Kiribati leads by example on solar, slashes dependence on diesel fuel

The Pacific island nation of Kiribati, considered to be among the world’s most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, has installed solar on four government-owned facilities, as part of an effort to “walk the talk” and cut its dependence on imported fossil fuels.
A total of 548kW of solar was installed as part of the Kiribati Grid Connected Solar PV Project, which has been funded through the World Bank by the Australian government and the Global Environment Facility.
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The grid-connected solar systems, unveiled last week, were fitted onto four buildings in South Tarawa – the Kiribati Institute of Technology, Betio Sports Complex, Tungaru Hospital and King George V Secondary School.
It is estimated they will reduce diesel fuel use on the South Tarawa grid – which services 52,000 people – by 230,000 litres a year, slash its greenhouse gas emissions, and save the Kiribati government $US290,000.
Last year, Kiribati President Anote Tong called for a global and immediate moratorium on all new coal mines and coal mine expansions in an open letter delivered to world leaders ahead of the Paris climate talks.
“The construction of each new coal mine undermines the spirit and intent of any (climate) agreement we may reach, particularly in the upcoming COP 21 in Paris,” Tong wrote in the letter.
“Kiribati, as a nation faced with a very uncertain future, is calling for a global moratorium on new coal mines. It would be one positive step towards our collective global action against climate change and it is my sincere hope that you and your people would add your positive support in this endeavour.”
Of course, Australia is yet to commit to any such coal mining or burning ban, but last week the government’s representative in Kiribati said it was proud to support the island nation’s shift to solar.
“Shifting to solar energy in Kiribati is an important step for the government and people of Kiribati. These solar panels are contributing to electricity used by schools, hospitals and public buildings throughout South Tarawa; critical infrastructure that the Australian Government is proud to support,” said Bruce Cowled, Australian High Commissioner for Kiribati.
Kiribati’s Vice President and minister for public works, Korabi Nenem, said it was important for the nation to practice what it preached on fossil fuel use.
“For too long, Kiribati – as one of the most remote countries in the world – has been dependent on imported fuel,’ he said on Friday.
“This is not only a massive burden on our finances, but has a negative impact on the environment around us.
“These solar panels take advantage of our plentiful supply of sun, and will provide a more reliable and sustainable source of energy for the future of our nation.”
Ending in 2018, the Kiribati Grid Connected Solar PV Project is coordinated by the World Bank and funded through a US$1 million grant from the Global Environment Fund (GEF) and a US$2.92 million grant from the Government of Australia, through the Pacific Regional Infrastructure Facility (PRIF).

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