26 Mar 2013

$600m promised for renewable energy in Pacific

8:56 pm on 26 March 2013

Pacific island countries have secured $635 million for renewable energy after a two-day meeting with international aid donors in Auckland.

Forty clean energy projects, aimed at reducing dependence on expensive imported fuel, secured a mix of grants and soft loans, at the Pacific Energy Summit.

The funding means most Pacific countries should be getting about half their energy from renewable sources within five years.

New Zealand's Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Murray McCully says major aid donors such as the European Union, Australia and Japan, and international funders such as the World Bank are among those who have committed to funding over the next three or four years.

He says it's a mix of $255 million in grant funding and $380 million in concessional loans.

New Zealand gave $65 million in grants to six countries.

Mr McCully says the projects range from solar panels on public buildings in the Cook Islands to hydro power in Samoa and geothermal energy in Papua New Guinea.

New Zealand is also putting $10 million into Tuvalu, with similar funding from the European Union, to convert three islands to solar power.

One of the world's main oil producers offered $55 million in grants.

The United Arab Emirates told the summit it can see the region is poised for a leap forward in renewable energy.

Its foreign affairs spokesperson, Mohammed Issa Abushahab, says his country is also starting to invest heavily in solar power and wants to help Pacific countries do the same.

He says the fund was initially for soft loans but they've decided to change to grants so that more Pacific countries can benefit.

Mr Abushahab says a $6 million loan to Tonga for a new solar power plant has already been changed to a grant.