Kiribati (2012)

Source: REEEP Policy Database (contributed by SERN for REEEP)

This policy & regulatory overview is not updated anymore since 2015. We decided to keep it online due to high demand but would like to make you aware of the fact that it might be outdated.

Energy sources

Total installed electricity capacity (2009): 0.01 GWe

Petroleum and biomass supply most of the country energy needs.  Coconut husks, shells and fuel wood are used for cooking and crop drying. The biomass utilisation has been fairly stable with the use of 37,918t in 2007 or roughly 25% of the gross national energy production. In outer islands, solar energy is widely used.

On South Tarawa (the capital island) electricity demand in 2007 was 16,734MWh.  Kiritimati Island had a total demand of 2,362MWh in 2006.

For the outer islands the Solar Energy Company (KSEC) installed a total of about 285.5kW solar PV systems by 2004.

In 2009, total primary energy supply was 1.5 PJ, with oil accounting for 52%; solid biofuels, 48%; and solar energy, 0.1%.

Close Energy sources


Kiribati is highly dependent on petroleum imports for electricity generation. Petroleum use consists of petrol, diesel and kerosene. 

In 2007, total imports were 20.651 Ml with 5.321 MI petrol, 12.626 MI diesel and 2.749 MI kerosene.

In 2009, Kiribati consumed 0.30 thousand barrels of petroleum per day which was all imported.

Close Reliance

Extend network

On the outer islands, where 58% of the households reside, only 30% have access to electricity, mostly stand-alone solar PV home systems.

On the capital, South Tarawa (Betio to Tanaea village), the access to grid extension is about 90% for the residential sector due mainly to the slow development of power utility to meet the growing electricity demand. However, the grid extension extends to the rural areas of North Tarawa, namely Buota, Abatao and Nabeina villages, with the grid access of around 50%.

Close Extend network

Capacity concerns

Despite investments to improve the electricity system, disruptions to the power supply continue to occur.

The Public Utility Board (PUB) needs to meet its capacity in power system planning with the growing power demand in South Tarawa.  The demand is expected to be driven by the fishing and tourism industry.

Close Capacity concerns

Renewable energy

Biomass –coconut husks, shells and fuel wood— dominates energy use in the outer islands.  Copra remains a major cash generating product. The production in 2004 was 2700t of oil. If the coconut resource is rehabilitated, a major replanting programme will be necessary to replace senile trees.

The level of solar energy is very good with estimates for some islands indicating over 6kWh/m2/day; solar water heating and solar PV are renewable energy technologies used, however producing less than 1% of total energy in Kiribati. 

Wind installations are particularly difficult for atoll islands due to their lack of significant elevation and the dominance of tall coconut trees over most land areas.
There is significant OTEC (Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion) resource in Kiribati but there have yet to be any successful commercial trials of OTEC systems and it appears very unlikely that OTEC will be economically or technically feasible on Kiribati in the near future.

Close Renewable energy


Electricity market
The Public Utility Board (PUB), 100% government owned, supplies diesel generated power in South Tarawa.  It also operates South Tarawa water and sewage systems.

The Kiribati Solar Energy Company (KSEC) provides electricity to outer islands through solar home systems.  Formed in 1984 by a NGO, it was handed over to the government later.

Oil market
The government owns Kiribati Oil Company (KOIL), which imports and supplies fuels for direct use, power generation and transport.

Close Ownership


The energy sector is strongly vertically integrated, with the Public Utility Board (PUB) addressing issues related to stationary electricity generation, transmission, distribution and retail on South Tarawa. The Solar Energy Company (SEC) provides solar PV on the outer islands.

There is not significant private sector activity.  According to the National Energy Policy of 2009, the government encourages private participation.  However, the Electricity Act (PUB act) clearly states that the only electricity supplier (generation, transmission and distribution) on South Tarawa will be the PUB. This act was established in the 1970s and now seen as one of the barriers in utilising renewable energy on South Tarawa, hence it needs to be updated to accommodate private power generators.

Close Competition

Energy framework

In 2009, the new National Energy Policy was approved. 

