Govt chips in $100M for Pacific Islands' electricity


Dozens of donors have pledged more than $1 billion to help improve access to electricity across the Pacific.

Most of the cash will come from private sector organisations, with the New Zealand Government chipping in $100 million.

More than 640,000 people call the Solomon Islands home, but fewer than 23 percent of them have access to electricity.

"If you want to have a cup of coffee, you have to wait another 30 or 45 minutes to have the kettle boiled by the firewood underneath," says David Pacha, a Solomon Islands politician.

But after spending the day lobbying cashed-up investors, that's all about to change.

"We've just heard from the various actors -- commitments totalling a bit of NZ$1.1 billion," Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says.

Three years ago New Zealand and the European Union entered into a partnership to fast-track sustainable energy development throughout the Pacific.

Today they renewed that commitment, with a focus on providing greater access to power for Melanesian countries like the Solomons, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.

"We've certainly got that commitment from the programmes and the budget today to reach well over the first million people," Mr McCully says.

The Solomons have already come a long way. Within days the country's first solar farm will go online, helping provide cleaner energy to more people.

It's going to make a huge impact -- estimated to save around half a million litres of diesel every year, as well as cut carbon dioxide emissions by 1200 tonnes a year and offer a glimmer of light to our island neighbours.

"They would think they have moved to a different world," Mr Pacha says.