November 27, 2012
From VOA Learning English, this is the TECHNOLOGY REPORT in Special English.
Officials say the islands of Tokelau in the South Pacific Ocean have become the world’s first territory totally powered by the sun. The move is expected to save money and ease the environmental burden of depending on imported fossil fuels.
New Zealand’s foreign affairs minister released a statement about The Tokelau Renewable Energy Project. Murray McCully said Tokelau’s three main atolls, or islands, now have enough solar capacity to meet all of their electricity needs. He said until now, Tokelau has been one hundred percent dependent on diesel for producing electricity. That, he said, has burdened the country with heavy economic and environmental costs.
The three atolls of Tokelau are Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo. The group of islands is about halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii and is administered by New Zealand. Together they have about one thousand five hundred citizens.
Each atoll received its own solar power grid system. New Zealand officials estimated the cost of the project to build the three solar grids at around seven million dollars. The last of the grids was completed earlier this month.
It is estimated that oil imports make up to thirty percent of national income in some parts of the Pacific. The move to solar power could save Tokelau about one million dollars a year. One project coordinator said Tokelau would now be able to spend more on social programs to help its citizens.
Other South Pacific islands are attempting similar projects. The island nations of Samoa and Tuvalu are aiming to get all of their electricity from renewable sources by twenty-twenty. The Cook Islands plans to start moving to solar panels and wind turbines. And most houses in the South Pacific groups of islands will begin to use solar water heaters.
East Timor's government has promised that no households in the capital, Dili, would be using firewood for cooking by twenty fifteen. It also says fifty percent of the country's electricity will come from renewable sources by the end of the decade.
New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says the country will hold a Pacific energy summit in March next year. He said the meeting would build on the success of clean and affordable energy solutions for Tokelau, Tonga, and the Cook Islands.
And that's the VOA Special English Technology Report, written by June Simms. Transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our reports are at voaspecialenglish.com. We’re also on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter at VOA Learning English. I'm Steve Ember.