$1b pledge for green energy will help Pacific islands cut huge diesel bills

Pacific island nations are a step further towards cutting their high spending on importing diesel to generate electricity thanks to a pledge of more than $1 billion by donors including New Zealand for sustainable energy projects. 

Most Pacific countries spend about 10 per cent of their domestic income on importing diesel to generate electricity. Source: 1 NEWS

Investors including the European Union, the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, Japan, United Arab Emirates and Australia will put up the money, with New Zealand providing $100 million to energy projects in nine Pacific countries.

The commitments were made at a Pacific Energy Conference in Auckland yesterday which looked at how the region, hit by rising sea levels, could lead the world in climate change initiatives.

In just three years, solar energy funded by New Zealand and the EU has made a difference in Tuvalu, all its people now receiving electricity 24/7.

Most Pacific countries spend around 10 per cent of their domestic income on importing diesel to generate electricity, and in Tuvalu it's been more like 40 per cent.

"Under my Government this is totally unacceptable. This percentage should go to education and health," Enele Sopoaga, Tuvalu Prime Minister told ONE News.

Only 10,000 people live in Tuvalu so 100 per cent renewable energy such as solar power is an achievable goal, and the country is well on the way to achieving that target.

Not so in Tonga, with only 10 per cent of its power generated by renewable energy.

"It's harder to actually provide electricity to the outer islands. We've got more than 50 islands that we need to cover," said Siaosi Sovalei, Tongan Deputy Prime Minister.

And Tonga's geography means it needs more cash, which Mr  Sovalei says is why his country wants to engage the partners.

Those partners include the EU.

"There is a real need to help build up the resilience which is going to be so important for populations, particularly as in the atoll countries climate change becomes more and more of a threat," said Andrew Jacobs, EU ambassador for the Pacific.