Residents of Tobi, a small coral island in Palau’s Southwest Islands don’t have to wait until the new year for their surprise.
The installation of the third off-grid 5kw solar system at the Tobi Elementary School has brought joy and happiness to the children, teachers and the entire population. The solar system will provide access to power for seven children and three teachers which will enable them to use digital devices for their learning.
The solar system will also provide emergency backup power for the schools, as it will be used as evacuation centers during the typhoon season which is between July to November.
The installation of the solar systems was completed with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office in Fiji, through the Japan-funded Enhancing Disaster and Climate Resilience (EDCR) project.
The installation was made possible with the support of the Palau Ministry of Education (MOE), Palau Energy Administration (PEA), Hatohobei State Government, Palau National Communications Corporation (PNCC), and National Emergency Management Office (NEMO). The installation is part of the PEA’s pilot initiatives to expand the provision of solar systems to all households in the south western islands.
Also, with the cooperation of the Division of Maritime Security, Fish and Wildlife Protection (DMLE), the solar systems were transported from Koror to Tobi by “KEDAM”, provided by the Nippon Foundation, a Japanese organization.
In her welcoming remarks, Hon. Huana K. Nestor, Governor of Hatohobei State said, “We are very grateful for this project, as it has provided renewable source of energy to our school and local community. This project has provided energy access to support the education of our children. Moreover, during disasters when the school is turned into an evacuation center for the local community, we can be assured of a reliable power source”.
The state of Hatohobei has no access to electricity, so the installation of the solar system in the school will greatly assist the teachers and students.
Minister Obichang of the Public Infrastructure and Industries Ministry in his address said, “We extend our sincere gratitude to the Government of Japan and UNDP for funding support to this project. I also commend all partner agencies for working together to successfully implement this project despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as well as logistical challenges to this remote project site.”
His Excellency Mr. KARASAWA Akira, Ambassador of Japan to Palau in handing over the solar system expressed his pleasure at being the first Japanese Ambassador in history to visit Hatohobei State, following his visit to Sonsorol State in October, which means having visited all states of Palau.
“In Japan, we are quite often hit by earthquakes and typhoons, when we feel the importance of electricity in emergencies as much as you do. I hope the solar panels will provide the “protection” of all islanders’ life from natural disasters as well as “empowerment” of your children by enabling them to use digital device such as tablets,” the Ambassador said.
“Let me reiterate our support does not end here. We will also be providing HF radio equipment to the people of Hatohobei State in the coming months,” he added.
Mr. Levan Bouadze, Resident Representative of the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji said,” I cannot overemphasize the collective hard work put in place which has reaped rewards bringing a meaningful impact to the lives of children and will no doubt enhance learning moving forward.”
In his statement, the Minister of Education Dr. Jenkins said, “On behalf of the students, teachers, and parents, I express my utmost appreciation to the Japan Government, UNDP, and all partner agencies for the great collaboration to successfully implement this project. This project will surely enhance teaching and learning at Hatohobei Elementary School. Furthermore, 20 local people from partner agencies were trained to install and maintain the solar power systems. This is a great accomplishment in terms of building local capacity to support renewable energy sector.”
Similar systems were installed at the two elementary schools in Sonsorol and Pulo Anna in September and October 2021. The installation of the solar systems, logistics and other associated activities amounts to approximately US$230,000.
The EDCR project, since its commencement in 2019, has provided equipment strategic to Palau’s disaster risk management. The project aims to strengthen gender sensitive disaster communication and climate monitoring systems; enhance gender sensitive national and state disaster responder’s readiness capacity; and enhance community disaster resilience through improved water resource management and integrated gender and social inclusion awareness.
Emily Moli, Knowledge and Communications Analyst, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji; email: email@example.com