Energy Fiji Limited (EFL) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) have come to an agreement to deliver the largest solar project of its kind in the Pacific to date. The agreement allows EFL and IFC – a member of the World Bank Group – to now move forward with the selection of a private-sector partner in the project to deliver at least 15 megawatts (MW) of solar power to the national grid. IFC will also assist EFL in exploring potential renewable energy sources on Vanua Levu.

According to statement issued by the IFC, the landmark agreement has been hailed a transformative step that will take the island nation closer to its goal of sourcing 100 per cent of its energy needs from renewable sources. IFC says the project, worth around USD15 million, will reduce the country’s dependence on imported fossil fuels; and at the same time cut harmful greenhouse emissions, boosting the nation’s resilience in the face of the impacts of climate change. It states the project also has the potential to transition as many as 14,000 households to solar energy.

“EFL needs to meet Fiji’s demand for electricity, which is growing with the increase in connectivity to rural customers via grid extension and the ever-increasing demand from industries and the business community,” EFL chief executive officer Hasmukh Patel said in the statement. “Ideally, we would like to be self-sufficient in terms of energy sources and reduce our dependency on imported fuel. Fortunately, Fiji has a lot of renewable energy sources and we are working with our development partners to explore these,” Patel said.

About 45 per cent of the country’s power needs are supplied through fossil fuels, 50 per cent through hydropower and the remaining 5 per cent from biomass and wind. At least 90 per cent of Fijians are connected to EFL’s grid, which needs a total generation capacity of 267 MW daily.

IFC has been supported by the governments of Australia and New Zealand through the Fiji Partnership and the Danish government to carry out this solar project in Fiji.

As part of its push for the use of more renewable energy sources, IFC has also been advising the government of Solomon Islands on the Tina River Hydropower Development Project, which will see the nation go from almost total reliance on imported diesel to generating the majority of its power needs from renewable energy.

REGlobal’s Views: The development of more renewable energy sources pave the way for Fiji to significantly lower its fuel import bill, which was about USD500 million (FJD1.17 billion) in 2019 and accounted for 20 per cent of the country’s total imports. It will also influence neighbouring island countries to explore the option of moving to more economical, solar-powered projects.