NUKU’ALOFA, TONGA – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and development partners are extending assistance of nearly $5.8 million to help Tonga scale up the existing Outer Island Renewable Energy Project, which aims to cut reliance on diesel for power generation and expand the use of solar power in its outer islands.

ADB is providing a grant of $1.44 million from its concessional Asian Development Fund, while the European Union and the Second Danish Cooperation Fund for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency for Rural Areas are providing €3.00 million ($3.57 million equivalent) and $0.75 million, respectively, for the current project. The Government of Tonga is providing counterpart support equivalent to $0.67 million.

“The additional financing will allow Tonga to reduce power distribution losses and fuel consumption while delivering the same amount of electricity to consumers,” said Woo Yul Lee, Energy Specialist in ADB’s Pacific Department. “The ultimate goal is to provide increased consumer access to electricity generated by solar power at a low cost.”

The current project is funding solar systems on Eua, Vava’u and Ha’apai, along with four outer islands in the Ha’apai group (Uiha, Nomuka, Ha’ano, Ha’afeva), as well as on Niuatoputapu and Niuafo’ou, making a total of 9 outer islands.

Tonga has 177 islands scattered over 700,000 square kilometers, and its small population of about 103,000 people depends on imported diesel for over 90% of its electricity needs.  As a result, the country is highly vulnerable to international fluctuations in fuel prices. The project supports the government’s drive to lower imports of diesel and to reduce the cost of electricity, which can run as high as $0.74 per kilowatt-hour in some remote areas.

The project is building solar generating facilities with a total distribution capacity of 1.32 megawatts at peak use, which is expected to reduce diesel imports by an estimated 0.48 million liters a year. The new solar generating systems will be connected to state-owned and community-owned power distribution networks on most of the target islands, with an existing solar home system on Niuafo’ou to be boosted by the installation of additional capacity. 

The project runs for over 6 years with an estimated completion date of December 2019.

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 2014, ADB assistance totaled $22.9 billion, including co-financing of $9.2 billion.

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