Fiji’s Energy Scenario-2009
Fiji continues to seek alternative sources of energy to supplement its large
fuel import bill. Current renewable energy projects although small, if successful,
could provide the much needed answers to Fiji's energy problems. The Fiji
Department of Energy (FDoE) is continuing its investigations to assess the
economic viability of a number of renewable energy resources. The major areas
of investigation have been on biofuel, wind, geothermal and hydropower. A
number of projects have been commissioned in these areas by Fiji Electricity
Authority (FEA) which includes Butoni wind farm, Wainikasou, Nagado and
Nadarivatu hydro projects, coconut oil fueled village gensets in Vanua Balavu
and Taveuni coordinated by SOPAC and FDoE are some of the examples. Solar
lighting systems are being promoted and disseminated as an option for rural
Fiji's current energy requirements are met from a number of sources
including hydro and diesel generated electricity, fuel wood, bagasse, and
petroleum products. Of these major energy sources, petroleum products are
imported while the rest are produced locally.
The total reliance on imported fuel has been an obstacle to Fiji's
development. The transport sector is the main user of commercial fuel mostly in
the form of petroleum, while the other half is indigenous and non commercial in
the form of bagasse, wood and petroleum fuel. Total imports for the month of
June 2009, Petroleum products contributed 27.5 per cent, of which, automotive
diesel oil contributed 9.3 per cent, aviation turbine fuel 4.7 per cent, industrial
diesel oil 3.5 per cent and motor spirit 3.3 per cent (Fiji Islands Bureau of
Statistics, http://www.statsfiji.gov.fj/Releases/trade09.htm, accessed 02
This article aims to provide precise information of Fiji’s energy demand and
supply and efforts put in by Fiji Government and FEA towards national renewable
This paper is structured as follows. Begins with outlining current energy
demand and supply situation in Fiji, presents a few summary statistics on fuel
imports, electricity production and consumption in Fiji. Further, it lists current and
past experiences with renewable energy. Finally the conclusions and limitations
of this paper are stated.
The Fiji Islands
Figure 1. The Fiji Islands (Fiji Visitors Bureau, 2000)
With a population of around 837271, Fiji is the one of most populous country
in pacific and ranks 145th in the world in terms of petroleum consumption, -
totaling to about ten thousand barrels per day with 1.33 million metric tonnes of
/country/country_energy_data.cfm?fips=FJ ,accessed 26 August 2009).
With a GDP growth rate of around -6.6% (GDP at Constant Factor Cost:
1995 Price) (Fiji Islands Bureau of Statistics, 2009.) Fiji spends great deal in
importing fossil fuels for its industrial, transport and power generation needs. The
Pacific islands report released by Pacific Islands Development Program/East-
West Center, states Fiji’s annual fuel bill is more than a billion Fiji dollars
(US$497 million) of it, 40 % of this is taken up by transport industry, however
alternatives such as biofuels would have significantly reduced the percentage
9/August/08-11-14.htm,acessed on 27 August 2009).
Fiji energy demand can be categorized into sectors namely industrial,
commercial and domestic (Figure 2).The commercial sector being the largest
accounting for about 38 percent of the total in 2006 increasing to 44 percent in
2007.For domestic sector there was increase from 26 to 31 percent from 2006 to
2007, this can be attributed to increasing population and increasing rural urban
migration. Increase in industrial sector is 23 percent in 2006 to 25 percent in
2007.In terms of energy demand all the these sectors are inter related, increase
in one sector triggers energy demand in another, taking this into consideration
the relationship between the industrial and transportation sectors can be
illustrated, the growth of the industrial and commercial sector increases use of
transportation, electricity and use of petroleum based other heavy machinery.
