The role of renewable energy as an enabler of island resilience and prosperity takes centre-stage at IRENA’s Small Island Developing States Energy Day
Small and strong was the theme for IRENA’s Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Energy Day, held during COP23 in Bonn, Germany. The day-long series of events held at the IRENA pavilion, followed by a high-level evening reception at the Kunst Museum were designed to mark progress, galvanise collective resolve and inspire further action on climate resilience and adaptation through renewable energy adoption across small islands.
Here is what happened:
Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ministers and senior government and private sector representatives came together for SIDS Energy Day to remind the world that the climate threat is no longer on the horizon – for the people and communities who reside on small islands, the threat is becoming a reality.
“SIDS are on the front-lines of climate change, facing the most impact from its effects while doing the least to cause it,” said Adnan Z. Amin, Director General of IRENA in opening remarks. “The recent destructive hurricanes in the Caribbean are a reminder of this, and I want to extend my deepest sympathy to our friends there who are dealing with the aftermath of the storms.”
These opening remarks set the scene for a day that sought to hasten actionable solutions for nations already suffering at the hands of severe weather patterns.
One such important solution is the development of mini-grid and off-grid renewable energy installations, which can offer small islands a sustainable pathway to economic empowerment, as well as to climate adaptation and resilience. “In the energy sector, SIDS are hindered by a high dependence on imported fossil fuels, and the associated high costs in transitioning to sustainable energy and low carbon development,” continued Mr. Amin.
While this redirection of investment from fossil fuels to renewables remains a challenge, there are signs of progress according to Dolf Gielen, Director of Innovation and Technology at IRENA. “Financing is still the number one challenge for renewable energy development on islands. The good news is that some islands are making progress and IRENA’s Project Facilitation tools can help further.”
IRENA’s Lighthouses Initiative aims to support the energy transition in SIDS by mobilizing US 500 million, to advance their renewable energy ambitions. It’s working. Today, islands are emerging as front runners in the pursuit of renewables based energy systems with more than two gigawatts (GW) of renewables is currently deployed on islands and a further six GW envisaged under nationally determined contributions (NDCs).
Furthermore, several islands plan to go 100 per cent renewables. The Cook Islands, Cape Verde, Fiji, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Vanuatu and Samoa were all noted as aiming to increase their share of renewable energy in the power mix to between 60 – 100 per cent.
Renewables make smart business sense for small islands said new Environment Minister for the Marshall Islands the Honorable David Paul during a SIDS Energy Day panel discussion – highlighting that energy security is strengthened through renewable energy adoption, because it liberates them from fuel imports and protects them from the impact of conflict.
But it was the message of small but strong – delivered by Minister of Sustainable Develop in St Lucia, Dr Gale Rigobert – that captured the moment and inspired participants.
What islands are experiencing today, is coming to all of us concluded Adnan Amin. At SIDS Energy Day during COP23, this message was loud and clear.