Renewable Energy Freeing Island Nations From Fossil Fuel

Monday, 14 December 2015

Renewables are beating fossil fuels on cost in island nations from the Pacific to the Caribbean, where governments are seeking to limit their exposure to volatile market prices.

“We’re so far-flung from the sources of fossil fuels that by the time they reach us, with all the shipping, you pay a substantial cost,” said Tommy Remengesau, the president of Palau, whose nation is located almost 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) east of the Philippines in the Pacific Ocean. “It’s an economic advantage for us to go for renewables.”


The remarks in an interview at the United Nations climate summit in Paris underscore the economic concerns of island nations. For many of them, obtaining and paying for fuel is a costly struggle that they must manage along with the threat of rising sea levels and more violent storms predicted because of global warming. That explains why these countries are among the more enthusiastic adopters of clean energy.


Palau is seeking to cut a $40 million-a-year fuel bill that consumes about a sixth of its economy, and it’s not alone. In the South Pacific, Fiji and Vanuatu are planning to generate 100 percent of their power from solar, wind and biomass by 2030. In the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is looking to renewables to reduce its almost total reliance on imported fossil fuels, and the Seychelles have set a 20 percent clean power target.


‘Fuel-based Economy’


“We’re looking at options such as solar energy, wind energy and other technologies, because we are very much a fuel-based economy,” Maldives Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon said by phone from the country’s capital Male. “We should be able to see a dramatic increase in the use of renewable energy.”


The Maldives’ climate plan shows why it’s hard for poorer countries to realize their ambitions. “High investment costs pose a major challenge to the introduction of solar,” the government said in its submission to the UN. The pledge doesn’t quantify the finance it needs.


Goals from each nation are spelled out in pledges submitted before the UN talks, where 195 countries are working on a deal to reduce greenhouse gases. While emissions cuts in small islands aren’t enough to even put a dent in the global total, economically they can pay off.

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