Most of the imported fossil fuels are being used for transportation and for diesel
generators to produce electricity. Total power generation by diesel generators in
2005 (Table 1) surpassed that produced by hydro and accounted for 51 percent
for the year. The total imports for the month of June 2009, petroleum products
contributed 27.5 per cent, of which, automotive diesel oil contributed 9.3 per cent,
aviation turbine fuel 4.7 per cent, industrial diesel oil 3.5 per cent and motor spirit
3.3 per cent.( Fiji Islands Bureau of Statistics,
http://www.statsfiji.gov.fj/Releases/trade09.htm, accessed 02 September 2009).
Figure 2. E nergy C o nsumptio n, by Secto r 2006-7
E eg C n u pio ( W)
n r y o s mt n k h
S e ctor
Source: Fiji Islands Bureau of Statistics, 2008b. Fiji Facts and Figures, July
2008, Fiji Islands Bureau of Statistics, Suva.
Fiji is ranked 152nd in terms of electricity production in world, with total
electricity production of 928 million kWh (2008) and consumption of 735.6 million
kWh (2008),of this 81.5% coming form hydro electricity production and 18.5%
coming from fossil fuels (Nation Master, Fiji Energy
Statistics.www.nationmaster.com/country/fj-fiji/ene-energy, accessed on 26
August, 2009). Despite gradual urbanization, around 49.3 % of the country’s
population resided in rural areas in 2007 (2008b).The energy used by rural
dwellers in terms of biomass and fuel wood are accounted for. The rural urban
divide in Fiji is manifest not only by the differences in the levels of energy
requirement but also in the availability and choice of fuel and technologies to
meet the same useful energy needs and services. Energy demands of several
households, especially those in the rural areas, continue to be met primarily by
inefficient traditional energy forms like fuel
wood, crop residue, and animal waste. The PREA report indicates 600 kg/year
fuel wood for rural dwellers and 146 kg/year for urban dwellers. These fuels are
not only inconvenient to use and cause indoor air pollution, but also adversely
affect the health of women and children who are exposed to the use of these
The alternative energy sources such as hydro, geothermal, wind and solar
energy would not be suitable for the transport industry however alternatives such
as biofuel and electric modes of transportation to reduce energy consumption via
transportation would be appropriate in this case. Biofeul unit was set-up in 2006
by the Fiji Department of Energy to increase research in biofuels.The functions of
the Unit was to;
a) Establish Fiji Fuel standards,
b) Blend trials in transport fuel and power generation,
c) Advise on the feasibility of bio-fuel production in Fiji,
d) And to look for funding assistances for developing sustainable and affordable
bio-fuel industry in Fiji (Vosagoro, 2007).
Fiji Fuel Prices
Changes in the prices of petroleum products are always under public
scrutiny. Fuel is an essential commodity, without viable substitutes. It is a very
noticeable expense item in the consumer budget and fuels a country’s economic
Fiji as in other countries in the Pacific (PICs) is experiencing hardship as a
result of escalating fuel prices. In last two years significant increase in fuel price
in Fiji have been noted. These changes have been triggered by increase in world
fuel price. Figure 3 shows the retail price most common fossil fuel used in Fiji.
For all notable increase in the fuel price was observed from the starting of 2008
and by the end it was all time high, for each individual petroleum product.
Figure 3. Retail Fuel Prices (2000 to Date) - Fiji Islands
Unleaded Diesel Kerosene Premix
Source: Prices and Incomes Board
The prices of fuel are increasing for various reasons. The oil rich regions of
the Middle - East have been politically unstable for years. Most importantly in Fiji,
petroleum is taxed heavily. The demand for fuels is relatively very high and
makes it an ideal candidate for tax levy as consumers cannot switch
consumption because there are no alternatives available. The government
charges 3.5 % fiscal duty plus 12.5 Value Added Tax, however different fuels are
taxed at multiple levels thus is an excellent revenue earner for government.
Lastly, attractive and viable energy alternatives to gasoline do not exist.
