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Outer Islands

Japan supports solar power plan for outer islands

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

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JAPAN has committed a US$500,000 technical assistance grant through the Asian Development Bank to fund preparation work to design the Outer Island Renewable Energy Project for the construction of solar plants in the outer islands of Ha'apai, 'Eua and the two Niuas.

The Asian Development Bank and Japan signed a letter of agreement on January 23, to fund the preparation work that will run for about six months this year. The signing was held between the Minister of Finance Hon Sunia Fili, Siosaia Faletau ADB's Development Coordinator in Tonga, and witnessed by Japan's Ambassador HE Mr Yasuo Takase, at the Ministry of Finance office.

The ADB will administer the fund for the project, which is aimed at reducing Tonga's heavy reliance on imported fossil fuels for power generation. By providing a secure, sustainable and environmentally sound source of power, the project will implement 0.75 MWp solar power capacity connected to the existing diesel networks in each of the outer islands, saving yearly about 700 tons of carbon dioxide.

Siosaia said the grant from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction would cover only the preparation and design work, including screening and site selection for one solar plant on each island, and to conduct economic and environmental and legal feasibility studies and a skills training program for the Tonga Power Ltd. personnel and its customers, who will be made aware of the benefits of solar power.

Robert Guild the Director of the Transport, Energy and Natural Resources in the Pacific Department at the ADB told Matangi Tonga Online today, January 24, that the technical assistance to design the project will run for about half of this year. He said the proposal would then go to ADB's Board of Directors for approval before the end of 2012, and the implementation of the project would begin in early 2013.

The completion date has not been confirmed at this stage and might take several years depending on the final design. "The financing plan also depends on the final design but we anticipate that it will be a blend of an ADB grant and a co-financing grant from another external source," he said.

This new project is another step toward achieving the Tonga government's target, set in its Tonga Energy Road Map 2010-20, to produce 50% of its electricity from renewable sources.

Earlier in the week on January 18, in Abu Dhabi, UAE, the MASDAR renewable energy company signed a MOU with the Government of Tonga through TERM for the implementation and construction of a 500 kW solar photovoltaic power plant in Vava'u financed by a grant provided by Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD).

Previously in November 2011, a groundbreaking ceremony marked the construction of a $12 million Solar Farm on Tongatapu funded with $20 million allocated by the New Zealand Government through TERM.