New Zealand is joining forces with the United States, Australia, and Japan in an ambitious project to bring electricity to 70 per cent of Papua New Guinea by 2030.

At present, only 13 per cent of the PNG population has access to electricity.

The announcement was made on the sidelines of the Apec summit in PNG, the smallest and poorest of Apec's 21 economies.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it signalled a commitment from the four countries to pool their resources and technical expertise.

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Ardern joined her counterparts from Australia, Scott Morrison, Japan, Shinzo Abe, and Papua New Guinea, Peter O'Neill for the announcement along with US vice President Mike Pence.

Ardern said that pooling resources with partners meant New Zealand's development assistance could go further and make greater impact.

"In partnership with our Pacific neighbours, we are the second most significant donor in the region," she said.

"Together with Australia we make up 50 per cent of the development assistance I the Pacific Islands according to the latest data from the OECD."

Lack of electricity was holding back Papua New guinea's ability to invest in business opportunities but also the country's ability to develop its critical social services including health and education.

"Bringing power to people who never had it before has a transformational impact on their lives and will assist Papua New Guinea to grow."

New Zealand has already been working in the PNG energy sector for more than five years. It is not yet known what the breakdown of all countries' contributions will be or how developed the roll-out plan is but New Zealand's contribution will be about $20 million.

It will be on top of its contribution to two other projects: the $24.7 million contribution to the Rural On-Grid Extension Project and $10.25 million to the Town Electrification Investment Programme.

The funding will come out of New Zealand's Overseas Development Assistance budget.

PNG received about $70 million ODA from New Zealand in the past three years and is budgeted to get about $112 million in the next three.

The move will be seen as New Zealand signing up to moves by the US and Australia in particular to limit the influence of China in the Pacific.