Supply to meet that Demand
Fiji Electricity Authority
Established in 1966 the Fiji Electricity Authority a statutory body. Fiji
Electricity Authority was tasked to generate and distribute electricity to the people
of Fiji at the lowest possible cost, with a view to the overall development of the
country. Its core function was to generate, transmit, transform, distribute and sell
energy either in bulk or to individual customers in any part of Fiji. With the
escalating price of fuel and increasing electricity demand FEA started renewable
energy projects.FEA's long term goal is to provide all energy through renewable
resources and flexibility to utilize biodiesel in energy production.
By 2003 Fiji Electricity Authority experienced spending more on expensive
diesel generators to meet the electricity demand of the nation. Figure 4 and
Table 1 depicts that in 2003, of total electricity produced; more than 42 percent
was met by diesel generators which kept on increasing in 2004 and 2005.
Figure 4: Diesel Fuel Usage for Electricity Production 200- 4
Source: Fiji Electricity Authority, (2004a)
In 1997 90 percent of national electricity requirements were met with
hydropower with 10 percent of the balance coming from imported petroleum
products based generator sets. However in 2005 hydropower was down to 49
percent and the balance was met by diesel generator sets. (Table 1and Figure
4).This forced Fiji Electricity Authority to look for alternatives for expensive diesel
generators. The only possible alternative available was renewable energy.
Table 1 Generation Statistics (Excluding Independent Power Producers) 1997-2005
1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
Units Generated from Wailoa
(MWh) 402009 417106 447771 412097 460610 448253 343655 357279 322489
Units Generated from Wainiqeu
(MWh) 1806 816 2079 2286 2347 1945 74 1159 1099
Units Generated from Wainikasou
(MWh) 8919 15151
Total Generation from Hydro
(MWh) 403815 412922 449850 414383 462957 450198 343729 367357 338739
Units Generated from Diesel VLIS
(MWh) 15538 51148 45087 75905 69638 117763 244848 241084 304863
Units Generated from Diesel
Others (MWh) 30523 33557 33524 33606 36879 35738 39773 41105 41169
Total Generation from Diesel
(MWh) 46061 84705 78611 109511 106517 153501 284621 282189 346032
Total Geneartion from Solar
(MWh) 2 12 9 11 14 10 9 6 2
Total Generation (MWh) 449878 502639 528470 523905 569488 603709 628359 649552 684773
% Contribution from Hydro
Generation 90% 83% 85% 79% 81% 75% 55% 57% 49%
% Contribution from Diesel
Generation 10% 17% 15% 21% 19% 25% 45% 43% 51%
Source: Fiji Electricity Authority, (2007a)
This led Fiji Electricity authority to fast track all renewable capital projects,
resulting in the commissioning of Wainikasou, Nagado hydros and Butoni wind
Renewable Energy Projects
Butoni Wind Farm.
Fiji Electricity Authority installed 37 Vergnet GEV MP 275 kW turbines along
the Butoni ridge line near Sigatoka town to create a 10 MW wind farm anticipated
to produce 11.5GWh of electricity a year [2008a]. Butoni Wind farm is one
example of that renewable energy development under taken by the Fiji Electricity
Authority to tackle the fuel crisis in future.
However, speaking at the International Symposium on Renewable Energy at
the University of the South Pacific, FEA's general manager generation, Eparama
Tawake revealed $34million Butoni Wind farm in Sigatoka was a failure and this
was because of insufficient study of the area. According to Mr Tawake, the
performance of the wind farm should be 11.3 giga watt hour for a period of one
year at an average wind speed of 5.47metres per second. However, annual
average wind speed recorded at the wind farm during the first year was lower at
Monasavu Hydro Project
This is the existing hydro dam and power station at Wailoa in central Viti
Levu with an installed capacity of 80 MW and capable of generating 400 million
units of electricity per year on average. There is another small hydro power
station in Vanua Levu (Wainiqeu) but is very small capable of generating only
about 2 million units of electricity in a year. Following increasing demand Fiji
Electricity Authority has commissioned few more hydro projects. These include;
Wainikasou Hydro Project
Wainikasou hydro station (2x3.2MW - Francis turbines) was developed and
commissioned in June 2004 by Sustainable Energy Ltd (SEL-a Joint Venture
Company between FEA and Pacific Hydro Ltd of Australia) with installed capacity
of 6.4MW and estimated annual energy generation of about 20 GWh
(Patel,2009). The water discharged from this station is diverted to the Monasavu
Dam after which it is reused in Wailoa hydro station. The Authority benefitted by
this design through which 1KWh generated at Wainikasou produces 4KWh at
Wailoa Power Station.
