The immense energy of the ocean and winds is something SIDS are intimately very familiar with, where on average natural disasters cause damage equivalent to 2.1% of GDP every year. However, there is clear opportunity within this challenge, as SIDS are geographically and geomorphologically blessed with high potential to benefit from wind, tidal, and oceanic energy. Offshore renewables can also directly link with SIDS blue economies, including coastal tourism, maritime shipping, aquaculture, and desalination.
In Tonga, a new project is in development to create a 10-MW wave power park in Tongatapu. In this first phase, a 2-MW grid is predicted to save Tonga USD 2 million in energy import costs and replace two million litres of fuel. Once the full capacity is reached, this would provide half of Tonga’s energy needs and reduce emissions by 20%. These ocean energy plants are beginning to scale across SIDS globally, such as a 40-MW wave power plant which has begun development in Bermuda.
One existing challenge is the difficulty of reaching economies of scale for offshore energy in order to finance the additional infrastructure required to link into the onshore grid. However, by linking offshore energy systems with existing marine infrastructure, such as aquaculture farms, it is possible to create synergies that optimize the use of resources. Additionally, a hybrid approach to utilization of ocean energy, including a mix of centralized utilities to scale energy production and distribution alongside off-grid and mini-grid systems will be key to creating energy security.
The acceleration of the renewable energy transition in SIDS can be further supported through capacity-building initiatives, access to knowledge platforms, enhanced policy and advisory services generating renewable roadmaps, and by increasing access to climate finance especially through ensuring project bankability. The Commonwealth Secretariat and Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) have launched a specialized toolkit targeted at SIDS, by identifying specific economic, policy, regulatory gaps that can be addressed to translate clean energy transition plans into investable opportunities.
Read the full SIDS Bulletin 70.