Honourable Cabinet Ministers,
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
The Chairman and Board Members of FEA,
Ladies & Gentlemen.
Bula vinaka and a very good evening to you all.
I am very happy to be here this evening as we celebrate a half century of service from our national electricity provider, the Fiji Electricity Authority. An organisation that thousands of Fijians rely upon to keep the lights on, but more than that, it is an organisation that – every day – brings warmth, security and peace of mind into the lives of our people.
Over the last 50 years, the FEA has provided services foundational to our development as a nation. At times, it has been a rocky road. But the past ten years, with the support of my Government, have shown that the FEA is more than capable of paving the way for Fiji’s success and achievement.
Access to electric power has truly been the beacon that has led Fiji into the future. It has kept our society running long after the sun has set. It has lit up our homes and our businesses, and kept us productive as we work side-by-side to steadily transform Fiji into the modern nation state we are well on our way to becoming.
The importance of the FEA can be seen in the work and lives of ordinary Fijians all across the nation. From the shops and businesses who use FEA power to keep running instead of having to close at the end of the day, to the students who can keep studying into the night instead of shutting their books at sunset, and to the hard-working Fijians who, after a long day of work, can return to the comfort and security of a well-lit community.
These are the real experiences; these are the real stories made possible by the good work of the FEA. You’ve brought Fiji that service with professionalism and a routine commitment to safety, quality and affordability for our people. And tonight, we can look back on that legacy, take stock of how far we have come and look forward to many more years of excellence in service.
Five decades ago, when the FEA was first set-up — consolidating all of the electricity suppliers, both private and municipal, Fiji was a vastly different place. Back then, the FEA ran a much more modest operation with FEA staff travelling on foot or by push bike to service customer meters. Fiji had much ground to make up to keep pace with nations that had been enjoying the immense benefits of reliable electricity for decades. It was an immense challenge, one that required innovative thinking and bold action at every turn to address. But 50 years on, the FEA can be proud to say they met that challenge head-on, and they continue to shoulder an enormous responsibility to maintaining the well-being of Fiji and her people.
Today, the FEA serves nearly 175,000 customers. They oversee the supply of 934 Gigawatt Hours of power all across Fiji, and are every year expanding the reach of their services, electrifying communities, bringing opportunity into the lives of Fijians from every walk of life and from every corner of the country.
My Government is realising our bold vision to bring Fiji fully into the 21st century. Integral to that has been our work delivering infrastructure projects to empower our people. Since 2007, an average of 77 million dollars a year has been directed toward capital projects through the FEA. And the FEA has surpassed expectations in keeping pace with my Government’s efforts to extend access to electricity throughout our islands. Those projects are serving Fijians in rural and urban areas alike, and thousands of our people are benefiting as a result.
I am particularly proud of the rural electrification projects driven by the FEA – with 50 new projects funded over the past decade. These projects are up and running in areas of the country where reliable power had for many, been an elusive dream. But now, they are enjoying access to services that matches what we have in our urban centres.
So the FEA is doing exceptionally well, but we can’t allow that success to limit our ambition for what is possible – for all FEA has yet to achieve.
It was careful planning and unwavering commitment that carried the FEA to success over the last 50 years, and that spirit of dedication must continue to lead you all into the future. That same mantra is also driving my Government’s planned divestment of shares in the FEA, which will go a long way in keeping the Authority competitive and capable of shouldering Fiji’s energy needs in the years to come.
There is a laundry list of benefits to the divestment and the accompanying set-up of an independent regulatory agency for our energy sector. It will mean greater private sector engagement that will attract partnerships rather than capital alone – partnerships that can help reduce our vulnerability to shifting energy prices by boosting renewable energy sources in Fiji.
Government will still be FEA’s majority shareholder and the support we provide to low-income earners will continue, but the divestment will put the FEA in a stronger position to fund capital works and maintain the impressive infrastructure network we have in place today.
So the benefits are immense and the planned divestment is a timely step for the FEA. Rather than play catch up later on, my Government is taking immediate action to strengthen the FEA’s position now so we can prepare to meet the future energy needs of our people. So that your leadership and staff can continue with your indispensable work to our nation’s advancement.
Here’s to the next 50 years of excellence and professionalism from the FEA. Your success is Fiji’s success, and we’re very proud of everything you’ve achieved. So keep up the good work and I wish you a pleasant evening.
Thank you – Vinaka vakalevu.