Marshalls national utility company promotes solar expansion


Fri 30 Aug 2013

Marshall Islands
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MAJURO, Marshall Islands --- A major expansion of alternative energy use in urban and rural areas of the Marshall Islands has received the green light from the cabinet, according to the general manager of the national utility company.

The cabinet last week endorsed a series of Marshalls Energy Company-proposed alternative energy plans for Majuro and three outer islands, said the utility’s general manager David Paul.

The utility will now move forward with converting the current diesel-powered plants on Wotje, Jaluit and Rongrong islands to “hybrids” that use biofuel, reducing the use of diesel. Paul said the utility will be seeking funding support from the International Renewable Energy Agency.

While in recent years, the Marshall Islands has focused on installation of home and community-facility solar units in remote islands, the utility plans to seek funding for installation of nearly one megawatt of solar equipment to connect to the current power grid to reduce the use of diesel. Paul said the plan to increase Majuro’s reliance on solar to about one megawatt would result in cutting the use of diesel by 100,000 gallons annually. At present prices, that would cut utility costs by more than US$300,000.

A third plan that is now in motion is to set up a revolving fund to support installation of solar systems for households in Majuro, the capital. This would be tied to a package of energy audits of households and improving efficiency of appliances. “The aim is to tailor funding for a two-step process,” said Paul. “The first step is to help people get efficient use of energy for lighting, refrigerators and air conditioners, and once this is optimized provide solar panels that will provide power during the day.” Power-plant-produced electricity would be provided at night and on rainy days.

Paul said the home systems would be designed for dual-sourced power, from solar and the power plant.

“The people will win,” he said, adding they will lower the cost of power both by using energy-efficient appliances and by using solar-produced energy — and these savings will support paying off loans for equipment.

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