Due to their high dependence on fossil fuels, Mediterranean islands are characterized by several energy criticalities in terms of high costs, security and management. PRISMI (Promoting RES Integration for Smart Mediterranean Islands) is an 18-month EU project funded by the Interreg MED Programme which aims to tackle these key challenges by supporting Mediterranean islands’ transition to an autonomous, cleaner, secure, low-carbon energy system – in line with the overall EU Energy Union package and EU2020 Strategy.

PRISMI’s overall objective is to develop an integrated and transnational approach for assessing, mapping and promoting the local potential of new hybrid systems combining renewable energy sources (RES), storage devices and distributed generation on Mediterranean islands, in view of increasing the share of RES, thus contributing to sustainable development and inclusive growth in the MED Programme area.

Such a model will be developed through a research project which brings together academia, public authorities and local communities in five target territories with a view to fully empower end users in the takeup of project outputs.

Among these, the main outputs constituting the key innovative value of the project are:

–        An integrated toolkit for assessing and mapping the local potential of RES and their exploitation in new energy systems;

–        A Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP) drafted for each case study area with recommendations and strategies for developing integrated RES;

–        The establishment of a PRISMI Network of Stakeholders to support exchange of knowledge and best practices in RES integration in Mediterranean islands.

PRISMI aims to change the current energy model, which is characterized by the use of fossil fuels and strong centralization, towards a new energy pattern based on distributed generation from RES and focused on territorial resources and local communities. Three key success factors highlighted by the project partners are: achieving high technical and scientific knowledge, involving public authorities in order to facilitate the regulatory process, and ensuring broad participation from local communities on energy issues.

Considering the current situation, European islands are facing common challenges in terms of high energy costs, local CO2 emissions, security of supply and system stability. In the EU, many islands have become sites of energy innovation where betting on RES exploitation is a winning choice to meet their energy needs. In the Mediterranean area, despite the potential of renewable energy, this green transition has moved slowly, and Mediterranean islands are still highly dependent on fossil fuels. According to Eurostat, dependency rates in 2013 stood at their highest for crude oil (88.4%) and natural gas (65.3%).

All PRISMI partner countries have made strides in integrating RES into their energy mix, and in improving energy efficiency to increase energy security, reduce fuel poverty and stabilize energy costs to create inclusive growth. Nonetheless, these countries still have high energy dependence rates, often above the EU average.

Despite these challenges, Mediterranean islands can improve their situation by 1) achieving high technical/scientific knowledge, which is often lacking; 2) involving public authorities to facilitate the regulatory process, and 3) ensuring broad participation from local communities on energy issues. PRISMI will develop a useful approach to tackle these issues.

In particular, PRISMI will endorse energy-secure Mediterranean islands fostering RES production and supporting the energy transition to a new low-carbon approach in accordance with the Energy Union Package and EU2020 Strategy, coherently with the 2030 roadmap. Through its integrated transnational approach, PRISMI will assess, map and promote the local potential of new hybrid systems combining RES, storage devices and distributed generation, overcoming RES prioritization based on the spot market. PRISMI’s outputs will encourage a change in the current energy model, i.e., a shift from a strongly centralized fossil fuel-based system to a distributed, renewables-based system.

Sustainable Energy Action Plans (SEAP), foreseen as project outputs, are the key documents in which the Local Authority outlines how it intends to reach its CO2 reduction target by 2020 and beyond. A SEAP defines the activities and measures set up to achieve the targets, together with timeframes and assigned responsibilities. A SEAP must be approved by the Municipal (or Communal) Council, ensuring strong political commitment as well as wider acceptance and support by the political representatives of the Local Authority. 

As regards the PRISMI Network, it aims to establish a Stakeholders’ Network to foster transnational dialogue and capacity building. Concretely, the Network will need to:

        i.            Power up the exchange of knowledge, best practices and skills around  RES, involving key stakeholders and actors (Med island municipalities, energy agencies, associations etc that are interested in the spread of renewables in Med islands); and

      ii.            Facilitate awareness-raising and participation on the part of Local Authorities and communities on RES issues.

In particular, five main actions are foreseen: transfer experiences, exchange data and disseminate best practices; enable public-private partnerships and strengthen co-operation among entities; raise the level of knowledge for local decision-makers and raise awareness in local communities; influence decision-makers and communities to shift towards a RES-centred energy model using the PRISMI toolkit and capacity building initiatives; and sustain the project after its conclusion.

In order to raise awareness and facilitate participation for Local Authorities and communities on RES issues, two surveys have been planned within the project. The first survey will be addressed to the population involved in the project’s five study areas (and more generally to people who live on European islands), with the aim of raising these communities’ awareness of renewables issues. The second will be addressed to PRISMI Network members (and more generally to all organizations interested in renewable energy topics). Its aim is to identify the main barriers (economic and otherwise) to the spread of renewables in the Mediterranean islands.

All of these outputs will represent a reference framework supporting end users in driving and intercepting economic initiatives aimed at increasing the penetration of RES in Mediterranean islands’ energy mix, thus contributing to sustainable development and inclusive growth throughout the Programme area.

Finally, PRISMI’s target groups and final beneficiaries include: island municipalities, local communities, energy agencies, professional associations, national energy authorities, academic departments and research institutions as well as energy and environment NGOs.

Davide Astiaso Garcia is PRISMI Project Co-ordinator. He is a research fellow and adjunct professor in the Department of Astronautical, Electrical & Energy Engineering at Sapienza University of Rome, as well as secretary-general of the Italian Wind Energy Association.

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