Richard Butler | Exclusive Report by Nicholas Nhede of PEI International | DEC 13th, 2021
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has increased its funding for the Vanuatu Energy Access Project with a $6 million grant to help the island expand its energy generation and distribution capacity.
The grant will be coupled with $1.2 million in aid from the government of Vanuatu to help fund the development of the 400KW Brenwe hydropower power plant and 79km of new distribution lines.
The Brenwe hydropower plant is expected to be operational in April 2022 and will deliver up to 90% of the Malekula grid’s needs, saving more than 200,000 liters of diesel per year and reducing Vanuatu’s dependence on imported fossil fuel.
The project, kickstarted in 2017 with $15.1 million in aid from ADB, the Strategic Climate Fund and the Government of Vanuatu, will help improve energy access for people in Malekula and Espiritu Santo islands.
The project will ensure energy affordability and sustainability for 1,050 new households and increase grid access in Espiritu Santo from 22% to 29% and in Malekula from 8% to 14%.
The programme will upgrade power distribution networks from a single wire to a three-phase system to avoid the need for future upgrades when demand increases and will deliver safer power due to an improved fault detection mechanism.
ADB Vanuatu Pacific Country Office Unit Head and Senior Infrastructure Specialist David Fay, said: “The delivery of sustainable, affordable power provides exciting opportunities to improve the lives of people in these communities.
“The upgrade will accommodate the demand of larger commercial and industrial facilities on the main grid and provide greater renewable electricity penetration to contribute to the economic development of Vanuatu.”
Vanuatu Minister of Finance and Economic Management Johnny Koanapo Rasou, added: “This project will allow us to produce clean, reliable, low-cost power to more people, many of whom do not presently have access to the main grid.
“The government wants to see the shift from polluting energy sources to clean, locally produced renewable energy which again contributes to keeping our air and water clean. New renewable systems will also contribute to our economy by creating good jobs and new careers.”
The development follows calls for multinational financing institutions and developed countries to raise financial assistance for islands and developing countries, a central talking point at the recent COP26 summit which was held in Glasgow.