The Cook Islands have a low carbon footprint but are being heavily stepped on by the large footprints of other countries. Like many islands, the Cook Islands depends heavily on imported fuels and the cost of electricity is very high. Recognizing the slow pace of adequate international agreements, they decided to take matters into their own hands, set an example, and eliminate their carbon emissions by 2020.
Nearly all households in the Cook Islands are connected to grid electricity. However, according to the Asian Development Bank, which has helped finance the expansion of renewables in the south islands, only 5.5% of households have additional solar photovoltaic systems installed, and 1% use small diesel generators.
Progress has been made so far throughout the islands. In the country's south, the Asian Development Bank's Ordinary Capital Resources has loaned the equivalent of $11.19 to help fund the build out of solar. They have been joined by The EU, which has issued a grant for $7.26 million, and the Cook Islands government has added an in-kind contribution in the equivalent of $5.83 million. The total funding for this part of the build out comes to $24.28 million with an installation target of megawatts. According to the Asian Development Bank, this achievement is expected to save 1.09 million liters of diesel consumption annually, and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 2,930 tons. This project will also assist the Cook Islands government’s Office of the Energy Commissioner and the Renewable Energy Development Division in developing an energy efficiency policy implementation plan.
In May 2015, the Government of New Zealand announced the completion of a project that brought solar arrays to Rakahanga, Pukapuka, Nassau, and Palmerston, and finally on the northern Cook islands of Penrhyn and Manihiki, where the solar panels are expected to provide over 95 per cent of the electricity needs for the villages they connect to and deliver power to more than 230 homes and public buildings. The $20.5 million project began in 2013.
The arrays on Penrhyn include the Omoka made up of 504 solar panels with a generating capacity of 126 kW and the Te Tautua made up 68 solar panels with a generating capacity of 42kW.
The arrays on Manihiki include the Tukao made up of 546 solar panels with a generating capacity of 136 kW and Tauhunu made up of 588 solar panels with a generating capacity of 147kW.