EDIN: An island resource for energy independence

Four years ago Iceland, New Zealand, and the United States formed an international partnership called Energy Development in Island Nations (EDIN).  Its purpose is to help small island states and territories increase their energy independence through renewable energy technologies and the adaptation of energy efficiency measures.

EDIN brings together policy, technical, and financial support to help guide clean energy solutions in key regions and islands.  Their objective is to use the experience gained from several pilot projects already underway to develop a holistic model that responds to unique energy use and infrastructure issues, and which can be replicated among island nations. 

Partner countries

Iceland, itself an isolated small island state, has a strong propensity to share what it has learned with other island nations.  Given its far northern climate its energy use per capita is among the world’s highest.  However, it is blessed with abundant renewable energy in the form of geothermal resources.

Renewable energy provides 100% of Iceland’s electrical, heating, and industrial process requirements, through a combination of hydro and geothermal production.  Conversely, oil is still used for 19% of the country’s energy needs – primarily for ground and water transportation.

New Zealand also produces a significant proportion of its electrical production from renewable resources – close to 70% from hydropower, geothermal, wind, and bioenergy.  Their goal is to produce 90% of their electrical needs from renewable resources by 2025.

While few would proclaim the United States to be a pillar of the renewable energy community, they have made great strides in the research and development of alternative energy resources.  Their solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and hydropower industries are currently experiencing significant innovation and utility-scale development.

Energy resources

A primary focus of EDIN is to deliver policy development, financing, and technical assistance to its pilot projects.  Due to a combination of familiarity with existing technologies and resistance to change, the removal of policy barriers and the establishment of alternative policy options are a key component of EDIN’s project assistance.

Regulatory frameworks need to be established that allow for the integration of renewable energy into the existing infrastructure.  Likewise, legislative proposals that encourage the adoption of clean energy technologies are required.  Lastly, EDIN sponsors conferences, symposia, and workshops for that discuss the benefits of renewable energy development.

Likewise, financial planning is key to successfully developing renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.  In addition to bringing together stakeholders and helping to build partnerships, EDIN spearheads relationships with important international, governmental, and non-governmental agencies.

EDIN also arranges for and supports technical assistance through the assessment of the current energy infrastructure and the development of comprehensive renewable energy plans.  In particular, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has made significant contributions to the three primary pilot projects.

Pilot projects

Following its creation, the international partnership for Energy Development in Island Nations quickly identified three pilot projects: a collaboration between Iceland and Dominica, assessing geothermal potential in the Pacific, and a renewable energy challenge in the US Virgin Islands.

The value of these projects is the ability to quickly test methodologies on a relatively small scale across the policy, finance, and technical landscape.  Lessons learned can then be replicated across a variety of projects and regions.

Like Iceland, Dominica has significant geothermal resources, although to date these are largely untapped and the island relies on fossil fuels for the bulk of its energy generation.  Iceland is lending its technical expertise to assist Dominica in the economic, legal, social, and environmental impacts of developing this natural resource.

Similarly, New Zealand has assisted in the assessment of geothermal electricity generation in several Pacific island nations.  Most of these countries continue to rely on diesel fuel for the generation of their electricity.

Perhaps the most ambitious pilot project is taking place in the US Virgin Islands.  When this project was announced in 2009 the Virgin islands was dependent on fossil fuels for 100% of its electricity generation.  The goal is to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels by 60% by 2025 through a combination of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and improvements to current generation capacity.

Our next article will discuss the Virgin Islands project in detail.


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