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Energy Fiji Limited has secured funding from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to develop the largest solar energy project of its kind in the Pacific.

The $15 million in IFC funding is expected to take the island nation closer to its goal of sourcing 100% of its energy needs from renewable sources.

The project will reduce the country’s dependence on imported fossil fuels and at the same time cut harmful greenhouse emissions, boosting the nation’s resilience in the face of the impacts of climate change. It has the potential to transition as many as 14,000 households to solar energy.

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To date, about 45% of the country’s power needs are supplied through fossil fuels, 50% through hydropower and the remaining 5% from biomass and wind.

At least 90% of Fijians are connected to EFL’s grid, which needs a total generation capacity of 267MW daily.

Energy Fiji Limited and IFC will select a private-sector partner to deliver 15MW of solar power to the national grid. IFC will also assist the utility in exploring potential renewable energy sources in Vanua Levu.

EFL chief executive officer Hasmukh Patel, said: “EFL needs to meet Fiji’s demand for electricity, which is growing with the increase in connectivity to rural customers via grid extension and the ever-increasing demand from industries and the business community.

“Ideally, we would like to be self-sufficient in terms of energy sources and reduce our dependency on imported fuel. Fortunately, Fiji has a lot of renewable energy sources and we are working with our development partners to explore these.”

IFC resident representative in Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu, Deva De Silva, adds: “The private sector will be crucial in the Fijian Government’s target of sourcing 100 percent of its power generation from renewable energy by 2030.

“Through this partnership with EFL, we hope to demonstrate how the private sector can be attracted to invest in renewable energy through a transparent process and well-structured project, setting an example for other Pacific nations.”

The development of more renewable energy sources paves the way for Fiji to significantly lower its fuel import bill, which was about $500 million in 2019 and accounted for 20% of the country’s total imports.