Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations

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Tokelau: From Fossil Fuel to Solar

Tokelau Sign

Tokelau is generating 100% of its electricity from solar.

By Lin Smith

Tokelau: 100%Solar!

October 27, 2013—-What is a Tokelauan you might be wondering? Tokelau is a territory of New Zealand in the South Pacific, between New Zealand and Hawaii. It is approximately 4 square miles and has the world’s smallest population–1,411 people. Most of the islanders live by subsistance farming, they grow what they eat–master gardeners! Why is this island important? Global Warming and climate change is a problem for small island nations such as Tokelau. Being so small, they feel the greater impact of extreme weather and rising sea levels. In October, 2012, Tokelau became the first country in the world to produce 100% of its electricity from the sun, funded by New Zealand! This is a step towards saving our Planet Earth, with over 625 tons of greenhouse gases NOT being emitted into our atmosphere!

Coconut Biofuels

Tokelau’s renewable energy system is made up of solar panels, storage batteries (storing power overnight), and generators running on biofuel from coconuts, which they have an abundance of since discontinuing production 30 years ago. This system generates enough electricity to meet 150% of Tokelau’s power demand, and is one of the largest off-grid renewable energy projects in the world! The people of the island will pay a small tariff that will be used for on-going maintenance of the system. In the past, Tokelau spent over $800,000 every year importing fuel. This money will now go into healthcare for its people and education-a win, win situation for Planet Earth and the people fo Tokelau! David Sheppard, director of the Pacific Regional Environment Program, said, “Even though Tokelau is small and, being a territory of New Zealand has made it easier to implement the move toward solar energy, let’s also look at what lessons we can learn for ourselves.”

For poorer countries, the challenge is to skip fossil fuels and go straight to renewables. Solar Energy in Action (SELF) is a non-profit organization that is working in 20 developing countries to install solar energy systems in rural and poverty areas around the world. Bill McKibben, educator, author and founder of the environmental group,, states that in affluent countries, such as the United States, small shifts in lifestyle won’t be enough, we’ll also have to fight politics to alter policies. “You’re not a member of the Resistance just because you drive a Prius. You don’t need to go to jail for resistance, but you do need to do more than change your light bulbs. You need to try to change the system that is raising the temperature, the sea level, and raise the question of how well civilization will survive this century.”