Pacific island sets world record for renewable energy

The Pacific island of Tokelau has completed a project enabling it to meet 150% of its energy needs using renewable power sources, setting a world record and a new global benchmark for sustainable energy

The small Polynesian territory, comprised of three atolls in the central Pacific Ocean, has gained most of the new energy capacity through what is now one of the world’s largest off-grid solar systems. During the past three months, 4,032 photovoltaic panels and 1,344 batteries have been installed in Tokelau, along with electricity generators powered by coconut biofuel produced on the island.

Plans for the transition began in 2004 when the Tokelau government developed a strategy to decrease dependency on fossil fuels and increase energy efficiency.

“Our commitment as global citizens is to make a positive contribution towards the mitigation of the impacts of climate change,” said Jovilisi Suveinakama, general manager of the National Public Service of the Government of Tokelau.

Originally a target of 90% energy self-sufficiency was set, but surpassing that means that Tokelau can increase its energy usage without having to revert back to conventional fuels.

The renewable energy project cost £3.6m, the funding for which came from New Zealand Aid, the New Zealand government’s international aid and development programme. Previously Tokelau received most of its energy in the form of fossil fuel imports, costing the equivalent of around £400,000 annually.

According to the government, savings made over time will be used to improve health and education on the island, and repay funds borrowed to implement the project.

Several small island nations are expected to follow suit, with Fiji planning to convert to 100% renewable energy by 2013, while the Cook Islands, Niue and Tuvalu, are aiming for 100% renewable electricity by 2020.

Joseph Mayhew, development manager for energy in the New Zealand Aid Programme, said: “Given the high cost of diesel, renewable energy should not be seen as an alternative source of energy, but rather an essential key to unlocking the Pacific’s potential.”