Small tropical islands could become the world’s first 100% renewable nations


solarpowerwestindiesWe’ve heard a lot about urgent climate action from “world leaders” in developed countries, yet actual concrete achievements have been limited. The rich world may soon be shown up by small, tropical island nations which have plenty of wind and sun and aren’t lumbered with outdated, base-load power plants to keep running. Plus these islands are among the countries most threatened by climate change.

No wonder then that of the 15 nations to fully ratify the Paris climate agreement on the day it was signed in April 2016, 13 were tropical island states.

Impressive developments in the sustainable energy sector are already evident across the Caribbean. Growing expertise in renewables, climate change and resilience, along with a 2014 study on the Barbados energy sector, all demonstrate the relative ease with which small island states could transition to 100% renewable energy systems.

Similar processes are also taking place among islands elsewhere in the tropics including Aruba, Seychelles, Mauritius and Pacific Island Countries. These changes could happen in a matter of years rather than the decades predicted for industrialised countries.

Small island states often have some of the highest electricity prices in the world. Unless they happen to be sat on big oil or coal reserves (and most aren’t), they’re forced to import their energy and can become “locked-in” to costly and polluting fossil fuels. It’s a big economic drag.

However, Caribbean people are known for their optimistic outlook on life and this “locked-in” scenario could actually spur on these islands to being among the first countries in the world to transition to 100% clean energy systems – a special feat given that today most of these islands are powered almost entirely by fossil fuels.

A country’s energy system is usually comprised of base-load and peaking-load power plants. Base-load plants cannot be ramped up or down very fast, but are able to provide cheap power. They include nuclear, coal plants and combined cycle gas turbines. Peaking-load power plants are able to quickly ramp up or down in order to meet the fluctuating demand of customers on the electricity grid. Examples include, hydroelectric plants, gas turbines and, pertinent to small island states, low speed diesel engines. READ MORE

SOURCE: The Conversation