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Fiji Time: 4:11 AM on Friday 25 April

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Villagers celebrate progress

Tevita Vuibau
Friday, December 20, 2013

THE people of Rukua, Beqa joined together in celebration on Wednesday as they bid farewell to years of full dependence on fossil fuels.

The village became the first in Fiji to receive a solar smart grid this week to provide electricity to 77 houses in the village.

Sixty-five-year-old Jonacani Dabea said the villagers had come a long way from their initial reliance on generators for electricity.

"There was a time when we relied solely on generators for power and we received these generators from the government and paid one third of the price for them," Mr Dabea said.

"And it was very hard for us back then because the price of the generator was very high and so was the price of fuel."

After their experiences with generators, the villagers began the initial move towards solar power in 2005 — starting with small solar panels to power the lights in each individual house.

And village headman Rupeni Velinikoro said they then asked for the government's assistance to bring them out from the dark days of reliance on fossil fuel to the light of renewable solar energy.

"We have had difficult times in the past when we had to rely on engines and generators for power in the village," Mr Velinikoro said.

"When we initially started on the small solar panels in 2005, each family had to purchase their own solar panels for $575 per house.

"Then on one of the prime minister's tours to the village, we asked if there was a way that we could have a stronger source of energy that could power the lights, fridges and other appliances."

Mr Velinikoro said their request reached the ears of the Inter Action Corporation in Japan, which in partnership with the government, built the solar grid.