Tonga is a small island state in the South Pacific Ocean. Its main exports include Cocnuts, Vanilla Beans, bananas and coffe beans, sold mainly to New Zealand and the U.S. In the past the country has tried to satisfy its energy needs by drilling for natural oil in regions that experts didn’t regard as suitable. Fact is, electricity is still scarce in many of the state’s islands, and a number of them even lack basic electricity supply.
As electricity generation from fossil fuels is being more and more regarded as unreliable and increasingly expensive, the government of the constitutional monarchy has become interested in renewable energy solutions. The island has potential for on and off grid technologies.
Tonga has set up an Energy Roadmap in partnership with IRENA and REEEP, as well as many other organizations. The Roadmap has two major objectives:
- 50% electricity from renewable sources by 2012
- 50% reduction of overall cost of electricity
Providing quality electricity options to outer island communities that are sustainable financially, environmentally and socially is the declared goal.
On the 22nd of January the 3rd preparatory Commission for the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) was held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE). The kingdom was represented by Prime Minister Feleti Sevele and a delegation of ministers. IRENA is keen to support Tonga on its way to transition via the Energy Roadmap 2010-2020. It is hoped that the roadmap will be used as a example for successful and innovative ways to establish renewable energy technology in developing countries.
Prime Minister Feleti Sevele, when given the opportunity, addressed the need to establish a credible and strong foundation for IRENA. Ms Helen Pelosse, Interim Director-General of IRENA, stressed the importance of renewable energy systems in order to mitigate climate change, and commended the hard work of member countries to establish the foundation for IRENA to take off. Mr. Feleti Sevele also mentioned the need for IRENA to establish a legal and institutional framework in line with international best practice and he confirmed Tonga’s continued support for IRENA.
In his conclusion Prime Minister Feleti Sevele appealed to delegates to ensure that the disappointment felt by small island states vulnerable to climate change at the Climate Summit in Copenhagen was not carried through to this meeting.
Key donors, such as IRENA, REEEP, World Bank, European Investment Bank and many more, have been signing up and supporting Tonga’s Roadmap since mid-2009, and it appears that the ambitious targets are really achievable. With the ongoing development and implementation of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, Tonga will achieve its objective of reasonably priced, accessible and reliable power. This will lead to increased economic growth and more wealth for the citizens of Tonga.
A successful demonstration of the implementation of a roadmap in order to achieve the transition to a new energy mix in developing nations could really be groundbreaking for many countries with similar needs!