On Thursday the 5th of September Aitutaki’s Power Supply celebrated the opening of the first stage of Aitutaki’s renewable energy conversion, by the Prime Minister, the Hon. Henry Puna. It was an in auspicious occasion with the Deputy Prime Minister also in attendance, the Mayor, island council as much of the island community with all villages contributing to the celebrations. In addition to the renewable energy installation, there were a number of milestones celebrated that including a change of name for the entity, with a new logo, the appointment of a new board for the entity and most importantly for the people of Aitutaki, a reduction of tariffs.
Renewable Energy Project
The project itself included the installation of 750kw of solar panels and 500kw of battery storage. This sits alongside other recent investments the power supply (a new smaller and efficient generator) has led to significant fuel consumption and increased efficiency. The result of this first stage is that approximately 30% of all power needs for the island are now met by renewable energy. With further fine tuning and stage two investments, this is expected to increase to over 70% in the near future.
This was the last but most substantial of the projects in the Southern Group with funding coming from the Cook Islands government, Asian Development Bank, the and even funding from the Te Mana Uira O Araura itself. The project was implemented by Power Smart, with project management by REDD at OPM with the assistance of Entura, and peer review by Stephen Peters of McMahon.
New Name and Logo
Thursday also marked a change in name for the entity known previously as the Aitutaki Power Supply. A new name was chosen resulting from a completion with the schools and community asking for a new name and a new logo. After reviewing the many entries the new name of “Te Mana Uira O Araura” was chosen. Also a logo for Te Mana Uira O Araura was developed with the assistance of local graphic designer Sam Ataera, taking the best ideas from the competition. Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Mark Brown handed out prizes to the top winning entries; who were: Kuramaeva Tare, Moana David, Ngeretuaine Tuao, Iripa Maeva and Emual Manapori.
Also of note was the attendance and appointment of a new board Aitutaki based board for TMU, Chaired by John Baxter and including Janet Maki, Ine Challans, Paul Henry, Stephen Doherty and Tiraa Arere. The board were selected on the basis of having a diversity of skills and experience to enhance decision making, consistent with Corporate Governance Policy passed by cabinet earlier this year and developed by CIIC and based on international best practice. Earlier in the week the new board undertook an induction conducted by CIIC management as well as Governance director training with CIIC director, Caren Rangi.
Improved Efficiencies and Savings
The completion of Stage 1 of the renewable energy integration has meant a significant saving in fuel and improved overall efficiency. With assistance from MFEM and CIIC, the board of Te Mana Uira were able to calculate a proportional reduction in the tariff, providing more affordable energy to the people of Araura whilst ensuring the sustainable management and investment in to the infrastructure of the Aitutaki power system. Effective immediately, there will a 13% reduction for households on your variable charges, for businesses, there will be a 13% reduction on the tier 1 variable rate and a 9% reduction on the tier 2 variable rate in addition to the introduction of a minor of a fixed supply charge of $2 per month. TMU have also gifted all households 4 power saving light bulbs to improve energy conservation and reduce usage and power bills.
Future investment in Renewable Energy for Te Mana Uira O Araura
The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister also announced at the ceremony their commitment to begin the next stage of investments in Te Mana Uira O Araura’s renewable energy program. This will start with some technical studies that will then inform a the “stage two project that will see the installation of another 1.2 MW of solar panels and additional battery storage which will maximise renewable energy penetration and lower costs even further for the people of Aitutaki. The preliminary work on this will likely begin in the next few months.