Tonga plans to be 100 percent renewable by 2020
Tonga has set an ambitious goal of 100 percent renewable energy by the end of the decade.
Tonga has set a new goal of having 100 percent renewable energy by 2020.
The Tonga Energy Road Map originally planned for the country to be 50 percent renewable by 2012, but later pushed that goal out to 2020.
Its director, 'Inoke Vala, says the country's reliance on renewables is currently about six percent, but is optimistic Tonga can run entirely off renewables in just six years.
He told Mary Baines small islands need to set their goals high, and will push through a number of feasibility studies and projects in the next few years.
'INOKE VALA: The original plan was to have 50 percent by 2020, however as we proceed with the development to meet those targets we realise that to have greater impact we must aim at a higher percentage rather than the lower percentage. The kind of things that we are facing of course is the smallness of the market, and if we are saving any fuel which would be the monetary value that we would gain, any kind of spike or impact on the prices would just absorb anything that we have saved by just going for a lower number, percentage of penetration.
MARY BAINES: So what's the percentage at the moment?
IV: It's about six percent. By 2015 we will move to about 16 percent.
MB: So six percent currently, to 100 percent in just six years. That seems like a big jump. Are you confident you can do that?
IV: It is a big jump but of course the total capacity is only about 11 megawatts, so if we go to four or five, that's about half of the consumption. Tonga is a small country, of course, at the same time.
MB: What projects do you have in place to get to this level by 2020?
IV: We are looking at biomass, which is like a base load. A 1.25 megawatt would meet the demand of say 20 percent, because the biomass project would be 24 hours running. Whereas the others are intermittent, they will go when the sun shines or when the wind blows. So these are the kind of variations that we are bringing into the picture. We have a comprehensive plan and we are developing, upgrading our grid right now. Hopefully we will get the grid operated all the way, and of course the kind of saving over there will be the line losses. The other issue that we have asked the Korea meeting is that we need to explore storage. Without storage renewable energy would not be very, very efficient because you have lots of sunshine during the day which you cannot use during the night. We know the development of storage is slow but so was the development of renewable energy in the last 10 or 15 years, nobody was thinking it would be commercially viable but it is becoming commercially viable. We believe it will be the same kind of development with storages, and if storages is picking up then the efficiency of the current plan would be improved tremendously.
MB: And how much do you think this will cost before 2020?
IV: I am not so sure, cost is coming down all the time. Half a megawatt that we just did in Vava'u was about five or four million dollars to set up. A project like the biomass one, we won't know until we do the feasibility studies and the research. So at this stage I cannot say with certainty what would be the estimate.
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