12 Jul 2011

Renewable energy on agenda of NZ business mission to Pacific

1:50 pm on 12 July 2011

Converting more Pacific countries to renewable energy is a key focus for a New Zealand trade delegation to Polynesia this week.

The group is part of the foreign minister's annual mission to the Pacific, taking in this time Tonga, Samoa, the Cook Islands and Niue.

From Tonga, Annell Husband reports.

"The New Zealand Trade Commissioner for the Pacific says reducing Pacific Island countries' reliance on diesel-generated power is a foreign ministry priority. Michael Greenslade is co-ordinating a group of business people that includes heads of companies exploring the viability of marine and solar energy projects in the Pacific. In Tonga, the goal is to have 50 percent renewable energy by next year. Gary Venus of Argo Environmental says there is solid interest from Tonga Power in a wave energy plant capable of providing three of the four megawatts of electricity Tonga uses each year. He says Tonga spends 15 million US dollars on diesel a year but he says a recently completed feasibility study shows the six-unit wave plant would only cost 18 million to build. Other options for Tonga include building a one megawatt photovoltaic plant with the help of New Zealand's state-owned enterprise Meridian Energy. Development of that project is expected to start early next year."