New Zealand will contribute about $6.7 million (€4.8 million) to help build the Pacific island nation of Tonga’s first solar power plant.
The New Zealand government will fund the 1 MW PV project under an innovative public-private partnership with renewables specialist Meridian Energy, Tonga Power and the Tongan state.
Construction of the plant in Tongatapu is expected to begin by the end of the year. When finished, it will supply about 4 percent of the nation’s total power needs.
The announcement was made by New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully in advance of the Pacific Island Forum, where regional leaders are expected to make renewables development a top priority.
He said New Zealand wants to share its "considerable knowledge" of the sector with its Pacific neighbours and Meridian's experience in renewable energy makes them a logical partner for the Tongatapu solar project.
"Reducing the Pacific's reliance on expensive, imported fossil fuels and promoting renewable energy will be a major topic of discussion for leaders during the 42nd Pacific Island Forum," McCully said.
Tonga’s Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano says the project will help the nation meet the targets of its 10-year energy plan, which include reducing fossil-fuel consumption by half.
Many Pacific island states rely exclusively on imported diesel generation to meet their power needs.
Tonga, officially the Kingdom of Tonga, 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.
Fifty-two of the islands are inhabited, and the kingdom has a population of about 103,365.
The kingdom, which is governed by a Constitutional hereditary monarchy, stretches over a distance of about 800 kilometres (500 miles) in a north-south line located at about a third of the distance from New Zealand to Hawaii.
In addition to fuel, traditional Tongan imports include minerals and chemicals, food products, machinery, and transport services equipment, according to the US State Department.
Its exports include fish, root crops, vanilla, kava and squash. Its primary export markets are New Zealand, Australia, the US, Japan and Fiji.