In a first phase, 6 islands, the Aran Islands (Ireland) Cres-Lošinj (Croatia), Sifnos (Greece), Culatra (Portugal), Salina (Italy) and La Palma (Spain) will develop and publish their clean energy transition agendas by summer 2019.
The other 20 islands will do so by summer 2020. These islands are:
New Caledonia, France
Cape Clear, Ireland
A Illa de Arousa, Spain
Scottish Islands, UK
Phase one of the project will see the first six islands – the Aran Islands (Ireland), Cres-Lošinj (Croatia), Sifnos (Greece), Culatra (Portugal), Salina (Italy) and La Palma (Spain) – develop their energy transition plan by the summer of 2019. The remaining twenty will be tasked with publishing their own plans in 2020. The transition framework will be crafted through a multi-stakeholder process, which includes local authorities, citizens, civil society organizations, local businesses, and academia. The transition framework will be crafted jointly by representatives of these stakeholder groups on each island with support from the Clean Energy for EU Islands Secretariat and will work towards the EU’s plan to provide clean energy for all citizens.
Dominique Ristori, Director-General for Energy at the European Commission, said: “The 26 islands selected display a remarkable potential and enthusiasm for developing strong and lasting multi-stakeholder collaborations around the clean energy transition. By embarking on this path, not only will they become more energy self-reliant and prosperous, but also provide inspiring examples for other islands and Europe as a whole. This, in turn, will help the EU achieve its ambitious climate and energy targets.”
Islands Leading Innovation
With a general goal of reducing carbon emissions as well as their reliance on fossil fuels and implementing renewable energy, these islands will be leading innovation in self-sufficiency and sustainable development. Croatian MEP Tonino Picula has lauded the project as a step in the right direction, saying: “Islands are becoming more and more visible on the European agenda. The support for 26 islands throughout the Union is an important step in making island communities torchbearers in clean energy transition. This is a first, but an important, step in securing permanent EU assistance to islands.”
The bottom-up approach of the transition will ensure that islanders’ needs will be accounted for, and will benefit residents and local businesses alike. Similar projects carried out independently have shown great success . The island of Samsø in Denmark was able to become carbon negative in just a decade, its success owing to all 4,000 inhabitants buying into the transition. Initial plans from the islands have shown their willingness to innovate, Spain’s Balearic islands have planned to ditch fossil-fueled cars in favor of electric ones, with similar moves towards renewable-driven public transport announced in Cape Clear (Ireland) and Orkney (United Kingdom).Camille Dressler, Chair of the European Small Islands Network and the Scottish Islands Federation welcomed the inclusion of the Scottish Islands, and especially the very isolated off-grid islands of Foula and Fair Isle in Shetland saying that “this choice shows the Scottish Islands are recognised for their fantastic renewable energy potential and expertise. There are exciting developments using hydrogen for district heating in Orkney for example that could be easily replicable elsewhere.”
Barriers To Change
One of the more ambitious projects has created some friction with some industry leaders. The local government of the Balearic Islands announced plans to transition away from its coal power plant towards clean energy by 2050 as well as enacting laws phasing out diesel vehicles by 2025 and their gasoline counterparts by 2035 in favor of electric cars. Whilst the power plant’s Italian owner, Endesa, has accepted the shift away from coal, the Spanish Association of Vehicle and Truck Manufacturers (ANFAC) believe the islands are infringing European law and called their plan “discriminatory and regressive”.
Francina Armengol, the President of the Balearic Islands, argued that their approach will not only protect the environment, but also its residents, pointing out that: “With our law, we will become more productive and competitive, and strengthen our international image. And most importantly, with this law, we gain in quality of life and seal a guaranteed future for our islands”.
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