RAROTONGA, COOK ISLANDS – The Cook Islands’ dependence on fossil fuels will be reduced under a project to build solar-powered plants on six of its islands, funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the European Union (EU), and the Government of Cook Islands.

“Lowering the Cook Islands’ reliance on fossil fuels will help free up government funds for other needs while improving national energy security and sustainability,” said ADB Pacific Department Energy Specialist, Woo Yul Lee. “This project will assist the Cook Islands to fulfill its goal of delivering renewable energy to all its islands by 2020.”

Each solar power plant built on the islands in the country’s south under the $24.28 million project will have a total installed power generation capacity of about 3 megawatts. The project is expected to save 1.09 million liters of diesel consumption annually, and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 2,930 tons.

The project will also provide assistance to the government’s Office of the Energy Commissioner and the Renewable Energy Development Division to develop their energy efficiency policy implementation plan.

Nearly all households in the Cook Islands are connected to grid electricity. Only 5.5% of households have additional solar photovoltaic systems installed, and 1% use small diesel generators. The Cook Islands depends heavily on imported fuels and electricity costs there are among the highest in the Pacific.

An $11.19 million equivalent loan from ADB’s Ordinary Capital Resources, a $7.26 million equivalent grant from the EU, along with in-kind contribution of $5.83 million from the Cook Islands Government will fund the project. The project’s executing agency is the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management. The implementing agencies are the Renewable Energy Development Division and the Rarotonga Power Authority.

The project complements ongoing support for solar power from the Government of New Zealand to the country’s north and Rarotonga.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members – 48 from the region. In 2013, ADB assistance totaled $21.0 billion, including cofinancing of $6.6 billion.

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