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Summit will provide boost to renewable energy in Pacific

Hon Murray McCully
Minister of Foreign Affairs

20 March 2013

Summit will provide major boost to renewable energy in Pacific

Most of New Zealand’s Pacific neighbours should move close to achieving 50 per cent of their electricity from renewable means as a result of the two-day Pacific Energy Summit being hosted in Auckland jointly by New Zealand and the European Union next week.

Currently most Pacific countries deliver well under 10 per cent of their electricity renewably, with an overriding dependence on diesel generation. Conference co-host Foreign Minister Murray McCully says next week’s conference is “an attempt to put Pacific leaders and their energy roadmaps in the same room as major donors, with the goal of committing several hundred millions of dollars in new infrastructure”.

“What we are attempting is at the very ambitious end of the scale. But the goal of substantially reducing the dependence of Pacific countries on imported diesel for electricity makes this worth a serious effort,” Mr McCully says.

“Despite years of rhetoric about climate change, Pacific nations have had too little practical assistance to make the most significant available improvement to both their environmental and economic circumstances: a shift from extremely expensive imported diesel to environmentally friendly renewable sources of electricity. In a region that possesses sunshine and wind in abundance, that is simply not good enough.

“Some of our nearest neighbours including the Cook Islands, Tonga, and Tuvalu depend upon imported diesel for over 95 per cent of their electricity generation, but have developed bold strategies to shift to renewables. They need a coordinated effort from donors to implement those strategies.

“Others like Vanuatu (19 per cent mostly from wind) and Samoa (40 per cent from hydro) have a stronger base of renewable energy but still need a concerted effort from the donor community to reach their potential. Both the economic and environmental gains from taking these steps will be substantial.”

New Zealand officials, working with Pacific nations and development partners, have compiled a prospectus of 79 renewable energy projects across the region, broadly reflecting the priorities identified in national energy roadmaps. Mr McCully says the goal of the conference is to provide a meeting place in which Pacific leaders can present their strategies and roadmaps, and donors can confer on the spot about collaboration.

In addition to most Pacific leaders, the Summit will be attended by international donors such as the EU, Australia, Japan, China, the United Arab Emirates, the World Bank Group and Asian Development Bank; and the heads of international organisations including the International Renewable Energy Agency.

“In countries in which there are good procedural and institutional arrangements it is relatively simple to use the power pricing arrangements as a base to configure a mix of grant funding, concessional finance and commercial finance to make a viable project. For this reason, the attendance of major donors like the EU, alongside finance providers like the World Bank and the Asia Development Bank provide us with an unprecedented opportunity to construct optimal packages to suit projects and national circumstances,” Mr McCully says.

“All of the indications are that we will see very substantial commitments of both grant and loan finance on a scale that will enable a quantum leap forward toward renewable energy within our region.

“For a small country like New Zealand to be able to partner the largest aid donor in the world, the European Union, in a venture of this sort is an enormous opportunity. I want to thank Development Commissioner Piebalgs, without whose personal vision and commitment this initiative would not have been possible. It is heartening that the EU, half the world away, is prepared to make the significant effort required to support small Pacific nations in this way.”

Mr McCully will travel to Tonga today for the first stage of energy talks at the Pacific Leaders’ Energy Summit.

The Pacific Energy Summit will be held at Auckland’s Viaduct on March 25/26.

For more information on the Summit, programme, speakers and free media registration visit: www.pacificenergysummit2013.com

ENDS

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