A Clean Energy Revolution is Lighting Up Tonga

Video | 16 September 2019

A new solar power supply financed by ADB's Asian Development Fund, Australia, and donors in Europe is boosting the private sector and ushering in a clean energy revolution in Tonga.


Ha’apai, Tonga –

“I love to cook. It’s my joy. Enjoy serving them food that I prepared.”

Melaia Kaitapu’s restaurant is one of the most well-known on Ha’apai, one of the four main islands that make up the pacific nation of Tonga.

But it hasn’t been easy.

For years, Melaia had to cope with a limited and unreliable power supply.

“I couldn’t run the oven with the fryer at the same time, or we would have to shut off the refrigerator, the freezer; and, sometimes, we have had to totally shut off everything and run only one thing. It extremely affected the business itself.”

The outages used to destroy both her white goods and her food.

“It causes a lot of loss. The refrigerator would die. It was not good for our business.”

Now, Ha’apai has a new source of electricity, and running a restaurant is a whole lot easier.

“Now, everybody can eat their fish and chips and their panini at the same time.” – Melaia Kaitapu

The electricity powering Melaia’s restaurant comes from here, a new solar farm which is part of the outer islands renewable energy project, which is jointly funded by the Asian Development Bank, the Australian Government, the European Union,  Denmark, and the Global Environment Facility.

These solar panels can provide Ha’apai with up to 550 kilowatts of power, almost twice the island’s power demand.

And they are helping to fuel a clean energy revolution across Tonga.

 “Tonga is one of the leading countries in the Pacific in the transformation towards achieving 100 percent renewable energy generation.” - Tatafu Moeaki

 “Our renewable generation on a good month can reach up to about 14 percent. The goal is to displace 50 percent of our diesel with renewable energy technologies, and, at the same time move towards a hundred percent renewable by 2035.” – Setitaia Pasivaka Chen

This cheaper and more reliable power supply is poised to kickstart business activity across Tonga.

“The cost of electricity and fuel is a major impediment in the growth of business in Tonga. With the renewable component increasing all the time, more businesses and Tongan consumers can afford to buy 5-star rated fridges or air-conditioner, which is going to make a big impact for on cost for business and the people.” – Paula Taumoepeau

This solar farm on one of Ha’apai’s smaller islands can’t come online soon enough for people here.

The island’s diesel-powered electricity supply is so limited that there is no electricity here between midday and sunset, which makes life on the island challenging.

“There is no doctor for our health clinic and there are no refrigerators to store medicine. We know that when the project starts, it will  bring doctor and storage facilities for the clinic to improve our health. It would  also help the women to spend more time at night  weaving as it is the main household income for this Island.” – Saia Langi

Ines Monroy Rodriguez is the project manager of Gamma Solutions, the contractor  for this solar farm and says the impact of this kind of investment is immense.

“The impact that a relatively small investment has is huge. So, any collaboration in that sense – any contribution – does have a big impact.” – Ines Monroy Rodriguez

Projects like this and others across the Pacific would not have been possible without the valued contributions from Asian Development Fund donors.

“The renewable energy space is a good example of how ADB is able to do more in Tonga because of the increased base allocations enabled by contributions from ADF donors.” – Tatafu Moeaki

Back on Ha’apai’s main island, it’s another busy night for Melaia who is preparing orders for tables full of customers.

She’s planning to open a sports bar nearby, something that never would have been possible with the power supply from a few years ago.

I am very happy, and the customers are also very happy.