THE Government is sitting on a Memorandum of Understanding [MOU] designed to speed up work on the nation’s multi-million dollar Tina River Hydro scheme, it was revealed yesterday.
“Both the last and this government have been sitting on the MOU for the last five years,” Paramount Chief Walton Naeson told Island Sun.
Island Sun has obtained a copy of the unsigned MOU.
Mr Naeson said lawyers who prepared the MOU in consultation with the stakeholders in 2012 were paid by Dr Derek Sikua’s government. It was to be signed between the Solomon Islands Government and Tina River Hydropower Landowners Council.
“The then government even picked up the costs on behalf of the landowners because it was serious about the project and its implications for the nation’s economic development.
“It was a fair MOU and Agreement for everyone. But instead of getting the MOU and Agreement signed by the parties, the government chose to waste money in paying costs which are totally unnecessary,” Mr Naeson said.
He believed both the last and the current DCC Government have been feeding donors including the World Bank misleading information to support the case for compulsory acquisition of the site for the hydro scheme.
“Well, I have news for the government. The Tina River Hydro scheme won’t go anywhere without the issue of landownership being determined. That issue is adequately covered in the MOU to the satisfaction of landowners. Unfortunately, this government has consistently ignored us,” Mr Naeson said.
“I wish to reiterate the fact that no landowners oppose the Project. This nullifies the need for compulsory acquisition of the land for the hydro scheme, unless the government simply wants to use the project for fundraising purposes,” the former Mines and Energy Minister said.
According to news articles which appeared on the World Bank website, Tina River Hydro is planned as Solomon Islands’ first large-scale sustainable energy project, and will lead national efforts to diversify electricity generation in favor of clean, renewable sources such as hydro and solar power.
“The project has the potential to more than double the country’s annual greenhouse gas reduction target, and has the largest greenhouse gas reduction potential of any planned energy project in Solomon Islands,” the article published earlier this year said.”
Retail electricity cost in Solomon Islands is one of the highest in the world. It retails at USD0.81 per kWh.
Funding support continues to come through for the Project, situated in east Guadalcanal. The Green Climate Fund is the latest contributor, pledging USD86 million (about SBD671 million). It is now the second donor to announce its funding approval for Tina River Hydro, following a US$15 million [about SBD117 million] commitment from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in early January this year.
Other institutions and governments that have reportedly indicated funding support for Tina River Hydro include the Australian Government, the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank Group, and the Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) of the Government of Korea.
All funding support for the project is expected to be finalized by next month.