The Fiji Electricity Authority was established as a statutory body in 1966. This was after the Suva City Council introduced Fiji’s first public electricity supply with a 65 KW generator which was driven by gas. Then there were some privately owned power supplies in Levuka, Nadi, Sigatoka and Labasa. As the pace of economic growth accelerated power supplies became a priority and therefore a unified approach was the most efficient approach. In 1966, FEA was tasked to generate and distribute electricity to the people of Fiji at the lowest possible cost, with a view of the overall development of the country. Its core function is to generate, transmit, transform, distribute and sell energy either in bulk or to individual customers in any part of Fiji.
All independent electricity suppliers were brought under the FEA’s wing. Five years after its establishment (1971) plans for a 10 MW (megawatt) diesel generating station at Vuda was announced. Demand for power increased by 30 percent annually those days. Vuda was the most ambitious project undertaken by FEA. By 1978, the Suva City Council’s electricity department, which was the biggest and oldest, was acquired by FEA. After initially serving fewer than 2500 customers, by the end of 2005, FEA was supplying electricity to more than 130,000 customers. Now, there is about 5 percent growth in demand for electricity supply. Projections predicted a doubling in demand during the 1970s. Fossil fuel prices were escalating and hydro electricity was a feasible alternative to diesel power stations. In 1972 ENEX of New Zealand prepared a detailed report, four years later the FEA commissioned Sir Alexander Gibb and Partners to prepare a 25 year power programme.
The Monasavu hydro electric scheme was a dominant feature. The Monasavu cost was met through international and local funding and Government grants. The project is a dramatic testimony to a determination to increase Fiji’s self sufficiency in the critical area of the economy. From Monasavu two 132 kV (kilo volts) transmission lines (one to Vuda in the west and the other to Cunningham for Central) were constructed to supply power to the main island. At these two locations – Vuda and Cunningham, voltage drops down from 132 kV to 33 kV at sub stations then down to 11kv to transformers. From there it dropps to 240 volts for domestic and 415 volts for industrial customers. FEA’s vision is “energising our nation” and its mission that “it will provide clean and affordable energy solutions to Fiji and the Pacific. FEA aims to provide all energy through renewable resources by 2011”.
With the escalating price of fuel (which is beyond FEA’s control) FEA plans to meet new electricity demand with sustainable energy solutions to help ensure that Fiji Islands have a secure, continuous and reliable power supply at the lowest possible cost. In 2005, FEA had spent $65 million on fuel. A mini hydro power station in Wainikasou commissioned in 2004 added 6 MW of power capacity and 18 GWh per annum of renewable energy. The 2.8 MW Vaturu hydro scheme adds a further 19 GWh per annum of renewable energy.
In 2005, FEA purchased a new state of the art $ 26 million Power Plant with an installed capacity of 30MW. The four new Caterpillar diesel generator sets (each of capacity 7.45MW) are equipped with Programmable Logic Controls (PLC) ensuring greater operational and diesel efficiency. Its self diagnostic management systems provide proactive information to maintenance staff. These gensets’ capability to run on bio-fuels underpins FEA’s long term strategy of providing all energy supplied by FEA through renewable resources as it has the flexibility to utilise biodiesel. The $F30 million 10 MW Butoni Wind Power Farm is the latest renewable energy project which is commissioned now is generating electricity. The Butoni project will save the country about $ 2.5 million of foreign exchange (as we do not have to import the equivalent fuel) per annum and may save about 7544 tonnes per annum of green house gases that contribute to global warming. Other investigation works are continuing on further wind development sites, solar energy, geothermal, gasification and fuel conversion opportunities.