The Pacific Islands face a variety of energy challenges – not least of all the high costs that come from relying on traditional fuels like diesel.
While this might seem like a significant barrier to development, countries in the Pacific are working in partnership with international organisations to embrace solar power.
This shift was recently demonstrated by the planned installation of solar power plants for six of the Cook Islands. The project is being partly funded by the Asian Development Bank, The European Union and the government of the Cook Islands.
This forms part of a broader plan for the island nation, which intends to have introduced solar power to every inhabited island by 2020. The Cook Islands isn’t the only Pacific Nation to set a lofty goal for its use of renewable energy – Tuvalu has also set the goal of being free from dependency on diesel by 2020, in favour of renewable energy.
Why is solar power so popular in the Pacific?
There are a number of reasons for Pacific countries to turn to solar power as an alternative energy source. Among the main benefits is the opportunity to reduce reliance on diesel imports, which can be very high for developing countries.
This project in the Cook Islands, for example, is estimated to save 1 million litres of diesel every year that would otherwise have to be imported. These costs have already given the Cook Islands one of the highest electricity prices of any country in the Pacific.
Replacing expensive imported fuels with local alternatives – especially sunlight, which is ideally suited for countries that sit near the equator – is also a good way for countries to make the most of their existing energy generating opportunities.
While reducing expensive imports is one reason for this growth, installing solar power systems will also free up government finances to invest in other projects. This point was made by ADB Pacific Department Energy Specialist, Woo Yul Lee.
“Lowering the Cook Islands’ reliance on fossil fuels will help free up government funds for other needs while improving national energy security and sustainability,” said Mr Lee.
Finally, upgrading power supplies also have a health benefit – with domestic solar power allowing for cooking and lighting without the use of kerosene or traditional materials like coconut husks.
As solar power grows in the Pacific, and around the world, finding the right mix of traditional and alternative energy sources to serve the needs of a community is only going to become more important. By working with MPower, providers can be sure they will have a bespoke solution to their generation needs.