25 Mar 2013

Pacific summit told renewable energy urgent

10:30 pm on 25 March 2013

Pacific leaders have told the Pacific Energy Summit international donors need to take urgent action to fast-track renewable energy in the region.

Eighteen Pacific countries are seeking funding for 79 clean energy projects at the two-day meeting in Auckland.

About 500 delegates from those countries, international donors and so-called clean-energy companies are taking part in the summit, which is hosted by the Government and the European Union.

Most Pacific countries spend at least 10% of their budgets on imported fuel to generate electricity.

The Cook Islands has a plan to totally convert to renewable energy by 2020 and its Prime Minister, Henry Puna, says many other Pacific nations want to do the same.

But despite more global investment in renewable energy and lower costs for the technology, Mr Puna says the Pacific is still missing out.

"Nearly two thirds of all global investments in renewable energy continue to be directed to the developed countries. The Pacific islands, where even the smallest of investment can make a lifetime of difference to entire populations, remain trapped, vulnerable in the shadows of more high profile emerging markets."

Mr Puna says international aid donors and investors need to act quickly to close that investment gap.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says that by the end of the summit, many Pacific nations should have funding for about half their power from renewable energy.

He says New Zealand has $65 million to contribute.

The EU is expected to announce about $40 million in new funding for renewable energy in the Pacific.