LCEDN Rapid Response Reviews:
What are the optimal combinations of village scale (ca. 500 household)solar PV-hybrid off grid electricity generation systems for small islandstates?
Background: Small Island Energy Issues.Small island states
share many of the energy access issues faced by poor communities acrossthe developing world. For example, 70% of the Pacific Region population does not haveaccess to electricity (Mohanty 2012) and the total is as high as 80+ % in e.g. the SolomonIslands and Vanuatu (UNESCAP, 2010). In addition,
high levels of solid fuel use
(90% of households in Papua New Guinea: Mohanty, 2012) have caused substantial problems of deforestation and soil erosion in some small island states. The electricity generation that doesexist is strongly
dependent upon imported oil, natural gas or coal
, the cost of which isexacerbated by high transport costs (Syngellakis, 2012). The cost of these fuels can constitutea substantial percentage of total imports and imposes strong vulnerability, for example, to oil price shocks (and opportunity costs in terms of the use of scarce foreign exchange earnings).The
high cost of electricity
imposed by this dependence upon imported fuel sources has beenexacerbated by the frequently sub-optimal size of generators (Gray, 2010) that may beinappropriate to community size, all of which contributes to
electricity costs that can be asmuch as twice as high
as in industrialised countries. Systemic inefficiency also contributesin other ways through, for example,
high rates of transmission loss
in small island power utilities (higher than 20% in some Pacific Island communities) and the
small size of existingand potential demand for electricity
, which reduces the cost benefits of scale generallyassociated with conventional grid generation (Weisser, 2004). On the other hand, despite theclear potential, until recently (see below) there has been only
limited investment inrenewable alternatives
in most small island states due to factors such as: limited access toinformation (particularly in the context of rapid cost changes within the sector), limitedknowledge of RES potential in individual states, lack of finance and poor institutionalcapacity (Weisser, 2004; Gray, 2010).
Small island states are generally
well-endowed with a wide variety of renewable energyresources
which have the potential to make significant contributions to meeting energyneeds. Scale-related advantages, smaller community sizes and the short distances fromsubstantial wind/wave/tide resources, for example, can be added, to specific resourceadvantages such as biomass/biofuel potential for CO2 reduction and energy value (e.g.sugarcane, cassava, jatropha, coconut, oil palm, pongamia and algae, as well as thesubstantial biomass potential of the ocean) and geothermal potential in, for example, PacificRim nations. There is growing potential (given increasing global fuel prices) for
keyingbiomass exploitation into existing economic resources
(sugar, palm, coconut oil) andenergy efficiency measures (efficient bulbs, energy saving campaigns, building design etc.)
This rapid response review was edited by Ed Brown and Jonathan Cloke on behalf of the LCEDN, it drawsupon contributions from Ed Brown, Ben Campbell, Jon Cloke, Aled Jones and Christophe Rynikiewicz..