While there was a pilot institutional woodstoves implemented by FSP under the Applied Geoscience and Technology Division of the Pacific Community (SOPAC) projects back in 1998, and the institutional woodstoves were installed one in the outer island Marakei and one in South Tarawa, the woodstoves had some structural cracks on the cement wall after a couple of years of use due to heating.

The other household woodstove project was carried out by AMAK with the aim of transferring the technology and technical capacity through training locals from the outer islands in the construction and installation of household woodstoves. There had been no installation of woodstoves on the outer islands partly because there are abundant firewood, the conventional way of cooking using open fire is fast and an usual habit, and building woodstoves would require cost.

The ‘Solar Energy for Outer Islands’ project, funded by the European Union, was finished early 2008. The program allowed for installation of 1,700 individual solar kits for 20% of the Gilbert Islands’ households, providing 4 hours/day of basic lighting (100Wp). Furthermore, 46 generators (300-600Wp) have been installed into Maneabas (local meeting houses). The project is implemented through the Kiribati Solar Energy Company.

Kiribati is a member of SOPAC since 1979.

Kiribati, as one of the world’s most vulnerable nations in terms of the effects of climate change, has been active in participating in international diplomatic efforts relating to climate change. The country ratified the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on 7 February 1995 and the Kyoto Protocol on 7 September 2000. It is also a member of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) to address global warming. It has the climate change portal of the Office of the President of Kiribati (, which demonstrates its strategies including mitigation, adaptation and relocation, though most of government departments do not have website.

Close Energy framework

Energy debates

In the National Energy Policy itself, the following critical issues are addressed:

  • Energy security for the country.
  • The need to integrate energy policy with other development objectives.
  • Achieving equal access to energy.

Some issues were raised in the consultations by the Pacific Islands Energy Policy and Strategic Action Planning (PIEPSAP) on the new National Energy Policy:

  • Sustainability of copra for bio-fuel needs.
  • Solving the problems of the maintenance of solar systems, especially those that are installed in uncoordinated private and government institutions.
  • New policies to differentiate between that in the outer islands and that in South Tarawa.
  • The special energy needs of women.

Kiribati has been included in the UNDP Human Development Index (HDI) for the first time in 2011, ranked 122th and categorised as a medium human development country. The HDI report highlights that environmental degradation and climate change will have adverse effects across the Pacific Island nations.  Low lying Pacific Island nations including Kiribati is seriously threatened by the possibility of a 0.18-0.59 meter sea level rise by the end of 21st century. Kiribati can expect a 10% drop in rainfall by 2050 – reducing fresh water by 20%. Moreover, salt water intrusions are increasing due to sea level rise and frequent coastal flooding, further contaminating ground water wells, the primary fresh water source for its rapidly growing population.

A UNDP natural disaster reduction and transition specialist pointed out that as there will be a more than a metre of sea level rise by 2100 according to the scientific research, the amount of sea level rise comes very far inland on a flat land like Kiribati. In 2009, Kiribati President Anote Tong said, “Carbon trading will be of no special consequence to us,” referring to an international initiative to control the emission of greenhouse gasses using economic incentives. He continued to say, “So there has got to be some very special provisions for the victims. Not the potential victims, but the victims, because we are the victims, so there has to be some very deep soul searching”.  

Close Energy debates

Energy studies

For an overview of the potential for renewables, the Pacific Islands Renewable Energy Project (PIREP) from 2004 is probably the most complete.

The Pacific Islands Energy Policy and Strategic Action Planning (PIEPSAP) project provides good documentation on the energy policy development in Kiribati.

Close Energy studies

Role of government

The Ministry of Public Works and Utilities (MPWU) is responsible for the planning, management and coordination of the energy sector.

