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SIDS Energy Day: Small, Strong and Resilient

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.


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.

island pic with solar panel

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.

During the day, panels on transforming the energy landscape in SIDS, strengthening resilience to climate change and facilitating implementation of NDCs, and supporting SIDS energy sector transformation, took place at the IRENA stand, with attendance from leaders such as H.E. Hilda Heine, President of the Marshall Islands and H.E. Tommy Remengesau Junior, President of Palau.


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.


Solar Supports Village Livelihoods and Spurs Business in Fiji

Reliable solar-powered refrigerators are creating economic opportunities for remote, rural towns

In Wainika, a remote village north of Vanua Lavu, Fiji’s second largest island, villagers depend on fishing for their livelihoods. However, the nearest market to trade fish is a laborious two-hour drive and a 45-minute boat ride away. Keeping their fish fresh, without refrigeration, during this journey used to be impossible for Wainika’s villagers, until a renewable-powered solution presented itself.

The installation of a standalone hybrid solar photovoltaic (PV) refrigeration system has drastically changed the economic prospects of the village. Installed at the village community hall, the system enables villagers to chill their fish in preparation for the journey to the market, and helps power lighting and phone charging outlets.  A backup diesel generator ensures the operation of the freezers during long cloudy periods. Continue reading Solar Supports Village Livelihoods and Spurs Business in Fiji

Ministers: ‘IRENA/ADFD Plays Key Role Advancing Renewables in Developing Countries’

At IRENA’s seventh Assembly, held in Abu Dhabi in January 2017, renewable energy projects from the Marshall Islands, Niger, Seychelles and the Solomon Islands were selected to receive a total of USD 44.5 million in funding through the IRENA/ADFD Project Facility. The Facility is a unique partnership between the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), set up to identify and partially finance promising renewable energy projects in developing countries.

At the Assembly, energy ministers from the four selected countries explained how this partnership will bring about a positive change in their respective countries.  Continue reading Ministers: ‘IRENA/ADFD Plays Key Role Advancing Renewables in Developing Countries’

Finding a Way to Transform Energy on Islands

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are on the frontlines of global climate change. Dependent on the ocean for their livelihoods, yet threatened by its rising and acidifying waters, this assemblage of the world’s lowest lying countries are some of the most outspoken and driven countries for decarbonisation and renewable energy.

Matching ambition with reality, however, is not simple, and SIDS need international support to accomplish their decarbonisation goals. But what does that support look like? What is needed to identify the best pathways for SIDS to achieve a renewable energy future and to establish the necessary frameworks for accessing financial support at the speed and scale required to transform their energy systems? Continue reading Finding a Way to Transform Energy on Islands

Scaling up Renewable Energy on Small Island Developing States: The Initiative for Renewable Island Energy

As early supporters of renewable energy technologies Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have played a pivotal role in demonstrating the role of renewables in achieving the Sustainable Development and Climate agendas. They know that overcoming reliance on fossil fuels will increase both their resiliency and economic viability.

To assist SIDS in achieving their renewable energy goals, the Republic of the Maldives as the current chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), has just announced the creation of an Initiative for Renewable Island Energy (IRIE). The announcement came during the high-level session for the Global Climate Action Agenda at COP22. Its purpose will be to support SIDS in their implementation of the renewable energy and energy efficiency components of their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to implement the Paris Agreement. IRIE is setting an initial goal of mobilising at least $1 million in grant and concessionary financing by 2020 for concrete implementation on the ground. Continue reading Scaling up Renewable Energy on Small Island Developing States: The Initiative for Renewable Island Energy

Boosting Global Renewables, One Island at a Time

Islands from the Caribbean to the South China Sea are perhaps best known for their beautiful beaches, azure waters and rich sea life, but they are rich in something else as well: renewable energy. In most small island developing states (SIDS), a combination of renewable energy sources can meet the majority of domestic energy needs while decreasing electricity costs, increasing energy access, creating jobs and mitigating climate change.

What’s more, dramatically falling costs for renewable energy technology have made the switch to renewables more possible than ever before, resulting in many early success stories. In Cabo Verde for example, a wind project connected 50,000 citizens to the national electricity grid for the first time. In the Dominican Republic, 23 micro-hydropower plants are providing sustainable energy to more than 3,000 families across the country. St. Vincent and the Grenadines has also embarked on a large geothermal project, which could supply 75% of the islands electricity needs.

While it’s clear that strong renewable energy potential exists on islands, the pace of development is too slow. Continue reading Boosting Global Renewables, One Island at a Time

Renewables Can Supply Nearly 100% of Samoa’s Electricity Needs

Like many island nations, Samoa possesses enough renewable energy potential to meet nearly 100% of its electricity demand in a sustainable, affordable way. According to a new study conducted by IRENA, a combination of hydro, solar and wind power can supply up to 93% of the island’s electricity demand if a few measures are incorporated into the existing power system and if water supply remains steady.

More than 20% of Samoa’s power needs are met with renewables. The rest is met with imported diesel fuels, which have a negative effect on domestic energy security and energy prices. IRENA’s study finds that a significant increase in renewable energy capacity is possible – including 14 megawatts (MW) of solar PV and an additional 5 MW of hydro – and can reduce the island nation’s dependence on costly fossil fuels, while helping achieve the government target of 100% renewables by 2017. If an additional 8 megawatts (MW) of biogas projects are implemented, then 100% renewable energy electricity would be achieved. Continue reading Renewables Can Supply Nearly 100% of Samoa’s Electricity Needs

Renewable Energy: A Win-Win Solution for Islands

On 2 December at COP21 in Paris, IRENA and Germany hosted an event to celebrate and strengthen win-win renewable solutions for small island developing states (SIDS).

