TC Harold hit Tonga on 9th April with estimated damages of about USD111 million, coming largely from the tourism sector. Tonga remains COVID-19 free but the pandemic, combined with the disaster recovery efforts has taken its toll on the tourism industry.
Accessible energy is critical to supporting the tourism sector as it recovers from Cyclone Harold as well as ensuring the country is prepared for a potential COVID-19 outbreak by ensuring a stable energy supply for local testing facilities and lifesaving equipment such as ventilators.
To help the private sector with their recovery and preparation efforts, 30 electrical contractors took part in a training last week as a refresher on electrical safety and compliance. Held in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, the training was organised in partnership with Tonga’s Electricity Commission (TEC) and the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (PCREEE).
Rapid growth in the energy sector of Tonga has unfortunately also seen an increasing number of causalities due to non-observance of safety standards and guidelines outlined in national by-Laws. There were 3 deaths in 2017, one death in 2018 and the most recent fatality happened in March at Mataika, Tongatapu. Ensuring access to clean, reliable, affordable and sustainable energy is critical to the lives and livelihoods of Pacific people, but ensuring the safety of workers is paramount.
Commissioner of the Tonga Electricity Commission, Soane Vahe reiterated this sentiment during the course. He said, “The rebuilding of the damaged tourism premises will involve new power connections and wirings and you as registered electrical contractors are tasked with providing a service that is in compliance with the law and is absolutely safe for the investors as well as the quests. Furthermore, the health services in the Kingdom is relying on you as registered electrical contractors to ensure their life saving equipment are functioning wherever and whenever they are needed.”
The Pacific Community through its Pacific Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (PPCREE) conducted the workshop in partnership with Tonga’s Electricity Commission (TEC).
SPC’s Programme Delivery Officer PCREEE, Mr Jesse Benjamin, highlighted a few of the challenges faced in Tonga and throughout the region during this period. “COVID19 has presented a huge opportunity for large countries to stockpile fuel resources due to the drops in crude prices. However, the tyranny of distance and fixed costs associated with diesel importation in the Pacific, means this is not benefiting the Pacific as much. Finding innovative solutions to ensure every Pacific person has access to clean, reliable and affordable energy is critical as we face the regional economic impact of COVID-19”.
The workshop was conducted by Asita Langi, Technical Manager of the TEC, and was broken up into smaller sessions over two days to accommodate Tonga’s COVID 19 social distancing requirement.
Kilisimasi Ma’asi, Acting CEO, TEC – Phone: 23-021/ [email protected]
Benjamin Jesse, Programme Delivery Officer, PCREEE – Phone: 20137 / [email protected]
Lisa Kingsberry, Team Leader Communications and Knowledge Management +6799252849 [email protected]
About TEC and PCREEE:
The Electricity Commission was established through the Electricity Act of 2007 with functions which include the licensing of electricians and establishing standards for electrical safety. The Commission is also tasked to enforce actions under this Act or any regulations made under the Act.
PCREEE accelerates the uptake of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies in the Pacific Islands. It is co-hosted by the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Tonga Government at Nuku’alofa, Tonga and represents a collaboration between SPC, UNIDO, SIDS Dock, the Government of Tonga and the Government of Austria and Norway.