Are you familiar with the Kingdom of Tonga (aka Tonga). It is “an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, comprising 176 islands scattered over 700,000 square kilometres (270,000 sq mi) of ocean in the South Pacific,” according to Wikipedia. 52 of its 176 islands are inhabited.
Yeah, not exactly one of your closest neighbors.
Well, despite its small size as distant location, Tonga is providing a bit of inspiration to the world these days. It has set a goal of getting 50% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2015 and has set out a plan to do so.
I wonder why the island kingdom would be so focused on installing renewable energy?… Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that its islands could soon be covered in water from the effects of global warming. But that’s certainly not the only concern. Additionally, Tonga is heavily reliant on increasingly expensive (and imported) oil for its energy, putting it at great economic risk right now.
“Launched in 2010, the Tongan government laid out its Tonga Energy Road Map (TERM) in order to reduce carbon emissions, improve its electrical grid, and cut its dependence from foreign energy sources,” Zachary Rybarczyk of Climate Progress writes.
“During the oil price spike in 2008, Tonga’s economy screeched to a halt. And since then, with oil prices continuing to rise, many consumers are not able to afford electricity at all.”
From a little over a year ago, here’s an Al Jazeera video on Tonga’s power crisis and move to solar power:
The Tongan economy and electricity consumers have been exposed to high and volatile electricity prices linked to oil prices over the last ten years. Between 2001 and 2004, the average price of crude oil increased from around US$25 per barrel to around US$40 per barrel, an increase of 60%. In the next 4 years to 2008, the average price of crude more than doubled to a peak of around US$100 per barrel. In late 2008, crude oil prices dropped and continued fall into early 2009 averaging around US$62 per barrel during 2009. Diesel prices tracked the price of crude oil and led to Tongan electricity rates exceeding TOP1.00/kW-h in late 2008. Crude oil price is expected to increase in the future based on projections from the United States Department of Energy.
Now, Tonga has received grants from New Zealand and technical support from the Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Program (REEEP) to move forward with its renewable energy ambitions. And the nation is hopeful it will “a blueprint for other Pacific Island states that are grappling with similar challenges,” said Martin Hiller, the Director General of REEEP.
Tonga signed an MOU this January with Masdar (a company best known for its planned super-green city… Masdar) and the Abu Dhabi Fund for a large solar photovoltaic (PV) project on one of its islands. The 500-kilowatt solar PV project, being built on Vava’u Island, is projected to provide electricity to over 13% of the island’s power. Tonga’s 110,000 citizens. Another solar project on its main island, Tongatapu (where 80% of the population lives), is already being constructed. “The 1MW solar farm currently under construction there will generate 4-5% of annual generation of Tongatapu,” one of our informed reader’s tells us.
Images: Tonga on globe via Wikipedia user TUBS; Tonga island, white-sand beach, and shallow water via shutterstock
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