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Small Island State RRR

Small Island State RRR

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Published by Edward Bauer

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 island

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 island

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Edward Bauer on Jun 13, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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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).
Resource Potential.
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..
 are likely to have a greater effect at smaller scales. Lastly,
proximity and community size
 gives more flexibility for small-scale/multi-scalar projects such as small hydro at thecommunity level, pico-hydro where appropriate and solar/PV back-up systems, as well aslarger tidal/wave systems for larger communities/strategic economic uses.
Emerging Initiatives.
Despite the historical lack of investment in renewables noted above, recent years have seenthe establishment of a wide range of renewable initiatives in small island states, which have begun to take advantage of the potential noted above. These have included biomass, solar,wind and biofuel developments (Mohanty, 2012); Fiji for example already supplies over 50%of its energy consumption through biomass and several islands (including the Cook Islands)have recently made commitments to achieve 100% of electricity generation via renewablesources by 2020 (APCTT-UNESCAP, 2010). Among the most interesting initiatives arethose which
play to the resource potential of small island states
, for instance projects inPacific Island states that are deploying coconut, copra and palm-oil based biofuels.
Small Island Considerations.
Aside from the considerations that should pertain to all off-grid systems, i.e. costs,acceptability, robustness and simplicity of operations and maintenance (Jones, 2012), thereare, however, plainly
special considerations that apply to small island states
, particularlyin terms of resource constraints and economic optimality. There is, for example, a trade-off to be made between biomass/biofuel initiatives and other income generating uses for commodities such as copra, palm and coconut and indeed for the land itself. There are alsosubstantial
environmental considerations
(particularly on those islands where solid fuel useis already high) including deforestation and consequent soil erosion, environmental pollutionthrough waste, food and fuel shortages through price interaction, and potential adverseimpacts on water sources (Mohanty, 2012: 268).In small islands
vulnerability to all of the above adverse effects is substantial
andtherefore the key to the optimum forms of small island renewable energy technologies islikely to be
hybridity and variation
, not choosing one/a few sources that replace one formof fuel dependency with another, which has additional environmental drawbacks. Currentvulnerability to fuel-oil costs however is overwhelming and
virtually any combination of RETs would lead to lower dependency and vulnerability than current patterns of fueluse
.Small island states are so diverse, however, that it is
unwise to be too proscriptive in theidentification of the optimal mix of energy sources
. Elaborating upon the themes drawnfrom the literature reviewed above, we can, nonetheless, make some general observationsabout the key issues that need addressing within the design of any energy strategy for a smallisland state. These include:(i)
– what makes the island/village vulnerable is also an advantage in terms of thecloseness to resources, the size of communities and the diversity of RET potential;and it also offers advantages in terms of the opportunities for deployment of 
 multiple RET resources in different locations (proximity to the sea, inland etc.).Clearly, these advantages will differ from context to context;(ii)
– Generalisations about relative costs of even individual RETs across smallisland states are unwise as these can vary significantly depending on location(reflecting issues such as: transport and logistics, labour costs, technical capacity,competing demands on energy resource-use and income levels and willingness to pay for services: Syngellakis, 2012). Despite the urgency of the need to embark upon profound changes in energy strategy within many small islands states, thereis no substitute for detailed local cost evaluation.(iii)
Environmental Impact
– auditing existing environmental problems and resourceuse/over-use to ensure ‘best fit’ with additional RE use requirements is anabsolutely essential element to any small island RE strategy design – this should be connected to technology audits (e.g. those undertaken by the GlobalSustainable Energy Islands Initiative (GSEII) designed to optimize the mostappropriate energy security ‘mix’.(iv)
Use of modelling tools
– There are an increasing range of sophisticated modellingtools that can play an important role in determining how different renewableenergy systems might be best connected to existing energy systems within particular island state contexts and to make decisions about the balance betweendifferent technologies. These can provide key inputs into the development of  policies but need to be treated with some caution in terms of how they are actedupon within weak regulatory environments and polarized policy contexts and howthey cope with rapidly changing scenarios (Weisser, 2004).(v)
Questions of ownership, deregulation and privatization
– problems of lack of capacity and interest of authorities in exploring alternative systems is a keychallenge in some states, there is some debate, however, about the record of deregulation in meeting those challenges (the lack of private sector interest ininvesting in relatively small systems, the perils of replacement of state monopoly by a private one).(vi)
Stakeholder involvement
– previous small island initiatives have lacked sufficientinvolvement of/collaboration with stakeholders, this is absolutely crucial to thesuccess of any initiative (Jafar, 2000; Woods et al, 2006); - one example relates tothe handling of the differential social impacts of removal of subsidisation of conventional energy costs (e.g. through ending supporting lower costs of importedfuels through general taxation).(vii)
Regional initiatives
– importance of engagement with key international initiativessuch as the Sustainable Energy Partnership for the Americas (SEPA), the GSEIIand Climate Change Funding modalities (CCF) to support the evolution of national strategies and village-level transformation of energy systems.

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