23 July 2020 | Reading 11 mins.

European islands: Trailblazers of the EU Green Deal

Ditte Juul Jørgensen
Director-General DG Energy, European Commission

Ditte Juul Jørgensen, Director-General DG Energy, European Commission

Europe is leading the fight against climate change and has set itself the goal to become climate-neutral by mid-century. This is one of the main priorities of the European Commission led by President Von der Leyen. The European Green Deal establishes a roadmap of actions across all policy areas to achieve our goal of climate neutrality by 2050. The Green Deal is an agenda for green growth and a just transition in Europe. This sustainable transition of our economies and societies will also help drive sustainable economic recovery from the current Covid-19 crisis.

Energy consumption and production represent 75% of EU greenhouse gas emissions. Energy policy is therefore central to the European Green Deal and the shift to a climate neutral Europe. European islands are in an eminently favorable position to be trailblazers of the European Green Deal and the green energy transition. There are more than 2,200 inhabited islands in the EU, where 15 million Europeans live. They usually have access to a rich array of renewable energy sources, such as wind, sun, wave and tide. These sources, combined with energy efficiency measures and flexibility solutions, such as demand response and storage, can create decarbonized local energy systems, which can reduce energy costs significantly.

Sifnos aims to to become 100% renewable and self-sufficient. The island already counts numerous wind and solar PV installations. Photo: Demie Hadji.

Despite these clear advantages, we see that many islands still rely on expensive and polluting fossil fuels, in particular diesel and heavy oil generators. In many cases, islands simply lack the resources and expertise to develop and implement their clean energy transition plans. Moreover, the cost of electricity generation on non-connected islands is up to 10x the production cost on the mainland. For example, on some of the smaller and more remote islands of Greece, generation cost can be over €1,000 per MWh, while the average wholesale price in Greece is below €70 per MWh. These additional costs are generally covered by support paid to the generators. In the case of Greece, this amounts to some €500 million in subsidies for diesel fuel per year. When we know that there are solar and storage projects being installed at €125 per MWh on islands now, one can see the enormous potential for cost savings. So achieving the clean energy transition of islands will not only contribute to realizing the objectives of the European Green Deal, but also benefits local populations and island economies in many ways: reducing pollution, improving energy security, and providing jobs and economic opportunities to islanders.

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