The strategies of Puerto Rico and Hawaii: renewables, storage and electrification. In Sardinia, on the other hand, the focus is on methanisation; a choice that hinders the decarbonization of the island and puts at risk costs that would not see returns.
Decarbonization scenarios see challenging paths in different islands of the world. Here, let's focus on some large territories that have initiated interesting strategies.
The rebirth after the tragedy
Puerto Rico, 3,2 million inhabitants, in 2017 was devastated by the violent hurricane, Maria, which destroyed houses, roads, power lines, with a violence that resulted in 2975 deaths. After a year, many families were still without light.
From this disaster came the push to completely review the traditional electricity system and focus on renewables, storage and mini-grids. In 2019, the government has therefore set itself the goal of having a 100% renewable island by 2050.
The electricity operator has therefore prepared a new plan which, however, was deemed not sufficiently advanced by the Regulator. In fact, the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau (Preb) last June called for a decisive acceleration on renewables such as to allow it to go from 2% of production to 40% in 2025.
In particular, it proposed at least 3.500 MW of solar and 1.300 MW of storage systems, called for demand management programs and rejected the proposal for a methane regasification terminal and a gas plant.
Among other things, he stressed that the costs of the "green" solution, $ 13,8 billion, would be lower than those of the conventional scenario.
It should be added that the Regulator also asked to assess the feasibility of offshore wind farms.
The visionary strategy
Another interesting situation concerns islands located in another ocean, the Pacific one. Let's talk about Hawaii, an archipelago with an area of 28.300 km2 and a population, which has doubled in the last 50 years, of 1,4 million inhabitants.
In 2015 the government, after heated discussions lasting years, approved the ambitious goal of achieving the 100% renewable electricity in 2045. The difficulties to overcome were considerable, but a very active and visionary policy accompanied by a strong involvement of the population made it possible to set the process in motion. This year renewables will reach 31% of green production with the prospect of a jump to 50% in 2022.
The rapid growth of renewables has been based on the widespread use of photovoltaic systems on the roof, 80.000, and some large-scale plants. Renewable power is set to grow rapidly. This summer, tenders were awarded to build solar power plants for 460 MW and 3 GWh of storage systems.
But to reach even higher quotas of renewables will also be needed floating offshore wind farms. There are currently three projects on which efforts are focused. Progression South plans to install 400 MW by 2025 on the largest island, Hawaii, while on the island of Oahu where the capital Honolulu is, two projects, each of 400 MW, have been presented.
One of the elements that has facilitated the race towards renewables is the high level of electricity tariffs ($ 0,3 / kWh) due to the large share of electricity generated with petroleum products. Contrary to what happens in our smaller islands, the higher production price in Hawaii is in fact passed on to consumers. The continuing reduction in the price of renewable electricity has also facilitated the penetration of solar and wind power.
The impossibility of interconnections electricity to other states instead represents a highly limiting element (this is instead a significant resource for the island which we will discuss in the next paragraph) which obliges us to seek effective solutions to accumulate energy.
Accelerate the transition or more traditional choices?
And we come to the Sardinia where the debate is very open on the choice between the construction of a backbone for methane or an acceleration of policies and investments consistent with a 100% renewable scenario.
CSR has just made public the results of a study on the period 2020-2040 in which different possible scenarios are compared: from the methanisation of the island to the coverage of final consumption by pushing on electrification.
The report, beyond the economic assessments on the various scenarios analyzed, underlines an obvious fact, namely that "electrification stay the more consistent way with decarbonisation policies over the long term from 2050, together with the development of green hydrogen ”.
Sardinia could in fact become an ideal terrain for implementing the European Green Deal and achieving climate neutrality even before 2050.
It is the road on which the islands we have analyzed are heading. Hawaii, in particular, has an area and a population of similar size to those of Sardinia.
And this evolution could see an acceleration thanks to the intelligent use of the resources of Next Generation US destined for our country.
A rapid spread of the electric mobility among other things, it would also contribute to balancing the electricity grid photovoltaic combined with storage it would become the norm and the energy communities would represent a central and socially significant moment in the growth of renewables.
Of course they will also be needed large plants. Recall that the thermodynamic solar power plants able to guarantee electricity day and night have never been accepted on the island. Solutions like offshore wind they would seem to overcome the landscape objections. This is not the case, if we think of the story of the 504 MW floating wind farm proposed by Ichnusa Wind Power which should be installed 35 kilometers from the south-west coast of Sardinia.
Le reactions In recent weeks, the 42 wind turbines make it clear that many have not in the least understood the acceleration necessary to cope with the climate emergency. Legambiente, Greenpeace, WWF and Kyoto Club have declared themselves in favor of the wind farm, while a strange alliance involving the Sardinia region, some municipalities of Sulcis and Italia Nostra have fired at the initiative for its "environmental impact".
Among other things, Italia Nostra in January co-signed the document "Sardinia Isola Zero CO2". A little consistency, gentlemen.
Returning to the investment for the methanization, it would not only slow down alternative choices, but it is itself at great risk of becoming one in the long run "stranded assets".
Even the hypothesis of Snam to make the Italian network one European hydrogen hub, suggestive but with very strong criticalities, would not apply to Sardinia.
To understand the new context in which we have entered, it is useful to mention the case of several cities in the US that they have I set the option "all electric”For new homes, thus avoiding the connection to methane networks. And two important Californian utilities have called for legislation that extends these obligations to the entire state in order to prevent the construction of gas distribution networks that are already unusable before 2045, the date by which California intends to reach the "carbon neutrality".