The EU has around 2,400 inhabited islands. EU islands vary substantially in size, population, natural conditions, and economic activity, but share common energy systems characteristics such as strong dependency on imported fossil fuels, insufficient interconnections, high energy prices, and massive unexploited renewable energy sources (RES) potential. Exploiting this RES potential will not only help decarbonise EU islands but also significantly decrease the cost of energy supplies.
Islands and the Energy Transition
The EU energy policy agenda has aimed at addressing these issues since the early 1990s. On May 18, 2017, the Clean Energy for EU Islands initiative was signed by the European Commission and Energy Ministers of Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden. The initiative intends to assist islands with the energy transition. The European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete, revealed the Commission’s plan to decarbonise 1,000 islands by 2030.
Ecofys, a Navigant company, has provided a front-running analysis of the energy landscape of EU islands to support the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy in this effort. The project, Islands and Energy Islands in the EU Energy System, was realised under ASSET’s framework program Energy Systems in Support of Policy. With this project, Ecofys, a Navigant company, and partners presented the energy landscape in non-connected islands, proposed categorisation of islands, and recommended policy actions towards an effective energy transition in islands.
Action Plans and Regulatory Measures Go Hand in Hand
An island’s sustainable energy action plans could become the core of its regulatory measures towards decarbonisation and lowering the cost of energy supplies. These plans should be supported by key performance indicators, to allow the monitoring of the progress of island decarbonisation by islands’ authorities and on the EU level to be in line with the Energy Union principles. Other key regulatory measures include addressing monopolistic practices in island energy markets and considering specific support schemes to incentivise green and local/community investments.
Cooperation between island authorities and investors is necessary to further decrease investment time and cost. The Ecofys and Navigant team proposes the creation of one-stop-shops in islands for island authorities to permit green investments and to facilitate an open discussion with local communities on the benefits of such investments.
On the funding side, Ecofys, a Navigant company, proposed twofold investment support. The team believes it is necessary to pool small-scale investments into clusters to use the economies of scale, and to create micro-loans for activating small-scale investments.
Advanced Islands Should Practice Knowledge Sharing
Knowledge and experience transfer between more advanced islands (e.g., Bornholm, Gotland, Tilos, el Hierno, and others) and those still struggling with the energy transition is another important element of islands’ decarbonisation. Exchange of experience should be supported by social awareness and engagement campaigns, and open discussion within the environmental impact assessment procedures. Technical training to meet the growing demand for green jobs in islands is also needed.
The solutions proposed by Ecofys will be further discussed and integrated into the Directorate – General for Energy actions aimed at supporting islands via the Secretariat of EU energy islands, Horizon calls for proposals (H2020 call – Decarbonising energy systems of geographical Islands and H2020 call – European Islands Facility: Unlock financing for energy transitions and supporting islands to develop investment concepts), and actions aimed at limiting energy poverty.
Decarbonising islands will bring down the cost of energy for island communities. In that way, islands will meet one of the key pillars of the European Commission’s Clean Energy Package for all Europeans proposals—providing a fair deal for consumers.