Renewable Energy

Energy needs throughout the Cook Islands have been met by long-established distribution systems supplied by diesel-generated electricity on Rarotonga and the Pa Enua.The introduction of alternative energy sources such as the utilisation of solar and wind-powered systems has been minimal and isolated, over past years.Domestic users at community level have not had the benefit of large scale investment funds to explore and establish renewable energy systems for self-sufficiency or integration with the established distribution network.The business community has also reflected similar constraints, despite considerable economic growth within the private sector since the late 1990s.

As a result of the dependence on imported fossil fuels, the country as a whole has struggled with a range of constraints, including the impacts of global trends and crises influencing the supply and price of fuel; the debilitating logistical demands and costs associated with shipping and transportation to the Pa Enua of bulk fuel; and the limited scope in the relevant policy and regulatory framework for improving national energy security. The growth of the Cook Islands economy has been and continues to be largely dependent upon fossil fuels as its energy source. This leaves it exposed to the environment, social and economic effects.

The shift in Government policy towards renewable energy not only re-confirms energy as a fundamental prerequisite to sustainable development but also: strengthens Government’s commitment to meeting it’s climate change obligations; preserving the country’s pristine environment and fragile ecosystems, enabling private sector job creation, and strengthening energy security.

The increased use of renewable energy in the Cook Islands will reduce the precarious reliance on importing diesel for electricity generation.

The Cook Islands Renewable Energy Chart (CIREC) espouses the goal, objectives, principles and pillars of this policy shift and was approved in 2012 along with an implementation plan. The implementation plan indicates the means and methods towards achieving the goal established by the Government. It will serve as the guiding document from which the transformation of the country to renewable energy will be implemented. Periodically, the plan will be updated to reflect current movements/progress and changes. Together with this capital initiatives budget, they provide a framework for sector support to a national renewable energy programme.

Investment plans currently focus on designing and installing mini-grid solar electric systems in the pa Enua, starting from the North and moving South. Works will be coordinated with previous renewable energy implementation plans which propose and address energy efficiency by upgrading back-up generators to low consumption machines. Development partners include Japan ($4.5 million), New Zealand and Australia ($11.5 million), UNDP, SPREP, SIDS-DOCK. In addition, a significant investment programme is envisaged to transform Te Aponga Uira into a new distribution and power system manager. Private investment, particularly on Rarotonga and Aitutaki is anticipated to be a major lever contributing to the medium term goal of 100 per cent renewable energy by 2020. The Program is managed by the Renewable Energy Dvision of the Prime Minister Office which includes an Energy Commissioner.

After a successful partnership between the Cook Island and New Zealand Governments the renewables program in the Northern Group islands is completed and focus had moved to a renewable energy project for the Southern Group Islands of Mitiaro, Mauke, Mangaia, Aitu, Aitutaki and Rarotonga.


Southern Group Renewable Energy Project


This project is implemented by the ADB and will assist the Cook Islands to reach its goal of delivering renewable energy to all its islands by 2020 and also reducing the Cook Islands’ dependence on fossil fuels, by building solar-powered plants on five of its islands, funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the European Union (EU), the Global Environment Fund (GEF), the Government of Japan through the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (Pacific Environment Community Fund or PEC), the Green Climate Fund through ADB's Pacific Islands Renewable Energy Investment Program and the government of the Cook Islands.

An Inception meeting held in May 2015 resulted in the government signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Asian Development Bank, finalising the scope for Phase 1. Construction of the solar farms, systems and distribution upgrades on Mitiaro, Mauke, Mangaia and Atiu. Rarotonga and Aitutaki, will be progressively be developed over 2015 for the implementation of Phase 2 alongside institutional capacity building and national policy work. 

Each solar power plant built on the islands in the country’s south under this $24.28 million project will have a total installed power generation capacity of approximately 3 megawatts. It is anticipated that this project will lower annual use of diesel consumption for generating electricity by 1.09 million litres, in turn lowering carbon dioxide emissions. Nearly all households in the Cook Islands are connected to grid electricity. Of these households 5.5% have additional solar photovoltaic systems installed, and 1% use small diesel generators. The Cook Islands depends heavily on imported fuels and electricity costs there are among the highest in the Pacific.

Total funding is estimated at US$11.19 million (NZD$12.98 million) of a loan from ADB’s Ordinary Capital Resources, a $7.26 million grant from the EU a product grant of Pacific Environment Community (PEC) USD3.9 million along with in-kind contribution of $5.83 million from the Cook Islands Government will fund the project. The project’s executing agency is the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management. The implementing partners are the Renewable Energy Development Division of the Office of the Prime Minister and the Rarotonga Power Authority (Te Aponga Uira) and the Island governments.
In April 2015, the GEF secretariat approved the project concept for inclusion a project preparation grant (PPG) of US$136,986. Additional grant funding of about US$4.12 million from the Global Environment Facility.In December 2016, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) approved ADB's Pacific Islands Renewable Energy Investment Program, including an initial $12 million grant for the Cook Islands to install energy storage systems in Rarotonga and support private sector investment in renewable energy. The additional GCF financing for the project was approved by ADB's Board in October 2017. 

This project compliments the solar power project implemented for the Northern Group of the Cook Islands and Rarotonga from the Government of New Zealand.

Regional Energy Project

Promoting Energy Efficiency in The Pacific: Phase 2 (PEEP2) is to improve efficiency in the use of electrical power for consumers in five Pacific developing member countries (PDMCs) - the Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu.

Please click on the following link to view information related to this project - Promoting Energy Efficiency in the Pacific (PEEP2)