerstone of sustainable development, economic activity and poverty reduction.
Committing more than 50 million US dollar, more in aid towards energy in the region, he says it is now time for outcomes.
“Everybody will thank us in ten years time if we can say we came here, we understood the challenge, we were presented with a range of solutions and as partners we gripped them up and delivered them. That is how we will measure the success of this conference.”
Donors attending included Australia, the Asian Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, Japan, the World Bank and the United Arab Emirates.
The EU commissioner Andris Piebalgs said the EU intends to increase its contribution over the next 7 years.
“If we are to put an end to energy poverty and to make sustainable energy for all a living reality, through its energy corp in the Pacific the EU has been working hard to address specific challenges. This includes access, reliance on fossil fuels, sector reforms, energy efficiency and capacity building.”
The Cook Islands PM Henry Puna says with more financial assistance they can probably be off diesel by 2020.
“But what is motivating us to change how we do business is the promise of affordable clean energy generation that will break down barriers to growth and prosperity. We are convinced the energy tug of war is coming to an end.”
Tonga’s prime minister, Lord Tu’ivakano, says a meeting in Tonga beforehand agreed on a low-cost approach.
He says it will also help economic and sustainable development.
“As we design new projects, we can address projects like poverty alleviation, economic disparity and equal opportunities for our people.”
Almost half of Kiribati’s 110,000 people live on Tarawa atoll and depend on diesel generation for electricity.
President Anote Tong says the need for global action on clean energy is more urgent for them, due to rising sea levels.
He’s pleased donors agreed to fund five million US dollars to install solar panels on Tarawa, which will reduce diesel use by up to 230,000 litres a year and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
“It’s the first time we are doing this. We’re excited at the prospect of even substituting fossil fuel to a small extent at this stage. What the system being envisaged will only produce around 500 kilowatts, but this is the beginning of what I hope will be a pattern, the trend in the future.”
The Marshall Islands energy minister, Tony de Brum, says it is also key for their energy policies to contribute to climate change resolutions.
“The marshall islands consists of outer islands. We are all atolls barely 2 to 3 metres above sea level. The vulnerability of these islands to climate change means its important we don’t differentiate between the priorites of climate change and energy, they go together.”
Tokelau is at the forefront of green energy with a solar project that cost close to 7 million US dollars.
The director of a New Zaeland company Power Smart, Mike Bassett Smith, says it was a logistical challenge but an ideal opportunity for the private sector to get involved.
“The project in Tokelau was to deliver a solar power system, so they were previously using mostly diesel or fossil fuel, but we responded to a tender to deliver 90% of their electricity needs by a solar power system.”
American Samoa wasn’t eligible for any EU funding but still attended the summit, to network.
Energy director Tim Jones believes ocean technology is one way for the territory to achieve its target of producing all its energy from renewable sources within four years.
American Samoa already has a photovoltaic system in place that can deliver 1 point 8 megawatts of power, but there are significant limits.
“As the sun comes over, or a cloud comes over and blocks the sun the power immediately drops off and we can lose up to 10% of our power generation really fast. This means that the utility has to continue to run a generator and burn diesel fuel just to standby for a cloud, and this is not really an efficient way to operate a solar PV system so we are looking at different types of renewables not subject to interruptions.”
The SPC’s Dr Jimmie Rogers says the region is made up of many countries with different energy roadmaps.
But common for all is the isolation of small island states and the high cost of imported fuel.
He says even the slightest change to clean energy will make a difference to what they pay for.
“For small island states its like up to 60 percent on energy, 40 % transport. For larger coutnries its like up to as high as 90 % transport, 10% renewable energy and these are parameters to keep in mind.”
Many said with this additional funding Pacific driven solutions should ensure the success of more renewable energy projects in the region.
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