With kerosene, diesel and coconut shells as sources of lighting for their homes, the residents of Kiu village on the island of Malaita in Solomon Islands were truly emotional when celebrating the completed installation of 180 solar home systems.

The Kiu community are the first recipients of the US$3.99 million, which involves the installation of 2,000 solar home systems that will provide significant benefits to rural areas and outer islands in the eight provinces around Solomon Islands who will now have access to power for lighting and basic electrical appliances.

The project, developed and implemented by the Government of Solomon Islands, is funded through the Pacific Environment Community (PEC) Fund, contributed by the Government of Japan and administered by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS).

While speaking at the commissioning event, the PEC Fund Project Manager, Mr Jonathan Mitchell commended the efforts of the Government of Solomon Islands and the implementers of the project on the significant progress made to deliver the solar home systems to the outer islands.

“With the installation of the first set of solar home systems in the community of Kiu now completed, we hope that the households who have received the solar home systems will take full advantage of the benefits that the systems will provide and we look forward to the installation of the remaining systems around Solomon Islands,” said Mr Mitchell.

Kiu villager, Mrs Susan Taonarihu noted the positive impacts that the project has had on households in the area, “Before having this solar system, I used coconut shells, kerosene and diesel to provide lighting in our house. Now, I am able to focus on my children’s education- our kids will now be able to study at night and we will have more time for our family prayers.” With an excited tone, she added, “I am also now able to charge my mobile phone at my own home without going to the neighbors who have generators, which costs me $10 each time I charge my phone and I would also be able to weave and make baskets at night now.”

Deputy Director for the Solomon Islands Energy Department, Mr Gabriel Aimaea noted the significance of the project to Solomon Islands and expressed appreciation and gratitude of the region to the Government and people of Japan for the provision of the PEC Fund.

“Solomon Islands currently has one of the lowest levels of access to electricity in the region, with over 85% of the population of Solomon Islands still without access to electricity and for this project alone, we received over 6,000 applications to obtain only 2,000 solar home systems,” said Mr Aimaea.

He further added that “the contribution provided through the PEC Fund is greatly assisting efforts by the Government of Solomon Islands in working towards its policy of increasing and developing sources of renewable energy to support the development of growth centers and rural economic communities”.

Mr Mitchell also stressed that the sustainability of the project was critical. “I wish to join others in encouraging each household participating in this project to look after their solar systems to ensure that the benefits can be sustained well into the future.”

The commissioning ceremony in Kiu village was also attended by the Ambassador of Japan to Solomon Islands, H.E Mr. SatoshiNakajima, Senior Officials of the Government of Solomon Islands and the Forum Secretariat.

The PEC Fund is a commitment by the Government of Japan of ¥6.8 billion (approx US$66 million) to support Forum Island Country projects with a focus on the provision of solar power generation systems and sea water desalination plants, or a combination of both technologies.

The Forum Secretariat was tasked to manage the fund in close collaboration with the Government of Japan. Each Forum Island Country is provided with an indicative allocation of USD$4 million.

To date, the Governments of Samoa, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, Nauru, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Niue, Republic of Palau, Republic of Marshall Islands and Vanuatu have successfully accessed the PEC Fund for national renewable energy and seawater desalination projects.