Smart Islands: Blueprints for the Future?
By admin May 14, 2019

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In 2017, the Institute for Environmental Analytics (IEA) announced that they would be undertaking a new project using environmental data to create an energy planning tool aimed at islands increasing renewable energy use. The Renewable Energy Space Analytics Tool (RE-SAT) is now in partnership with the Government of Seychelles, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the UK Space Agency. The project focuses on sustainable urban and tourism planning, smart mobility, education, startups and business models, and is part of a wider Smart Islands Initiative. This has been adopted by a number of countries and includes goals toward becoming 100 percent renewable. For example, French island territories have set targets to reach 50 percent renewable energy by 2020 and complete energy independence in 2030.

Historically, where coal and gas fired power stations provided cheap forms of energy to mainland countries, these technologies can come at a great cost to islands. In fact, island communities often find themselves the recipients of higher energy prices as a result of importing fuel, while also bearing the brunt of the environmental impacts of burning fossil fuels. Moreover, a 2015 study by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) found that islands are actually more suited to the benefits of renewables, energy storage and smart systems than larger grids. IRENA further reported that using renewables would result in lower power generation costs, while improving energy independence and overall energy access.

Since renewable technologies are projected to keep reducing in price, and the price of oil is likely to increase, the typical project is designed in a modular fashion. This ensures a cost-effective transition, as rather than completely removing oil and gas, and investing in large amounts of renewable infrastructure all at once, the transition – and the cost – can be spread out over a number of years. However, it is important to note that going 100 percent renewable still offers challenges. These are mostly centered on cost, as back-up generation is still required for economic reasons. While wind and solar energy are cheap, they are intermittent sources of energy and run at a low capacity factor. Their economic optimum is usually between 60-80 percent of the renewables share, suggesting that the remaining 20-40 percent should be met by some type of dispatchable generation – potentially thermal – to reduce battery use and maximize the energy potential for these renewable systems.

Therefore, as demonstrated above, islands are entering a prime time for becoming ‘smart,’ fostering low-carbon, sustainable and inclusive development that can be the blueprint for the rest of the world’s cities and countries. By implementing innovative, green projects and policies through a mixture of local and regional actors, the Smart Islands initiative creates a new narrative for islands’ resource and infrastructure management that will improve quality of life while surpassing global emissions-reductions targets and making the planet a healthier place.


For More Information:

Aegean Energy Smart Islands Strategy

EU Smart Islands Project and Policy

IEA Smart Islands

Taking Smart to the Edges of the World

UN Sustainable Development Partnerships: Aruba and Smart Islands


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