HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

Conversion to renewable energy at end of a long road
Figures from the 2011 Census reveal that the country faces a daunting task in negotiating the road to 100 per cent conversion to renewable energy by 2020, let alone 50 per cent by 2015.
The figures show just how reliant we are on electricity at this moment.
However, the good news is, the road looks a lot less bumpy for the northern group.
The figures for Rarotonga show that of 3,171 dwellings, those who source their electricity from solar panels, number 147. Those who source their power from the grid, number 3,127. Four dwellings have wind power, 13 have a generator while 24 have no source of power. (It should be noted that homes with solar and wind power also feed electricity into the grid).
Those areas on Rarotonga with 20-23 dwellings on solar power are; Kiikii-O’oa-Pue with 23, Titikaveka with 21 and Ruaau-Arerenga with 20. The area with the least dwellings on solar power is Tupapa-Maraerenga with just 1.
In the five islands of the southern group, of 940 dwellings, there are just 6 dwellings with solar power. There are 15 that use a generator. 933 dwellings source their electricity from the grid. Aitutaki has the most dwellings with solar power at 3. No dwelling in Atiu had solar power. Mauke has one dwelling on wind power.
It is in the northern group that the conversion picture looks more rosy with Pukapuka leading the way thanks to a special project to put every household on solar power.
Of the 280 dwellings on the six islands in the northern group, 180 source their power from the grid. 104 dwellings have solar power. 17 dwellings use generators. 1 dwelling on Penrhyn has a wind turbine. Of the 101 dwellings on Pukapuka, 94 have solar panels, 5 use generators, 2 have no power and 5 source their power from the grid.
So what is the national picture? Of the 4,391 dwellings in the country, 4,240 source their electricity from the grid, 257 dwellings have solar panels, 45 dwellings use a generator, 6 dwellings have a wind turbine and 32 dwellings have no electricity.
Household use of electricity for cooking
Of interest is that in the northern group two thirds or more of households use gas or an open fire for cooking. There is less reliance on electricity for cooking. Of 280 dwellings in the north, 255 use gas, 197 use an open fire, 6 use kerosene and just 54 use electricity. On Pukapuka no dwelling is recorded as using electricity for cooking. Of 101 dwellings on Pukapuka, 94 use gas and 80 cook on an open fire.
In the southern group, there is more reliance on electricity and gas for cooking although cooking by open fire is done by just over half of all households. Of 940 dwellings, 813 use gas, 620 use electricity, 543 use an open fire and 9 use kerosene.
On Rarotonga, of 3,171 dwellings, 2,977 use gas, 1,512 use electricity, 912 use an open fire and 17 use kerosene.
It should be noted that some households may cook with gas, electricity and the open fire.
Household appliances that use electricity
To put the use of electricity within households into greater perspective, the census shows that gas stoves greatly outnumber electric stoves for example on Rarotonga, of 3,171 dwellings, 3,010 have a gas stove and just 548 have an electric stove. However, there are 1,914 dwellings with a microwave. This picture is the same for most of the other islands. A large number of dwellings also use other electric appliances such as toasters and electric jugs.
The census shows, apart from the use of gas and an open fire for cooking, how greatly our lives have come to rely on electricity.
The northern group is most likely to achieve government’s conversion targets ahead of time.
There is a job ahead to convert the southern group and Rarotonga to renewable energy. Clearly the take up of solar power is slow and government should seriously consider widening the strategy to include substituting diesel for bio-gas, bio-fuel, coconut oil, small hydro schemes (dam some valleys), solar heating (create steam to run turbines).
Make conversion more attractive through a range of financial incentives. -Charles Pitt

Herald Issue 608 21 March
- Terms of one China Policy document should be reviewed
- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

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