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Heavy reliance on imported oil a drag on economy

NUKU΄ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, April 13, 2010) - Work on the final draft of the Tonga Energy Road Map 2010-20, was concluded on Friday, April 9 with the signing of the Minutes of a meeting on the Tonga Energy Road Map that ran from April 7 to 9 at the Fa΄onelua Convention Center, Nuku΄alofa.

It was signed by representatives of the Tongan Government, donor agencies and developing partners

The final draft of the Road Map will be distributed this week to 18 Heads of Governments and Agencies for consideration.

The Senior Energy Specialist of the World Bank from Australia, Wendy Hughes, said in a combined press conference with development partners that the minutes they signed confirmed they were comfortable with the document.

She said they would recommend that the Road Map goes forward for consideration at the Heads of Agencies and Heads of Government level this week and unless there are major concerns after a certain period of time the document is due to be approved in June, with a formal signing and adoption of the road map.

The Tonga Energy Road Map aims at reducing Tonga’s 100 percent reliance on imported fuel by targeting to supply 50 percent of Tonga’s electricity generation from renewable sources in three years.

Wendy added that although renewable energy is a main factor in the Road Map "another very important feature of the document is that it covers the Energy Sector as a whole."

The chairman of Tonga Power Ltd., David Wright, said that the drafting of the Road Map had been exciting because Tonga Power had set out with a comprehensive plan to make power in Tonga safe, reliable and affordable.

"We cannot do this alone, that is why this process with the Tonga Energy Road Map is very important to us, as it provides access through development partners to technical assistance, funding and expertise that we would not have otherwise have access to," he said.

The Chairman said it was also his hope that within the one or two years phase we would see large scale solar plants alongside the power station in Tongatapu supplementing the diesel generation.

He also expected that the Vuna Road lights would be replaced with energy efficiency bulbs, which would eventually spread to other parts of the island as well as village networks being re-built with networks that were safer and more reliable. There would be less loss from lines and he said that all adds up in the long term to cheaper power for consumers of Tonga.

"These are some of the tangible things you will start to see in the next year or so in terms of the network," said David.

The Prime Minister Honorable Dr. Feleti Sevele, who led the development of the road map, in his address to the meeting thanked participants for their efforts.

He said he looked forward to moving forward and added that one of the things that the Government of Tonga was happy as donors come together and agree on common stance as far as renewable energy is concerned.

"We are very proud of this and our moving forward assures a foreseeable future," he said.

Discussions with the development partners on Tonga’s Energy Road Map had been ongoing since April 2009, following the Pacific Energy Minister’s meeting in Nuku΄alofa, whereby all the Government’s development partners agreed upon this new strategy for assisting and reforming a specific sector.

Donor Agencies and Developing Partners included the World Bank, AusAID, NZAid, JICA, Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership, the European Union, Pacific Island Forum Secretariat, South Pacific Community, SPREP, Tonga Power Ltd, as well as a Tongan Delegation.

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