A 3 million dollars solar project for residences was signed on Friday, January 28 between the National Development Bank of Palau (NDBP) and the company Utilligence Ltd. from the United Kingdom (UK) to install solar panel systems on individual homes of eligible applicants.
The project, funded by Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction through the Asian Development Bank, is administered as a low-cost loan program through NDBP to households currently on post-paid metering with Palau Public Utilities Corporation.
“It is perfect timing for this project,” expressed Minister Kaleb Udui Jr. of the Ministry of Finance. The rising cost of utilities, the depressed wages, as well as the ongoing pandemic are creating demand for cheaper energy. “It is not just now but in the future,” referring to savings people can have with this investment.
Citing the sharp increase in power tariff, he said people have difficulty handling the steep increase, and “we have to find solutions” to help them. He said this project is one such solution.
The actual start of the installations is expected to begin in April of this year. Between now and April, the company Utilligence Ltd. will be conducting installation and maintenance training of local personnel who will continue maintenance once the systems have been installed.
The loan program is up to $10,000 depending on customer needs and the interest rate is at 4 ½% according to NDBP President Claire Harvey. The interest rate, set by ADB, will cover NDBP’s costs while the principal will go to a revolving fund account managed by the national government to continue the program. Minister Udui said that the government plans to supplement this fund to further expand it.
The lowest amount of the loan that can be applied for is around $4,000 for one panel and includes installation and maintenance. The maximum term of the loan is 10 years.
A certain percentage of the units provided is set aside for women and low-income households.
Like previous solar energy programs for residences, this program will allow households to sell excess energy to PPUC for power credits.
Currently, the program is only available to households on a postpaid program with PPUC but talks are ongoing for the possibility of expanding the program in the future to prepaid meter customers. The program will provide only about 800 solar kits and interested persons may contact NDBP to sign up.
Japan Ambassador Akira Karasawa and Minister of Finance Kaleb Udui Jr. witnessed the brief signing ceremony.
Ambassador Karasawa who recently attended the ribbon cutting of the solar system project for Hatohobei elementary school funded by Japan government said that he was quite pleased and excited to see the launch of the project.
Claire Harvey of NDBP said that she expects the first installation to happen sometime in April of this year.