29th April 2021, Neiafu, Vava’u Tonga. Following the historic launching of the Tonga Energy Roadmap 2021 – 2035 Framework and the Pacific Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (PCREEE) Business Plan 2020 – 2030 on 27 April in Vava’u Tonga, PCREEE and the Tonga Department of Energy jointly conducted a three days Mini-grid training workshop for the Vava’u District, from 28th – 30th April.
Most of the electricity supply in the outer islands of the Pacific is through mini-grid systems where both diesel and solar generations are being used together with battery storage. The workshop is therefore part of the PCREEE’s effort to support the Pacific Islands to deal with the COVID pandemic and to better respond to natural disasters such as cyclones. COVID vaccination in the outer islands would need reliable electricity supply to keep the vaccines frozen. Furthermore, supply of electricity should quickly be restored after natural disasters. Jobs and family incomes have been lost and people need reliable electricity to do their handicraft making, cook and sew in order to provide for their families.
Speaking at the opening of the Mini-grid training, Mr Jesse Benjamin of the PCREEE reiterated the importance of the mini-grid training for Tonga’s resilient development. “Renewable Energy Mini-grid is a priority programme under the PCREEE’s second operational phase and new PCREEE Business Plan." Mr Benjamin added. “Tonga is the first country in the Pacific for PCREEE to roll out its minigrid programme with and we are looking forward to rolling out activities on mini-grids in accordance with the needs and priorities of the other Pacific Island countries too”, he concluded.
The training consisted of theoretical concepts and basics of PV minigrids and ended with a site visit to Tonga Power Ltd’s solar farm and other outer islands solar PV systems. It was well attended by over 20 participants and 10 of which are solar PV technicians. The training was conducted by the local experts from the Tonga Energy Department and the PCREEE.
The workshop was integrated with a regional webinar on “Microgrids Supporting Resilience in the Pacific Islands” organised by the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and PCREEE on 28th April. The participants of the Vavaú workshop were also able to join and benefit from the 1.5 hours virtual training.
“While Vava’u has no mini-grid development in its outer islands yet, this training is timely as plans are underway to construct six (6) mini-grids for six of the islands of the Vava’u group. “This was the concluding remarks made by Dr. Tevita Tukunga, Director of the Department of Energy to the participants in closing the workshop. He said the funding for the minigrid has been confirmed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) under the Tonga Renewable Energy Project, a Green Climate Fund (GCF) funded project for Tonga.
One of the training participants, Mr Ma'afu Mahe, town officer and technician of Taunga island who spoke on behalf of the training participants thanked the DoE and the PCREEE for organising such a training. He said the training helped them to understand better the concept of expanding from solar home systems to solar mini grids. “The reason I came here is to gain more knowledge and I have got that” he said.
The training organisers wished the acknowledge the active support and participation of the Tonga Electricity Commission, the Tonga Power Limited and the Vava’u staff of the Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster, Environment, Communications and Climate Change.
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Photo: Theory training on micro-grids