Most islands are well endowed with one or more renewable energy source — rivers, waterfalls, wind, sunshine, biomass, wave power, geothermal deposits — yet virtually all remain heavily or entirely reliant on imported fossil fuels to produce electricity and power transport.
With rising oil prices, fuel import bills now represent up to 20 percent of annual imports of 34 of the 38 small island developing states (SIDS), between 5 percent to 20 percent of their Gross Domestic Product — and even up to 15 percent of the total import bills of many of the European Union’s 286 islands.
Action advocated under “The Malta Communiqué On Accelerating Renewable Energy Uptake For Islands” adopted by a 50-nation two-day conference that ended here last week will hopefully slash, in some cases eliminate, reliance on fossil fuels and related pollution, while increasing energy security, employment as well as economic and social wellbeing.
“The Renewables and Islands Global Summit” in Malta was co-hosted by the 100-nation International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) based in Abu Dhabi and by the government of Malta — a 316 sq km Mediterranean island republic of 410,000 inhabitants, and EU’s smallest member state.
The Malta Communiqué On Accelerating Renewable Energy Uptake For Islands will hopefully help slash or eliminate reliance on fossil fuels, while increasing energy security, employment as well as economic and social wellbeing.
The meeting represents a key milestone in IRENA’s initiative on renewables and islands launched by its governing council last January, as well as a follow-up to the Rio+20 conference in June and the “Achieving Sustainable Energy for All in Small Island Developing States” ministerial meeting in Barbados in May.
The communiqué invites IRENA to establish a global renewable energy islands network (GREIN) as a platform for sharing knowledge, best practice, challenges and lessons learnt while seeking innovative solutions.
GREIN will also help assess country potential, build capacity, formulate business cases for renewables deployment involving the private sector and civil society while identifying available finance as well as new ideas for innovative financing mechanisms.
In addition, the network will develop methodologies for integrating renewables into sustainable tourism, water management, transport, and other industries and services.
IRENA’s Kenyan director-general Adnan Amin told the 120 delegates that “we have confirmed the enormous potential for renewables in small island developing states as well as for developed island countries, not to mention coastal countries with remote, energy-deprived islands of their own. Ambitious policy targets appear increasingly attainable because of great strides forward in technology and cost-effectiveness.
“We are laying the groundwork for a business council to bring investors — from major energy companies to innovative SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises) and also financial institutions — into the discussion,” Amin added. “Academics and NGOs can also contribute to the search for practical solutions. Developed island states can do much by sharing their experience with small-island developing states that face broadly similar challenges.”
Representatives (including 15 ministers) from 26 developing Pacific, Caribbean and African developing island nations and from coastal developing states with islands reported a wide range of renewables deployment, from detailed long-term plans and ongoing activities to reach up to 100 percent renewables, to admissions of very low deployment and no firm goals or plans yet. More