Nagado Hydro Project
The Nagado hydro station is another project (storage system) that was
designed developed and commissioned in May 2006 by Sustainable Energy Ltd
with an installed capacity of 2.8 MW and estimated annual energy generation of
about 18 GWh (Patel,2009). The Nagado Hydro Project has been constructed on
a pipeline that supplies water from Vaturu Dam to Nagado water treatment
works. Gravity-fed water passes through the turbine to generate clean electricity
and then continues
on to the treatment plant at Nagado.
Nadarivatu Hydro Power Project (40MW)
This project is being developed solely by FEA. Pacific Hydro Limited of
Australia, Fiji Electricity Authority’s joint venture partner for developing renewable
energy projects, withdrew from the project in February 2007. On 8th September
2008, FEA awarded the contract to Sinohydro Corporation Limited of China to
construct the entire project. The expected commissioning date is mid 2011 and
the expected output is about 101 million units of electricity per year. It is
estimated to cost about US$150 million.
Independent Power Producers (IPPs)
Tropik Woods and FSC are the only Independent Power Producers (IPPs)
who generate electricity in Fiji at present. They produce electricity for their own
use through co-generation and sell the surplus to Fiji Electricity Authority.
Fiji Electricity Authority and Fiji Sugar Corporation are discussing projects to
increase generation from Labasa and Lautoka sugar mill to whole-year round,
instead of just during the crushing season as at present. Fiji Sugar Corporation is
also planning to increase the power generation capacity of its Lautoka mill to 12
MW and also looking at options to build new generation capacity at its Rarawai
mill. This will enable Fiji Sugar Corporation to supply electricity for 48 weeks
during the year.
Another IPP namely Pacific Energy has signed a Power Purchase
Agreement (PPA) with Fiji Electricity Authority for a biomass project near Vuda
with a capacity of up to 20 MW. Iviti Renewable Development (IRD) of Fiji and
Elpicon Australia are two other interested IPPs. On 10 April 2008, Fiji Electricity
Authority signed a PPA with Elpicon, which intends to use various sources of
biomass, solar energy and sustainable resources as their fuel resource. The
plant output is expected to be up to 20 MW.
Fiji Electricity Authority has also met with several parties who are interested
in developing geothermal potential in Fiji At least one entity has been granted a
licence to explore the geothermal potential (Patel, 2009).
Other IPPs interested in participating in the electricity generation industry
includes Fiji Water for a wind farm at Yaqara and ‘H2 On Demand’ for power
generation using Hydrogen generated from water through
specially modified thermal plants. An approach has been made by another group,
Pacific Link, to set up a natural gas fired plant at the Rokobili site on the Suva
foreshore. These are some of projects which might help Fiji Electricity Authority
to produce electricity 100% from renewable sources.
Biomass and Biofuel
Biomass and biofuel are the most promising alternatives to petroleum
products.Biofuels are considered to be the alternative to petroleum based motor
vehicle fuel. The biofuel which is most common to Fiji is coconut oil, derieved
from copra. The coconut is been used as alternative to diesel in gensets for
village /community power generation example on Taveuni and Vanua Balavu.
Talks are underway to produce ethanol from cassava which would be used as
fuel in the future; however ethanol can also be produced from sugarcane.
Figure 4. Local Production of Potential Biomass Fuel 2007 (Tonnes)
Copra , 10079
Sugar Cane , 2513000 Cassava
Source: Fiji Islands Bureau of Statistics, 2008b. Fiji Facts and Figures, July
2008, Fiji Islands Bureau of Statistics, Suva.
