Dominica’s Minister of Energy, Vince Henderson and his Vincentian counterpart, Benarva Browne

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are grappling with the challenge of adopting “appropriate” renewable energy technologies, even as they intensify efforts to transition towards renewable energy as part of their sustainable development and in response to climate change.

Energy Minister for Dominic Vince Henderson, addressed a press briefing this week in Abu Dhabi, highlighting the complexities SIDS face in balancing various priorities on limited landmasses, including agriculture, food security, housing, tourism, and energy security.

He said that space remains a challenge because there’s only so much room for solar panels and wind turbines.

“And this is part of the reality of small island states that we need to fully accept,” he told the international media at the 14th Session of the two-day International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Assembly which ends on Thursday.

The SIDS ministers answered questions from the media after the “SIDS Ministerial – Charting a Resilient and Sustainable Energy Future for SIDS”, which Barbados’ Energy Minister, Senator Lisa Cummins urged SIDS to lead globally and use their collective voices to champion the energy transition and climate action.

Henderson thanked IRENA for its constant engagement with SIDS, especially over the last decade, but called on the organisation “to focus more attention on SIDS-appropriate technology, in not just words, but in action.

“And we have to start utilising and harnessing the huge potential that our oceans provide. We are large-ocean states,” he said, adding that SIDS have made the call at their conference in Samoa in 2014 and will repeat it in Antigua next month.

“But we need to see some real action in our efforts to seem to harness that huge potential. We talk about the blue economy. This is the blue economy. This is the basis of the blue economy,” said Henderson.

“We have fisheries but we have energy as a source of power that can help to propel SIDS,” he said, referring to ocean technology.

“Because if we’re talking about the transition to renewable energy, we must never forget that it must be a just transition. And for some reason, in the conversation today, we overlooked that I think we were more anxious just to highlight some of our challenges,” he said.

Henderson said SIDS need to remind the major polluters in the world that are responsible for a warming of the climate “that they, too, have an obligation, they have a moral obligation.

“And I think soon it may become a legal obligation to ensure that we can make a transition that is just. And when I say just, it means that our people will not be burdened by our transition to renewable energy. But in fact, they will have a benefit.

“And I’m talking about paying their bills. So reducing the cost of electricity,” he said.

Grenada’s Minister of Energy Kerryne Z. James echoed Henderson’s call for “SIDS-appropriate” renewable energy technologies.
“Most times, when we get any opportunity to invest or to seek opportunities for renewable energy for our islands, they are projected on us. It’s not we going to them with our proposals, right.

“And I see them in terms of organisations that have the financial capabilities to help us on our renewable energy journey,” James said.

She said that SIDS are actually large ocean states though they are often framed as small island states.

“And so we have to, I need to reiterate that, we have to look into seeing how we can capitalise on what we do have to ensure that climate change doesn’t impact us as it has done over the years.”

James said SIDS also have to look at “legislating some of the ambitious targets that we have set out because without the proper checks and balances to hold the big emitters accountable, where are we going in the whole energy transition?”.

She said that as politicians, energy ministers have to ensure that within their countries, “the just transition doesn’t leave out those persons at the grassroots.

“So those persons who can’t necessarily invest in solar PV because their house is not even appropriate to accommodate the panels.

“That, too, is a part of the just transition that I don’t think that we honestly look into as small island developing states,” Minister James said.

The Grenadian minister noted that most SIDS have concessions on solar PV modules and electric and hybrid vehicles.

“But the question that we have to ask ourselves is how much of our people at the local level can actually capitalise on these things? So we have our responsibility internationally, but as politicians, as policymakers, we do have a responsibility to ensure that the just transition does not leave out anybody within our sectors and within our societies.”

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Minister of Energy, Benarva Browne said that speakers at the ministerial “heard basically the same story from the different islands.

“And that shows the commonality between us and why having discussions like this is important,” she said, supporting also Henderson’s calls for SIDS-appropriate technologies.

“I think that is a very, very timely intervention, that’s a very necessary intervention,” said Browne.

IRENA Director-General, Francesco La Camera, said one of the main questions for SIDS is the size of the market, which “sometimes does not now provide for the business case for new grants…. PACNEWS