5 July 2011, Rarotonga Cook Islands - The Cook Islands has an electricity target of 50% renewable energy by 2015 and 100% by 2020. While this may seem like an extreme target, according to the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Hon. Henry Puna - "it is ambitious but it is not impossible."Plans are already underway to bring this to fruition.
The Cook Islands will be launching their Renewable Energy Chart this year - Te Atamoa O Te Uira Natura, the plan that outlines how they will achieve their renewable energy targets. This chart has undergone consultation with relevant stakeholders and has taken into account input from numerous supporting partners. It is now in the process of being finalised for endorsement.
"It is flexible to take into account possible changes which may happen, as well as addressed the long term concerns - for example the outer island of Aitutaki now has a peak demand for electricity of 900 kilowatts," said Repeta Puna, the Policy Adviser from the Office of the Prime Minister.
"In Te Atamoa O Te Uira Natura we have planned for a two megawatt solar plant for Aitutaki to take into account the future demand for electricity."
The Cook Islands will undertake this journey to 100% renewable energy reliant with support and assistance from partners.
The Pacific Islands Greenhouse Gas Abatement through Renewable Energy Project (PIGGAREP) aims at helping 11 different island countries overcome the barriers to effectively using renewable energy technologies at the national level.
The Cook Islands is a recipient of the benefits from PIGGAREP which is financed by the global Environment Facility (GEF), implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and executed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).
"One aspect of the Cook Islands activity is the endorsement of a Wind Energy Project worth USD 70 thousand," said Silia Ualesi, the project manager of PIGGAREP.
"This project spans a new wind monitoring system for Atiu, moving the wind monitoring system from Mitiaro to Mauke as well as a site study for a wind farm on Rarotonga. PIGGAREP is very pleased to be able to help the Cook Islands in their endeavour."
The initial allocation from PIGGAREP allowed for approximately USD 360 thousand worth of funds for each of the 11 different island countries. This has now been amended to give flexibility, allowing member countries to access further funds should they have more renewable energy projects.
The PIGGAREP process also requires support from co-financers for national projects.
Other renewable energy projects in the Cook Islands are also underway to ensure that all 15 islands of the Cook Islands are taken into account when aspiring towards the ambitious targets.
A detailed project proposal seeking assistance from the Pacific Environment Community (PEC) Fund for solar power generation systems for the outer island of Rakahanga is close to approval.
The PEC Fund, administered by the Forum Secretariat, is a commitment by the Government of Japan of ¥6.8 billion (approx US$66 million) to support Forum Island Country (FIC) projects with a focus on the provision of solar power generation systems and sea water desalination plants, or a combination of both.
"Over the next few weeks, the decision making body for the Pacific Environment Community Fund will make a final decision on the Cook Islands detailed project proposal," said Su'a Kevin Thomsen the Director of Strategic Partnerships and Coordination Programme of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.
"I can confidently say we look forward to more in depth conversations with the Cook Islands Government soon on implementation arrangements."
Other outer islands in the Cook Islands that are also targeted for renewable energy assistance by the government are Pukapuka, Nassau, Suwarrow and Manihiki with project concepts and proposals now taking place.
By 2020 the whole of the Cook Islands will be 100% reliant on renewable energy as an electricity source.
"It's important we practice what we preach including addressing the harmful effects on our environment, it's important we get on and do it, do something about it," said the Henry Puna, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands.
"I intend the Cook Islands to take the lead in this by doing what we can to show the way."
The Cook Islands is the host of a regional project proposal writing workshop to assist with accessing funds to support renewable energy and salt water desalination projects. The workshop is from 4 - 8 July.
The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and have pooled resources to coordinate the workshop focusing on the Pacific Islands Greenhouse Gas Abatement through Renewable Energy Project (PIGGAREP) and the Pacific Environment Community (PEC) Fund.
Participants attending represent the countries of: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.