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A carbon-free future for the Canary Islands possible by 2050

The Canary Islands have the potential to become carbon neutral by 2050, a new study indicates. This could be achieved by shifting to a 100% renewable energy supply, improving energy efficiency and building new grid connections between islands. Energy solutions for small island regions, such as the Canaries, could act as role models for larger systems, as well as similar islands, the researchers suggest.

Transferring to a renewable energy supply can be more challenging for islands, as they have small isolated markets for energy and associated technologies. Furthermore, they are often popular with tourists, which makes energy demand very variable and, therefore, harder to provide for with variable renewable supplies. On the other hand, renewable energies represent an excellent opportunity for islands where the cost of energy production is usually much more expensive than on the mainland and where pollution is usually an issue.

This study suggests that it is entirely possible for the popular holiday islands of the Canaries, Spain, to shift over to a near-100% renewable energy system, which is carbon-neutral and cheaper than a fossil-fuel-based system. Currently, the islands import 99% of their energy needs in the form of oil, which is used to generate power, produce heat and for land transport.

However, the study admits to only focusing on land transport and does not include the energy needs of aviation and shipping (significant for this remote holiday destination), which are likely to continue to depend on imports of either fossil or renewable fuels in future.

Source: Gils, H.C. and Simon, S. (2017). Carbon neutral archipelago – 100% renewable energy supply for the Canary Islands. Applied Energy, 188: 342–355. DOI:10.1016/j.apenergy.2016.12.023.