The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) works to advance globalization and bring positive effects, economic development and new opportunities to areas in need. In March of 2015, JICA installed a solar power microgrid system in Tonga.
Tonga is comprised of 177 small islands, separated into 3 main clusters, about 1,000 miles northeast of New Zealand. Largely, Tonga is doing well, having a literacy rate of over 98 percent and a generally stable political environment. However, the island’s power system is outdated.
The island’s power has been supplied from an imported diesel generator, resulting in expensive electricity. Electricity bills were 2.5 to 3 times higher in Tonga than they are in Japan, which is why renewable energy became a priority for the islands. With the solar power grid, installed by JICA, fuel costs and electricity bills can be significantly reduced.
The micro-grid is a small-scale power distribution system that can operate alone, or as part of a network. These micro-grids provide stability. After a storm or sudden climate changes, a stable supply of electricity is still accessible and reliable, which was not possible with the diesel fuel system.
The goal of this project is to improve the daily lives of Tonga’s habitants and to make Tonga more energy efficient. Annually, the solar energy system saves about 460,000 gallons of diesel. By 2020, they hope to reduce Tonga’s reliance of fossil fuels by 50 percent.
Japan is not the only country helping Tonga. The New Zealand Aid Programme has also involved themselves in these changes, as well as the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development. Why the interest in Tonga?
Tonga’s population is fairly educated, and it is classified as upper middle class based on the gross national income per capita, updated recently by the World Bank; however, Tonga needs power. Because of Tonga’s location, the prices of fossil fuels fluctuate, supply routes are costly and the energy market is small. Tonga is the perfect location to start up new solar energy and hybrid solutions.
With potential to succeed and a demand for renewable energy, Tonga is suspected to become increasingly reliant on solar energy systems in the upcoming years.
– Hannah Resnick