Close Role of government

Government agencies

Besides the partly government owned Solar Energy Company (SEC), the Ministry of Environment and Social Development is the implementing organisation for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Close Government agencies

Energy procedure

Kiribati Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Grid Connected Project

The Pacific island nation of Kiribati will access US$4 million to supplement its electricity supply through solar power generation. Kiribati has successfully applied to the Pacific Environment Community (PEC) Fund which is administered by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat on behalf of the Government of Japan. The PEC Fund is a commitment by the Government of Japan of ¥6.8 billion (approx US$66 million) to support Forum Island Country (FIC) projects with a focus on the provision of solar power generation systems and sea water desalination plants, or a combination of both technologies.

The “Kiribati Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Grid Connected Project” will involve the installation of a 400kWp solar PV system that is connected directly to the South Tarawa electricity grid, which will be the first of its kind for Kiribati. The power generated from the solar PV system will contribute to the supply of approximately 3.7% of the total electricity production of Kiribati’s Public Utilities Board (PUB).

The project will be implemented by Kiribati’s Energy Planning Unit in the Ministry of Public Works and Utilities. PEC Fund projects are developed and implemented by Forum Island Countries themselves.

Close Energy procedure

Energy regulator

The Public Utilities Board (PUB) is a utility provider and regulator combined. According to policy discussions of the Pacific Islands Energy Policy and Strategic Acton Planning (PIEPSAP) project, there is need for an independent regulator.

Close Energy regulator

Degree of independence

The PUB has a board of 4 to 8 commissioners who are selected by a panel of three Ministers (the Ministers for Transport, Communications and Tourism; and Finance, chaired by the Minister of Works and Utilities).

Close Degree of independence

Regulatory framework

The 1977 legislation on Public Utilities does not make any reference to the environment or sustainable energy.

The existing Electricity (PUB) Act covering water and electricity regulates the capital island only. There is also the Petroleum Act.

Close Regulatory framework

Regulatory roles

While the Public Utilities Board (PUB) can raise tariffs under the law, in practice this is considered a sensitive decision, as it might cause unrest, requiring referral to Cabinet.

The PUB usually sets up the electricity tariff on the capital South Tarawa to sustain its fixed operation and variable costs. Although the tariff was set and enforced, the government usually will provide subsidy to the PUB when requested.

The SEC sets the tariff on the outer islands in the use of PV solar home systems to sustain its fixed operation and variable costs, also covering the replacement of parts during technical failures or after reaching their lifetime. However, the tariffs are usually debated by politics and therefore the actual sustainable tariff calculated by the company is not enforced, but a rather lower and affordable tariff for the rural dwellers is taken. In terms of subsidy to the SEC for increasing the solar home systems, there has been none provided except during one incident when the request was forwarded to pay for the outstanding loan of the company.

Close Regulatory roles

Energy regulation role

The Energy Planning Unit has the responsibility to monitor the operations of Public Utilities Board, the Solar Energy Company and the Kiribati Oil Company (KOIL).

Close Energy regulation role

Regulatory barriers

The government controls all major agencies responsible for providing energy services in Kiribati. Despite interest by some private enterprises to enter the energy services market, there have been little action to facilitate their involvement.

The PUB Act is now considered as one of the barriers particularly for renewable energy electrification since there is no clear government electrification act mandated by the Government Ministry.

Energy programmes need to be coordinated better which will require more capacity in the EPU.

Close Regulatory barriers


U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) (2012): Kiribati. Available at: [Accessed 12th September 2013]

IRENA (2012): Country Profiles – Special Edition on Islands 2012. Available at: [Accessed 12th September 2013]

UNDSD (2005) Kiribati National SD Report, CSD-12/13 (2004-2005)-Energy. Available at: [Accessed 12th September 2013]

UNFCCC (2011) Kiribati. Available at: [Accessed 12th September 2013]

UNDP (2011) 2011 Human Development Report: Pacific Islands progress jeopardized by inequalities and environmental threats, Press Releases, 3 November 2011. Available at: [Accessed 12th Septemebr 2013]

UNDP (2009) Future uncertain for Pacific Islands like Kiribati, News, 10 December 2009. Available at: [Accessed 12th September 2013]

Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (2012): USD 4 Million Solar Project for Kiribati. Available at: [Accessed 12th September 2013] Close References