As oil prices increase, steady oil supplies become more uncertain, and CO2 emissions continue to increase, many countries around the world are trying to invest in renewable energy sources. The attempt to change from an energy matrix which relies heavily on fossil fuels to one that creates its electricity from renewable sources such as the sun, wind or geothermal energy, should help provide countries with more energy security in the future. Many nations have therefore set targets to be achieved before 2020 in which they want a certain amount of their overall energy consumption to be from renewable energy sources. Russia aims to create 4.5% of its energy from renewable sources rather than polluting oil, gas or coal. China hopes to do better by having 15% of its energy from renewable sources, Australia has promised 20% and Europe 21%. However all of these countries ambitions have been thoroughly put to shame by a nation from the South Pacific. Tonga has set its renewable energy target at 50% by 2015, and already has a plan (the Tonga Energy Roadmap) for how it will achieve this lofty figure.
The Kingdom of Tonga is an archipelago of 176 islands, of which 52 are uninhabited, in the South Pacific Ocean. The kingdom is scattered over an area of 700,000 square kilometres and has a population of just over 103,000.
To be honest it is highly motivated to push for renewable energy, as it is one of the many low lying island nations that are under threat from disappearing under the waves if global warming is not halted. It also currently relies upon imported oil to create all of its energy, and the volatile prices are putting its economy at risk. The Tongan economy and its electricity consumers have been subject to high oil prices for the past 10 years. They use diesel generators and plants to produce their electricity, but unfortunately the diesel prices have followed the oil prices closely over the years, and according to the US Department of Energy the prices are only likely to increase further.
Zachary Rybarczyk from Climate Progress wrote that, “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.”
Tonga is receiving financial support from New Zealand and technical support from the Renewable Energy & Efficiency Program (REEP) in the development of its renewable energy projects. Martin Hiller, the Director General of REEP, hopes that Tonga will provide “a blueprint for other Pacific Island states that are grappling with similar challenges.”
Tonga has already signed a memorandum of understanding with the Abu Dhabi based company Masdar for the order of a 500 kilowatt solar project to be built on the island of Vava’, to add to the 1 megawatt solar plant being constructed on the main island of Tongatapu.
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com