Small Island Developing States (SIDS): Navigating the Energy Transition Crossroads

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) account for less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet they are home to some of the world’s most climate-vulnerable populations and biodiverse hotspots. Sea level rise and extreme weather extremes may render some of these territories uninhabitable by the end of the century if no urgent action is taken to mitigate global heating effectively. This makes SIDS important climate action ambassadors, as well as key players in achieving a just and equitable energy transition.

Renewable energy technologies offer many benefits to SIDS, beyond emissions reductions and climate mitigation: they offer a clean, cost-effective source of energy that is highly adaptive and suited to the specific geographies of SIDS, can be used both for grid-based and decentralised energy production and electricity access, while significantly decreasing dependence on fuel imports – a particularly important factor for many SIDS given their own narrow resource base and their high level of fuel import dependence.

The status of the clean energy transition in SIDS has two predominant contexts, each with specific challenges and socio-economic benefits in increasing the adoption of renewable energy solutions.

  • SIDS that are predominantly electrified, relying heavily on imported fossil fuels.
  • The majority of Upper-Middle Income and High-Income SIDS have achieved universal electrification, most are heavily reliant on imported fossil fuels for electricity, transportation, and other uses. Yet many of these SIDS have taken bold action aiming to significantly increase their generation of renewable energy, most having ample solar, wind, geothermal, and hydro resource.

    A sustainable energy transition for these SIDS requires integrating renewables into existing electrification schemes, such that their dependencies on imported fossil fuels is significantly reduced across sectors, and thereby also strengthening local capacities and resources.

  • SIDS with significant unelectrified populations and leapfrogging to renewables.
  • There are several Low-Income and Lower-Middle Income SIDS with regions that remain unelectrified and underdeveloped, facing economic vulnerabilities exacerbated by poverty, food insecurity, water-borne illness, lack of healthcare, volatile agriculture, deforestation, and climate vulnerabilities. Yet these SIDS have made significant progress in establishing decentralized biomass, hydro, and solar electricity generation, led by both local practitioners as well as multi-actor initiatives. The least-electrified SIDS are now at a crossroads to meet universal energy access: They can either increase access through imported fossil fuel or scale up their significant progress in decentralized renewable energy solutions by further strengthening local and regional capacities, which in turn can further scale up the socio-economic benefits of food security, local economic stability, gender equity, and climate resilience provided by existing clean energy initiatives.

To support each of these contexts, IRENA is launching new reports, focusing on the present and potential socioeconomic and environmental benefits, barriers, and opportunities of a just and equitable energy transition to renewables in SIDS. The first report in the series, The socioeconomics of transitioning to renewables, focuses on SIDS contexts that are predominantly electrified, relying heavily on imported fossil fuels, while the second, Towards equitable energy access in least-electrified countries, features SIDS contexts having significant unelectrified populations and the opportunity to leapfrog to renewables-based energy access.

The webinar will feature presentations of key findings from each report, as well as insight from multi-actors experts on the progress, challenges, mechanisms, and potential benefits of the above two SIDS energy transition contexts accelerating renewable energy scale up.

To attend the event, please register here: