Tonga-still on the road

The next South-Pacific Island I would like to bring some attention to is the Kingdom of Tonga. Again I much of this article is based on an article from Daphne Barbotte for the REEEP series for an energy encyclopedia.

The constitutional monarchy in the South Pacific is populated by 120,898 people (July 2010), with 75% living in rural areas, and many still living in relative poverty. The country once became known as the Friendly Islands because of the friendly reception of James Cook in 1773.  Its main exports still are Coconuts, Vanilla Beans, bananas and coffee beans, sold mainly to New Zealand and the U.S.

Even though traditionally women enjoy a high standing, they are discriminated against in regard to land ownership and other legal matters. In a twisted way the relative poverty has caused 70% of Tongan women aged 15–85 to be obese and the country has the highest rate of overweight people.

Tonga lacks an expensive electricity grid, and up to 19% of its GDP are spent of the import of fossil fuels.

As I have pointed out in an earlier blog, the kingdom once put high hopes on finding natural oil within its own borders and invested some serious money into drilling in regions that experts didn’t regard as suitable, without success.

In 2010 the island established the Tonga Energy Roadmap (TERM) with input from IRENA and REEEP that focuses heavily on efficiency and renewable energy; the goal is to reduce diesel imports by 50% by 2020 and generate 50% of electricity through renewable sources by 2012. The new Tonga Energy Roadmap will bring the returns of investments.

The country, which guarantees its citizen free education and access to healthcare, has also managed to grant some 95% access to electric power, mainly due to solar and P.V. installations.

In 2010 a joint venture between the New Zealand for International Development, the European Investment Bank (EIB), Tonga Power Limited (TOL) and Meridian Energy was to realize a 1.5 MW centralized solar power project that is expected to generate 4% of national electricity demand.

REEEP (Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership) is active through its agents   in Tonga, implementing projects that improve efficiency and they will implement the Renewable Energy Act once revised. Tonga is establishing itself as and example and leader for the region and will share all project outcomes in detail with the Pacific area, focusing heavily on efficiency as the fastest and cheapest means to reduce dependency from energy imports.

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 more citizens of Tonga.

The full article for the encyclopedia is here.

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