Island states are on the front lines of climate change, threatened by sea level rise, tidal surges as storms increase in intensity, and decreased food security as the ocean becomes increasingly acidified. By adopting transformative renewable energy strategies, island states demonstrate the kind of leadership required to deal with the climate crisis. Continue reading Renewable Energy: A Win-Win Solution for Islands

Pacific Island Countries and Territories Explore Ways to Transform Energy Systems

“What is the utility business model after all? It’s making returns on assets. And moving from fossil fuels to renewables will increase the asset base and the actual value of the utility, increasing its revenues.”- Dutch Kuyper, Parker Ranch

In explaining the sound business case for transitioning traditional utilities to renewable energy, Dutch Kuyper of Hawai’i’s Parker Ranch reinforced the point that renewable energy is undeniably the way forward for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) during a workshop Transforming Pacific Island Energy Systems, held this week in Honolulu, Hawai’i.

Over 80 participants gathered to share experiences on increasing the use of renewable energy. Attendees consist of senior representatives from Pacific Island countries and territories energy departments, power utilities, energy regulators, academia, development partners and the private sector.

The workshop seeks to develop solutions for the region’s significant energy challenges by devising strategies to increase the capacity of Pacific island governments and design policies and regulations conducive to the accelerated deployment of renewable energy. It is organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) in partnership with the U.S. Department of State and IRENA.

During the event, speakers discussed comprehensive approaches to energy sector transformation, including the importance of enabling legal and regulatory frameworks, capacity building, and financing. The workshop also examined different clean energy initiatives in Hawai’i.

Among other activities, IRENA presented a review of the policy frameworks of four Pacific Island countries and their readiness to deploy renewables. In its final session on 23 July, IRENA will present the outcome of the “Quickscan,” an assessment of the enabling framework for renewables, undertaken for the 12 Pacific island partners of the SIDS Lighthouses Initiative. One of Quickscan’s main features provides an à la carte menu for designing more effective programmes in support of the transition of SIDS towards a renewable energy future.

Preview of IRENA’s Quickscan – draft scoresheet

“This week’s workshop represents an important stepping stone on the road to the Paris climate talks. It contributes to the objectives of small island developing states to plan and implement their energy transition, and builds upon the recently adopted Martinique Action Plan.”-Emanuele Taibi, IRENA’s Islands Roadmaps Analyst

This workshop is part of a series of four conferences on renewables within the framework of the SIDS Lighthouses Initiative, which aims to advance a holistic approach to renewable energy deployment in island settings. The conferences are helping accelerate progress in preparation for the upcoming Paris climate talks (COP21) in December.

A previous islands event was held in Martinique in June, in cooperation with the Government of France and the Martinique local government. Its outcome document, the Martinique Action Plan, sets a clear agenda for next steps to accelerate deployment of renewable energy in SIDS. The next conference, supported by the Government of Japan, will bring participants to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to discuss developing and financing SIDS renewable energy projects. The fourth conference of this series will take place in South Africa on the sidelines of the South Africa International Renewable Energy Conference, supported by the Government of Germany.

And the final milestone for the islands and renewables series will take place at COP21 in Paris this December, during which IRENA, together with partners, will host an event showcasing progress made on the SIDS Lighthouses Initiative to date.

Key SIDS Documents & Links

Martinique Action Plan

SIDS Lighthouse Initiative

Follow IRENA Newsroom on the road to Paris

Leaders Endorse Action Plan to Increase Island Renewables

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) now have an action plan to increase their domestic deployment of renewable energy. The Martinique Action Plan (MAP), developed during a June conference in Martinique, outlines practical steps for deployment of renewable energy resources and technologies on SIDS. The MAP focuses largely on the development of wind, marine, geothermal and biomass, but stresses all renewable energy sources are needed for the transition to a sustainable future. The MAP also focuses on waste-to-energy systems to manage waste streams on islands, renewable desalination systems to meet growing island water needs, and measures for boosting renewable generation on power grids.

“The Martinique Action Plan aims to advance the goal of mobilizing the human, financial and technical resources to sustainably transition the energy systems of SIDS. It will live and grow as the basis for follow-up events in Hawaii in July, in Bangkok in August, and in Cape Town in September – all on the road to Paris in December.” – Henning Wuester, IRENA Director of Knowledge Policy and Finance

IRENA's Henning Wuester speaking with media in Martinique
IRENA’s Henning Wuester speaking with media in Martinique

Hugh Sealy, ‎Lead Negotiator for AOSIS, the Association of Small Island Developing States, said the MAP could form a solid basis for immediate actions by islands and partners to mitigate and strengthen resilience to climate change to showcase the positive contribution of renewable energy at the Paris UN climate change negotiations in December. The MAP also emphasizes the transformational nature of renewable energy on islands and the need for the involvement of a wide range of stakeholders, including at the community level. The Martinique Conference on Island Energy Transitions, held under the theme, “Pathways for Accelerated Uptake of Renewables”, took place in Fort-de-France, Martinique from June 22-24. Attendees included government officials, companies and utilities involved in renewable energy development, banks interested in financing renewable energy development, experts in renewable energy resource assessment, and development partners. The conference was held under the umbrella of the SIDS IRENA’s Island Lighthouse Initiative, launched at the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit in 2014. With 27 SIDS and 19 Development partners, the initiative aims to:

  • Mobilize USD 500 million
  • Deploy 100 MW of new solar PV
  • Deploy 20 MW of new wind power
  • Deploy small hydropower, geothermal energy and a number  of marine technology projects (in progress)
  • Ensure all participating SIDS develop renewable energy road maps

By speeding the uptake of renewable energy on islands around the world, the Lighthouse Initiative will enable SIDS to lead by example on climate change though maximizing the use of indigenous, clean and plentiful renewable energy in a structured, holistic approach to ensure long-term sustainability.

Event photos

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