Small nations, big plans

Tuvalu and Cook Islands are small nations who have come up with energy solutions that could change the way the world caters for its energy needs and even further reduce its already negligible emissions.

A week ago the Tuvalu Electricity Corporation commissioned its Stand-Alone Solar Home System project which aims to reduce the reliance on fossil fuel for electricity generation of Funaota islet.

The project is providing 24/7 electricity using an enhanced storage battery system to three households.

In the Cook Islands four of its islands run solely on solar energy. The latest was commissioned in 2019 on the island of Mauke where underground cables were run through a power grid powered by solar energy, something which the Pacific receives in abundance.

The Mauke system provides electricity to 1,500 homes 24/7 all around the year.

Tuvalu’s foreign minister Simon Kofe has already called on the Pacific to take the steps to phase out fossil fuel use in the Pacific.

“Unfortunately, in just the past decade, 86 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions have been caused by oil, gas and coal, according to the IPCC,” he said.

Solar panels set up in Tuvalu. Tuvalu and Cook Islands are small nations who have come up with energy solutions that could change the way the world caters for its energy needs. Picture – Supplied

“Despite this, governments are planning to produce more than double the amount of fossil fuels consistent with a 1.5-degree trajectory by 2030, and 10% more than their own climate pledges.

“What we’re seeing is that fossil fuel supply is now driving demand, so without tackling the supply-side of the equation it will be impossible to meet our Paris goals. We’re seeing a need to first break our dependence on fossil-fuel production through a phase out and economic diversification measures.”

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According to calculation, the Tuvalu project would save about 14 kilograms of carbon dioxide yearly from the 7kW systems installed at Funaota islet.

Pacific island nations have welcomed such projects which could solve energy problems. The answer for this lies in climate financing.

Inside the Mauke solar power plant in the Cook Islands. Picture – Office of the Prime Minister

The solar power plant in the Cook Islands is called the Cook Islands Renewable Energy Sector Project, which has been cofinanced by ADB, the Government of Japan’s Pacific Environment Community Funds, the European Union, the Green Climate Fund, and the Global Environment Facility.

Other benefits of the project include increased electricity output from renewable energy sources, the introduction of a battery energy storage system and training provided for the operators, and the installation of smart meters-allowing consumers to use power they can afford.

ADB has a commitment of US$21.6 billion in loans and grants for the Asia Pacific region to achieve a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable region.

Henry Puna who was Cook Islands prime minister in 2019 on his way to officially open the Mauke solar plant. Picture – Office of the Prime Minister

The Pacific nations in the latest Ocean conference again reminded the world about the need for easy access to climate financing.

The Cook Islands prime minister Mark Brown said it was not always easy to garner climate financing.

He said there should be an easier way because the impacts of climate change are visible and what transpires in the future can easily be predicted.

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