By Mat McDermott, TreeHugger
Tokelau may not yet be a fully self-governing country—the majority of its budget is paid for in aid from New Zealand; its citizens still are technically citizens of New Zealand; and it has non-self-governing territory status with the UN—but it may well become the world’s first nation to get all of its electricity from solar power.
As New Zealand’s 3 News reports (hat tip Revmodo), the three atolls that make up Tokelau are in the process of phasing out using diesel fuel to generate electricity, installing over 4000 solar panels as replacement. The first of the atolls to get solar panels is about halfway towards having all of them installed, with the remaining panels expected to be installed by September.
Here’s the amazing connection between phasing out diesel-fueled electricity, getting the Tokelau budget inline and untying the connection to New Zealand:
The nation’s annual revenues are under $500,000, but the national budget is $2.8 million. (Yes, million dollars, which gives you a sense of both how financially strapped and small the place is.)
Currently, diesel-powered electricity costs the nation over $1 million a year (roughly $715 per person, with per capita purchasing power of a bit over $1000, though the newest data is well over a decade old). Even though it’s going to cost $7.5 million to install all the solar panels (the money is coming from New Zealand’s government), after the system is paid off, the panels will still have nearly two decades of life in them before major maintenance is required.
Let’s clap and mark down the record: it is a good thing, entirely what other nations should be emulating. But we should also remember that it’s 1400 people we’re talking about here. In the scheme of world carbon emissions, the 2000 barrels of diesel fuel burned annually are pretty much negligible, a rounding error in global calculations.