Until recently the South Pacific Island of Tokelau was entirely dependent on imported diesel fuel to generate electricity for its 1,500 residents. Which was both expensive and dirty.
But Tokelau couldn’t afford to get itself off its expensive diesel habit by installing solar arrays to capture its near constant sunshine and use that to generate electricity instead. Until that is, the government of New Zealand, which administers the territory, found a budget somewhere to fund the $7.2m ((£4.3m) project.
Now the islanders of Tokelau have a free source of power and are able to spend the money they used to spend on diesel on other more sensible things. Education, irrigation, hospitals, that sort of thing.
“Detractors might say that $7.2m is a lot to spend on just 1,500 people, and at face value $4,800 per person does sound hefty. But it’s a one-off cost. Every year after that they save. The people of Tokelau use far less electricity than an average European country, so their pay back period will be a bit longer than the 8 or so years you’d need somewhere like the UK. But it won’t be much longer than that. It’s a bit like playing Monopoly I always think, you have to buy houses and hotels if you’re going to win in the long run. Painful at first, but oh so much better later. The majority of the islanders might be subsistence farmers now, but I bet you they won’t be in a few years.” (JS, 2050 editorial)
“The Tokelau Renewable Energy Project is a world first. Tokelau’s three main atolls now have enough solar capacity, on average, to meet electricity needs. Until now, Tokelau has been 100% dependent upon diesel for electricity generation, with heavy economic and environmental costs.” (New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully)
“The move represents a milestone of huge importance for Tokelau as it will now be able to spend more on social welfare.” (Project co-ordinator Mike Basset-Smith)