Koro Islands: leading in biofuel energy in Fiji

01 May 2014

imageIowane Bale, Mill Manager of the Koro Biofuel Mill holds a sample of the filtered oil. Credit: Sheryl Ho/UNDP.

On the island of Koro, villagers are making use of the abundance of coconut trees and using their copra making skills to produce enough energy to light up their homes and power appliances all year long, making this rural community energy independent and saving on fossil fuel usage.

Nacamaki village is host to the Koro Biofuel Mill, one of the first biofuel project site in Fiji which opened on 10 March 2010 at a total cost of FJ$435,856. Other trial project sites are Taveuni and Vanuabalavu. The Mill produces an average of 520 litres of filtered oil per day from 1.2 tonnes of copra and operating for 240 days a year. 

According to the Mill Manager, Iowane Bale when the Mill opened it employed 10 men who were trained on how to use the equipment but has since reduced to five men, one from each of Nacamaki village’s five tokatoka (small village units).

The Mill produces enough biodiesel to meet the island’s demands. The biodiesel is retailed within Koro only at FJ$2.45 a litre. Coconut oil is sold at FJ$2 a litre and copra meal which is used for animal feed and manure is sold at FJ$0.50 a kilogram. The coconut oil and copra meal are sold to buyers outside Koro.

“When we first opened, all villages in Koro bought the biodiesel. But now we have three villages (Nacamaki, Mudu and Nakodu) regularly buying biodiesel while another village, Nasau buys biodiesel occasionally. Biodiesel costs FJ$2.45 a litre compared to FJ$2.80 a litre for diesel.”

For the some 283 residents of Nacamaki village, regular access to electricity for four to five hours a night allows the 73 homes to own and operate appliances like a television, mobile phones, an iron and for some, even a washing machine. Under Fiji’s Rural Electrification Policy, the standard for each household is one power point and two lights.  The biofuel can be used to power these appliances.

According to the Turaga ni Koro (village headman) Malakai Salabula, each household currently pays FJ$3.50 a week (equivalent to FJ$0.50 a day) to have access to electricity and power all year round.

“This is sufficient for the village. If there is a function in the village, I have the authority to extend the hours.

“We are very fortunate to have the Biofuel Mill in Koro because it (biodiesel) is cheaper than regular diesel and if the boats do not come from Suva, we still have access to fuel and electricity,” he said.

Koro Island is one of three biofuel project sites (including Rotuma and Cicia) currently in operation across the Fiji Islands producing biofuel from copra. Sites in Gau, Vanuabalavu, Rabi and Lakeba have already been commissioned but awaiting start-up capital, while Matuku and Moala project sites are under construction.

The Government-funded biofuel mills are part of the renewable energy demonstration component of the US$975,000 Fiji Renewable Energy Power Project (FREPP) that is funded by the Global Environment Facility, and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme in partnership with Fiji’s Department of Energy. The goal of FREPP is to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from Fiji’s power sector by replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy resources such as biomass. The objective of the project is the removal of barriers to the widespread and cost effective of grid-based renewable energy supply via commercially viable renewable energy technologies. The four main components of FREPP, which address specific categories of barriers, are: 1) Energy Policy & Regulatory Frameworks; 2) Renewable Energy Resource Assessments and Renewable Energy-based project assessments; 3) Renewable Energy-based power generation demonstrations; and 4) Renewable Energy institutional strengthening. FREPP is expected to facilitate investments in renewable energy- based power generation in Fiji, which will support the socio-economic development, maximize readily available renewable energy resources, and reduce GHG emissions.

Highlights

  • The biodiesel or renewable diesel (R20) is made up of 80 percent diesel and 20 percent coconut oil.
  • The Nacamaki Cooperative which also operates the village’s only shop buys coconuts from villagers and produces copra using the two copra driers it owns. The copra is sold to the Mill for $500 per tonne and to another local buyer in Savusavu for $650 per tonne.
  • The Mill is designed to operate five days a week for eight hours (240 days per year) and produces 240,000 litres of biodiesel per annum and 86 tonnes per annum of protein meal. In 2013, technical and financial issues faced in the overall running of the Mill had negative impacts. As a result, the Mill was only able to operate for 60 days throughout the entire year.  
  • Not all villages are buying biodiesel from the Koro Biofuel Mill. Only three villages (Mudu, Nakodu and Nacamaki) regularly buy biodiesel while Nasau Village buys biodiesel occasionally.

Contact Information

Sheryl Ho, Knowledge Communications Analyst, tel: 3227504; email: sheryl.ho@undp.org