Fostering Energy Transition in Islands

The Association of the Overseas Countries and Territories of the European Union (OCTA) has been founded in 2002 and count in its 22 members all the inhabited Overseas Countries and Territories associated to the European Union as well as the French Southern Antarctic Lands (TaaF).

Most of the OCTs are small islands economies, that are characterized by a strong dependence on natural resources (in particular for fossil energy), and by some specific difficulties in the distribution of energy (access to the power grid).

Overall almost 1,2 m inhabitants spread over 2,7 m km2.

It appeared therefore normal that renewable energies and energy efficiency quickly became a major focus of OCTA work.

Among the different initiatives taken since inception, joining the SIDS Lighthouse Initiative in 2015 was not the least, and through this partnership joined forces with IRENA to accelerate the development and development and deployment of renewable energies in islands.

OCTA was able to use one the tools developed by IRENA within this initiative, namely the Quickscan questionnaire, to align the level of knowledge of all OCTs in terms of readiness to deploy renewable energy within the power sector.

Through a very simple and comprehensive questionnaire, encompasses seven critical factors, the Quickscan is able to shade light on the needs of the OCTs and allows government and development partners to target areas of support toward accelerated renewable energy deployment.

This analysis was performed by QiDO Energy Development for the SIDS members of the IRENA Lighthouse Initiative program in 2015, and IRENA is showcasing its results on its web site (here).

The same analysis was performed for all OCTs in 2016, within the technical assistance to OCTA program. The results are publically available (here) and were presented at the 2nd Summit of OCT Energy Ministers in Brussels on the 14th and 15th of June this year.

The questionnaire was developed along 7 critical elements, which cover a large array of potential enablers that, if in place, would allow a massive deployment of renewable energy in the territories:

  1. Institutional Framework (12 questions): Overview of existing policies, regulations, frameworks, structures impacting deployment of renewable energy.
  2. Knowledge Base (8 questions): Establishes the availability of information and understanding on areas relevant to the implementation of a transition to renewables.
  3. Planning (4 questions): Determines the robustness of local institutions involved in the energy planning processes.
  4. Financing (4 questions): Assesses accessibility and adequacy of the available funding options from both public and private sources, both foreign and domestic.
  5. Deployment (6 questions): Assesses operations, maintenance, procedures and infrastructure in terms of their ability to support a renewable energy transition.
  6. Capacity Building (6 questions): Identifies high impact opportunities for boosting local capacity for planning, implementation and maintenance with regards to renewables.
  7. Cooperation (3 questions): Assesses the current level of cooperation between national and international stakeholders and how this can support the transition to renewables.

Presenting in detail the results of the 43 questions of the questionnaire would be too long here, but sharing some of the conclusions will certainly help to bring a better understanding of the island situations:

  • A sophisticated institutional framework is useful, but at the same time it is neither a necessary condition nor a guarantee for successful RE deployment;
  • Data on renewable energy resources and on electrical system are often not available or dispersed,
  • Planning, in the form of coordination between government and local utility, is the most visible key to a successful deployment,
  • Favouring private investment usually correlates with a high share of RE, but not always,
  • Creating the right framework conditions for deployment is essential for the successful implementation of RE policy,
  • Experiences suggest that a targeted capacity building program ensures successful implementation of the policy framework and ensures long-term sustainability of the RE programs, not only increasing knowledge but also creating appropriation.

Some common bottlenecks are faced by most of the territories, and need to be addressed by both policy makers and private sector, through close cooperation, in order to achieve results:

  1. Lack of Stakeholder Collaboration

When RE deployment is controlled only by the government or the incumbent utility, without enough collaboration, or without involving private sector (limited grid access for IPPs), delays and hurdles in the implementation appear

  1. Scarcity of Available Land

Most OCTs face a significant scarcity of land and there is strong competition for land use where RE is not always the preferred choice.

  1. Need for capacity building

The lack of qualified personnel is a common problem on all OCTs, notably in isolated islands.

  1. Limited access to funding programs

Many OCTs have difficulties in accessing international funding programs or granting public funding for the private sector (building owners, IPPs). Lack of financing and/or a lack of attractive remuneration conditions for developers is a significant barrier to RE projects.


For those working in isolated territories or emerging countries for long enough to have stumbled over any or all of the above stoppers, those conclusions will not bring anything new to the table.

The main advantage of this is to align knowledge of the “state of the renewable art” in 43 islands and territories around the world, and witness the similarities in local situations despite differences of location, geography and climate.

Naming a problem, making it big enough to be noticeable is most of the time the way to go to trigger major changes.

Today solutions exist, technology is mature enough and finance is available. Sound initiatives are undergoing in most of those territories, from local and international stakeholders, and we will continue to support them as much as we can.

Islands represent an exceptional opportunity to show case innovative business models and technological solutions that can be replicated in a vast array of situations in emerging countries. The stake of their success goes beyond what can appear to a limited number of people in the end.

Being part of it is possible from many different angles, and if you are interested in this topic and involved one way or another, please bring your contributions and share experiences of outside the box initiatives that brought tangible results to stalled situations.

Everybody will benefit from sharing more.