MANILA, PHILIPPINES (11 June 2020) — Chief executive officers (CEOs) of utility companies from 11 Pacific countries laid the foundations of an action plan and explored new investment priorities and needs to help their sector recover from the impact of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) during a virtual meeting supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

ADB Vice-President Mr. Ahmed M. Saeed opened the meeting, which was organized by ADB’s Pacific Department, and said it gave the region’s power utilities a key opportunity to exchange knowledge and expertise at a key juncture in the economies of their respective countries.

“The meeting, the first of its kind, gave utility managers a platform to share information and discuss solutions to problems caused by COVID-19, which are affecting power utilities in the Pacific,” said Mr. Saeed. “Post-pandemic, utilities will need new transformation plans to operate in a new normal environment and ADB, as ever, stands ready to support.”

The lockdown measures in many Pacific countries to contain the spread of COVID-19 is causing a significant drop in power consumption and economic activities. Each Pacific country’s response to the pandemic depends on the quality of tariff settings, regulatory framework, and available government support. While plummeting oil prices may ease the cost of power generation, this will be limited due to the contractual nature of imported fuel supply.

“We decided to use the challenge of COVID-19 as an opportunity to develop our business continuity plan,” said Papua New Guinea Power Limited Acting CEO Douglas Mageo. “This enabled us to boost the resiliency of the utility and security of supply.”

“Future investment in climate-proofed renewable energy infrastructure is more important now than ever before to mitigate the negative impact of COVID-19, and support the resilience of Pacific utilities in providing a dependable supply of reliable energy,” said Tonga Power Limited CEO Setitaia Chen at the meeting.

ADB is helping Pacific countries make this transition by providing finance and direct technical assistance. Projects financed by ADB are developing solar, wind, and hydropower facilities; installing battery storage technology; and improving or extending transmission lines. Technical assistance provided by ADB, meanwhile, is helping utilities operate more efficiently through legal, policy, regulatory, and institutional reforms, as well as improving financial management and corporate governance.

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.

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