Tuvalu heads for 35% renewables with $6m solar and storage grant

The Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu has been granted $6 million by the Asian Development Bank to accelerate its shift to 100 per cent renewable electricity and reduce its still “heavy reliance” on fossil fuels.

The ADB said the grant would fund the installation of an undisclosed amount of rooftop solar and battery storage systems in Tuvalu’s capital of Funafuti, and then ground-mounted solar systems in the outer islands of Nukufetau, Nukulaelae, and Nui.

The Increasing Access to Renewable Energy Project would slash the nine-island archipelago’s dependence on diesel generation and boost its renewables contribution from 15 per cent to 32 per cent in Funafuti and from around 70 per cent to more than 90 per cent the in the outer islands.

Once complete, the project would see solar supply on average 35 per cent of the island’s day-time electricity, with “short, regular periods” of 100 renewables.

“The project is the first ADB-supported energy sector project in Tuvalu,” said the director of the ADB’s Pacific Energy Division, Olly Norojono.

“It will increase the utilisation of renewable energy in the country and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the country’s power subsector.”

Tuvalu, which hosted the 2019 Pacific Island Forum in 2019, has been dubbed the poster child for climate change, due largely to its vulnerability to sea-level rise, with the highest point of the nine-island archipelago being 4.5 metres above sea level.

The financial assistance from the ADB is no doubt welcomed by Tuvalu, and sits in stark contrast to the distinct lack of support – or even understanding – from one of its biggest and most economically powerful neighbours, Australia.

As RenewEconomy reported, Australia disgraced itself at the August Pacific Islands Forum by insisting that references to an exit from coal be removed from a climate communique, and opt-out clauses inserted on the 1.5°C target that is so crucial to the survival of the Pacific nations.

Tuvalu prime minister Enele Sopoaga summed up the negotiations with Australia this way: “You (Scott Morrison) are concerned about saving your economy in Australia … I am concerned about saving my people in Tuvalu. That was the tone of the discussion.”

The ADB said its funding would also work to strengthen the institutional capacity of Tuvalu Electricity Corporation by training staff in renewables project development and implementation.

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