Figure 4, shows the domestic production of copra, cassava and sugarcane in
2007.Looking at the figures (Figure 4) the most potential source of biofuel would
be sugar cane. By products of sugarcane bagasse can also be utilized to
produce clean energy. Ethanol can also be produced from sugarcane. Production
of ethanol would mean diversification of the sugarcane industry and would be
good alternative to threats posed by removing preferential sugar price for Fiji.
Other common biomass used in energy production form sugar industry is
bagasse.Coconut oil can be a viable alternative to diesel however Low world
prices for copra have discouraged production and harvesting of coconuts and
Fiji’s experience with renewable energy from about 1980 until about 2000
has generally been good and, of the PICs, Fiji currently has the highest
percentage of renewable energy in its mix of energy sources.
• Biomass. Biomass has traditionally been used mainly for cooking and copra
drying. Fuel wood is major source or energy for rural dwellers.
• Biodiesel. Coconut oil has been used as an alternative to diesel fuel to operate
diesel generators at two rural locations, an 80 kVA generator provided electricity
for 198 households in Vanua balavu, Lau and a 45 kVA generator was used to
electrify 60 households in Taveuni. The technology appears to be technically
viable but there have been difficulties with local management for operations and
in situ production of oil.
• Biogas. Biogas digesters have been tried at small piggeries and dairies for 30
years in Fiji but there have been problems with maintenance and farmers found
the effort to keep them operating excessive for the energy gained. New designs
better suited to Fiji emphasizing waste control rather than energy have been tried
and the results thus far have been more successful. FDoE has also installed
several pilot projects using biogas produced through anaerobic digestion of rural
and urban waste. The biogas is used for domestic cooking purposes and the
digested material is often used as organic fertilizer to be used in vegetable
• Ethanol. Around 1980, the government, the Fiji Sugar Corporation and oil
companies considered several alternative approaches (sugar, molasses,
sorghum) to produce 10-15 MLper year of ethanol to blend with petrol. All were
economically and financially marginal and but the plans were abandoned.
• Gasifiers. In the 1980s, Fiji Electricity Authority experimented with biomass
gasification for power production but found the technology unsuited to their
• Microhydro. There have been small hydro systems at missions and plantations
for a century. Since 1980, five village-scale hydro systems have been built in Fiji
for small electrical loads. The main technical problems have been with the
electrical systems. Difficult site access and limited technical skills in the villages
have resulted in long power outages and high repair costs.
• Solar PV. Rural electrification through PV with a Renewable Energy Service
Company (RESCO) has been assigned to carry out solar PV based rural
The major constraint of the paper is unavailability of energy data publically.
Organizations dealing with energy data base should make the energy data
public. The FDoE should publish energy data and make it available on its
updated web page.
In the medium to long term, Fiji needs to adopt strategies to diversifying its
energy sources because its energy demand is as such. By doing this, exposure
to the vagaries of the world market for oil can be diluted, making the economy
less vulnerable. There are several renewable energy options that would cost less
than diesel generation, including wind, solar/wind hybrids, biomass and mini-
hydro therefore the authorities to should tap into these resources.
Hydro generation is already being used in Fiji and there is scope for
expansion. Wind generation and biomass are possibilities currently being
explored. Solar is in the midst of rapid technological advancement and its
flexibility and simplicity makes it the best option in remote areas.
Past experiences with biofuel and other community based renewable energy
projects indicates the need for proper training and continual maintenance for at
least 3 years after the commissioning of the project.
It is also recommended that a centre of excellence on energy be set up in
one of tertiary institution in Fiji for training, information dissemination, awareness
raising, and research and development on relevant energy technologies.
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About the Author.
Amit Singh is a Lecturer in Chemistry in the Faculty of Applied Sciences, Engineering and
Maritime Studies at Fiji Institute of Technology, Labasa Campus.