Solar power plants and coconut biofuel-powered generators will be switched on in Tokelaunext week as the three-atoll administered region of New Zealand gears up to become the ‘the world’s first truly renewable nation’. The renewable energy system comprising of solar panels, storage batteries and generators running on biofuel derived from coconut will generate enough electricity to meet 150% of the islands’ power demand.
These systems are part of the Tokelau Renewable Energy Project that has been funded by the New Zealand government and represents one of the largest off-grid renewable energy projects in the world. With this project, the islands will make the transition from being completely dependent on imported fuels to being completely energy independent.
Tokelau spends about $820,000 every year to import fuels. The government of Tokelau now plans to spend these savings on other essential services like health and education. The savings will also be used to repay the grants and financial assistance the government received for this project.
This project serves very well for other Pacific islands that plan to reduce their dependence on imported fossil fuels and do their part in the reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Fiji, Cook Islands, Niue, and Tuvalu plan to achieve 100% electricity generation from renewable energy between 2013 and 2020.
These island nations are getting significant monetary and technical assistance from developed countries and are also learning from the experiences of each other. The Small Developing Island Renewable Energy Knowledge and Technology Transfer Network (DIREKT) is a cooperation scheme involving universities from Germany, Fiji, Mauritius, Barbados, and Trinidad & Tobago, with the aim of strengthening the science and technology capacity in the field of renewable energy of a sample of ACP (Africa, Caribbean, Pacific) small island developing states, by means of technology transfer, information exchange, and networking.
The Japanese government launched the Pacific Environment Community (PEC) Fund in 2009. This fund has provided $66 million to several island nations in the Pacific region for renewable energy projects. The Fund has provided assistance worth millions of dollars to Kiribati, Micronesia, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Nauru, and Tuvalu for solar power projects and solar desalination projects.