Below is a letter written to and published in Matangi Tonga Online by
Auckland, New Zealand
THE Pacific Energy Minister's Meeting in Nuku'alofa recently brought to light a number of angles on our energy needs as well as that of others around the Pacific.
Weaning us off petroleum will take some time and the replacement technology to make that possible will still be imported and not home-grown. However what is needed now is a new and home-grown attitude and actions to lessen our dependence on imported energy immediately.
A combination of wind and solar technology will enable most homes in Tonga today to have their lighting and non-heating appliances run independent of the grid - in fact the better wind generators can supply more than is needed by your average households and if allowed, will be able to contribute to the national grid right away. Some Asian countries now have switched from AC powered appliances to DC powered so that they can take advantage of the solar/wind/battery power supply which are home-owned and economic to run and maintain and renewable all at once.
Tonga can do that now and although the initial savings will be minimal but with every subsequent year the move away from petroleum and imported energy will pay dividends for individual families and collectively also for the country.
Our relatively flat terrain offers opportunities for the gradual introduction of electric or battery powered cars, vans and trucks - but the transition period should be implemented now so that
alongside our stated wish to wean us off imported energy, activity on the ground will show that we're willing to walk the talk.
If we make it a policy to phase in a gradual transition from non-renewable to renewable form of energy and actively supported by subsidies or similar, we will join other communities who've not only seen the need but are acting on it.
A good starting point will be to retro-fit all of our street lighting to go solar and follow the lead of some of our own village communities who've done this on their own. The energy savings alone
for Nuku'alofa street lighting will more than meet the technology swap costs in less than three years. Half or more of all government-owned vehicles should be electric over the next five years and what is now known as the golf-carts in Western countries should be the only taxis allowed in Nuku'alofa streets and that should help keep the place a little cleaner and safer than presently.
And now that national power generation is back in the hands of the tax-payer and still costing more than ever, individuals with wind and solar technology who can more than meet their own needs should
be able to contribute to the grid and earn some income along the way. Technology for that is now available and some far-sighted countries encourage this practice.
It's never too late to have the wisdom to do now what we will inevitably be forced to do sometime in the future. Had we done so earlier, Deputy PM, Dr Tangi's speech to the Pacific Energy's meeting would have been quite different in tone and content and his wish to see the region's energy units operate out of Nuku'alofa, a done deal.
Sefita A Hao'uli
27 April 2009