The sustainability of stand-alone photovoltaic lighting systems in Tonga

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Copyright: Tukunga, Tevita
Stand-alone photovoltaic lighting systems have been used to provide electricity in unelectrified remote locations in Tonga since 1987. PV lighting systems power many remote households and community halls and this improves lifestyles and upgrades living standards. Donors have spent millions of dollars to fund the purchase and installation of PV lighting systems in Tonga but this development is yet to prove its sustainability. This research examines the problems that influence the sustainability of PV lighting systems in Tonga and identifies problems related to their environmental, economic, technical and institutional sustainability. Proposals are put forward to enhance the future sustainability of Tongan PV lighting systems and related PV applications. The examination of sustainability employs the Brundtland definition of sustainability, viewing sustainability in terms of its environmental, economic, technical and institutional aspects. The research employs and analyses household surveys, data extracted from PV stakeholder interviews, and a literature search. The exploitation of fossil fuel and fuelwood resources is still significant in Tonga because the remote economy is a subsistence one, and environmental protection is not a priority. Lack of a proper recycling method for PV equipment increases the solid waste materials in the environment. Economically, users are reluctant to pay monthly fees, compounding problems with maintenance and access to spare parts. Social and cultural concerns have generally been ignored during system design and project planning. Technically, users experience poor system performance and some systems no longer operate. Institutionally, stakeholders have different perceptions and interests towards PV development in the islands. As a result, the By-Laws implemented to administer the PV lighting systems have never been enforced and stakeholders generally experience a low level of participation in governance, undermining their satisfaction with project implementation. The sustainability of PV systems in Tonga would be enhanced through the utilization of mature PV technologies under appropriate technological and institutional frameworks that reduce environmental problems and meet the socioeconomic needs of target communities.
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Tukunga, Tevita
Outhred, Hugh
Healy, Steven
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Masters Thesis
UNSW Faculty
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