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Tonga offers to host regional energy organisation

MATANGI - Tonga Online - South Pacific News: Pacific Islands - 24 Apr 2009, 11:45 Nuku'alofa, Tonga: TONGA is interested in becoming a host country for a regional energy unit, Tonga's Deputy Prime Minister Dr Viliami Tangi told a Pacific Energy Ministers Meeting in Nuku'alofa yesterday. He noted that the Pacific Island Forum leaders had decided to rationalise the functions of SOPAC with the work programmes of SPC and SPREP. Dr Tangi said that Tonga supported either unifying all regional energy units and programmes into one agency or the co-location of the various energy units and programmes of the CROP agencies in Forum member countries.

"For either scenario, Tonga would like to register its interest as a potential host country," he said.

In his opening remarks to the Pacific Energy Ministers Meeting April 23-24, Dr Tangi said that Pacific Island countries must address the challenge of energy security and explore renewable energy as a substitute for fossil fuel. He noted that Pacific leaders had recognized the need for immediate action on energy security following the first meeting of Pacific Energy Ministers in 2007.

"The leaders recognize energy as one of the key requirements for sustainable development," he said. "It is imperative that we must effectively integrate energy into national planning processes, . . . with the principle of equitable access to reliable and affordable energy."

Dr Tangi said it was important to implement programmes for energy efficiency in supply and the integration of sustainable renewable energy technologies, and for this the support of donor partners was needed.

He said the impact of elevated oil prices on our economies was critically significant.

"Fuel imports were now triple the value of merchandise exports in Kiribati, Samoa and the Federated States of Micronesia. In Fiji the second largest economy in the Pacific the combined export earning the major industries of gold, sugar and textiles only account to two thirds of the country's total fuel import bill.

"These economic indicators demonstrate the serious impact that the increase in the cost of fossil fuels have had and will continue to have, on Pacific island countries.

"Pacific island countries must address the ever-present challenge of energy security and in this regards increasing reliance on renewable energy, as a substitution for fossil fuel must be fully explored. Renewable energy options would also constitute towards global efforts to militate against climate change."

Regional cooperation for bulk petroleum procurements remained a priority, he said.

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