HomeEmissions & EnvironmentEd's note: Energy transition causing big change on small islands

Ed’s note: Energy transition causing big change on small islands

As Power Engineering International editor, Kelvin Ross, is enjoying a well-deserved holiday, I wanted to take the opportunity to consider the amazing progress islands and island nations are making to achieving energy transition.

Besides the fact that islands are most at risk of rising sea levels caused by climate change, their remote position makes them vulnerable in terms of energy security.

Historically, islands heavily relied on fossil fuels and energy imports. This often led to high electricity rates. In order to become less dependent on imports and lower the price of power, the switch to renewable energy generation seems logical. However, this couldn’t happen overnight as most islands were facing severe geological, logistical and economic challenges.

Recently, I have noticed a lot of interesting developments.

Let’s take look at some of these innovative projects:

  • Lord Howe Island will soon be powered by a solar and battery system that will reduce its reliance on diesel generation. A minimum 1.2 MW solar PV array and a battery system with over 3.2 MWh capacity will soon be built on the remote island, located in the Tasman Sea 600km from the Australian mainland.
  • Tina River Hydropower project company, the Solomon Islands‘ Ministry of Finance & Treasury, as well as the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have confirmed a commitment of $30m to the Tina River Hydro project. The planned project will significantly reduce the cost of electricity for Solomon Islanders, which has a near-total reliance on expensive diesel petrol for electricity generation and at $0.82/kW has among the highest electricity costs in the world.
  • A new hybrid power plant in Faroe Islands will supply electricity to the almost 52,000 islanders by using an intelligent combination of renewable energy sources, storage solutions and power-plant engines to ensure grid stability.
  • A new project on the Orkney Islands will enable real-time energy trading between renewable generation and local flexibility. The platform will allow the islands to reduce renewable energy curtailment, a noted problem given the high amounts of renewable energy generated. Despite Orkney’s small size, this project milestone could have a profound impact on the whole of the UK’s energy system
  • Europe’s first multi-terminal HVDC interconnection now links the Shetland Islands to the UK transmission system for the first time. This move will enhance the security of power supply and help transmit wind power generated on the islands, contributing to the UK’s decarbonisation target of bringing all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.
  • The Asian Development Bank is helping the government of Maldives to develop a waste-to-energy plant. The funding will enable the development of a waste treatment facility using WTE technology and disposal infrastructure for the Greater Malé region and neighbouring outer islands. Greater Malé and its neighbouring 32 outer islands suffer from severe environmental pollution and deteriorating liveability due to inadequate collection and haphazard disposal of solid waste.
  • We can also note important projects in the Cayman Islands where large-scale off-grid installation has occurred. This is in response to climbing electricity rates and increasing demand pressure on the grid in the Caribbean, which is driving the market for microgrid systems.
  • And recently, the non-profit Energy Services Coalition (ESC) recognised Hawaii for the eighth consecutive year as the nation’s cumulative per capita leader for investment in state and county energy efficiency projects, which are helping Hawaii meet its clean energy goals. Mike McCartney, Hawaii’s director of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, said: “Efficiency gains from these major projects are having a significant impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions while providing businesses a healthy return on investment.”

The urgency of diversifying the power portfolio of islands seems to get momentum internationally, especially because it is very much related to the welfare of the islands. As an example, the United Nations arm, ORHLLS, is committing private capital to the deployment of renewable energy projects across all Small Island Developing States (SIDS). This will really stimulate and maximise public-private partnerships and increase clean energy deployment.

The cool thing about islands, other than the refreshing breeze, is that they are great experimental landscapes. They can literally be the perfect sandbox for innovative solutions and self-sufficient grids, creating technological environments that can be scaled and transferred to the mainland and used to support electrification and development of remote communities.

Very encouraging indeed. Our water locked counterparts are surely setting an example for the rest of us to follow.

Until next time,

Staff writer Power Engineering International

PS: I hope Kelvin is somewhere on a white sandy beach, enjoying some clean energy and a fruity cocktail.

Pamela Largue
Pamela is a senior content creator and editor and has been a part of the Clarion content team for over seven years. She specializes in international power and energy-related content.