Em[powered] island communities lead energy innovation

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Villagers install solar panels in Lelepa, Vanuatu

Over one billion people now have electricity, which is a significant development achievement. But this comes at a high price because it’s largely produced from coal, oil, and natural gas and the energy sector accounts for nearly two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions.

In many island countries, only a small percentage of electricity comes from renewable sources. They remain highly dependent on imported diesel. To address this, islands have set very ambitious mitigation goals which some are close to achieving. Although their potential to utilize renewable energy remains largely untapped, many countries are adopting solar, wind, hydro electric power, and geothermal.


Suriname

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Ana and Ketura. Photo: UNDP Suriname

Tropical rainforest covers about 94 percent of Suriname, supplying it with an abundance of water and mineral resources. Electricity is supplied through hydro electric power and diesel generators. In the small indigenous community of Tepu, a solar farm has provided them with clean energy. After installing solar panels, for the first time in history, Tepu had round the clock electricity. This new system is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 tons a year. Two women, Ana Nantawi and Ketura Aparaka, were trained on how to assemble, install, and repair the panels.

Their skills have helped their village to transition to clean, reliable energy. In turn, they have trained others to install and maintain the panels. By welcoming renewable resources, the community has unlocked opportunities such as different local entrepreneurial activities, new refrigeration and electricity units for a medical clinic, and providing the community with clean drinking water.


Samoa

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A biomass plant takes shape in Samoa. Photo: UNDP Samoa

With only 15 percent of the country having clean, reliable energy, Samoans have found a way to improve their energy supply by tapping into their renewable potential. In order to provide reliable access to energy and move away from imported fossil fuels, the island country is harnessing its clean energy potential.

This will be done with a biomass plant, which is set to harvest invasive trees as raw material, or feedstock, to supply and fuel it. These species are being evaluated for their calorific values and moisture content. The plant will be the four newest technology of its kind to make biomass energy — produced by living or once-living organisms. Samoans are taking a lead role in renewable energy policies, establishing energy system improvements, financing renewable energy schemes to benefit communities and local businesses, and raising awareness in schools and communities.


Vanuatu

Villagers install solar panels in Lelepa.

In Vanuatu, four out of 83 islands’ electricity is supplied by utility companies contracted through the government. The other islands, including Lelepa, are struggling with low power, temporary solutions such as solar home systems and fossil fuel powered generators. Lelepa has become the site for testing of a simple and innovative solar power technology. Five buildings on the island have been equipped with solar power based on a Flex-Grid — a unique smart meter-based mini-grid.

This flexible and simple technology allows for solar power projects to be carried out within a short time frame and with minimal preparation. Once installed, electricity is immediately made available. The new technology presents a great potential to expand electrification to the entire island of about 100 households, depending on the outcomes of the pilot project. Depending on the new energy possibilities, this has the potential to provide the community with new services and income generating opportunities, especially for local entrepreneurs, women and youth.

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