Inspiring Solar Energy Leadership in Small Islands

28 January 2019 – Achieving universal access to modern energy services is truly transformational; lighting for schools, functioning healthcare clinics, pumps for water and sanitation, cleaner indoor air and more. And this is certainly the case for small island developing States (SIDS).  However, while many SIDS have high rates of access to electricity, on the other hand they have tended to lag behind global renewable energy installation despite the falling costs of solar and wind power.

One organization which has set out to boost solar energy in SIDS is the non-profit Solar Head of State (SHOS).  Established in 2010 and based in Oakland, California, SHOS is at the forefront of bringing together green leaders to expand  utility-scale photovoltaic systems and projects including on small islands. The organization supports global leaders advocating solar energy and setting an example for mass adoption of innovative solutions for renewable energy. They work with governments and offer to install solar photovoltaic systems on landmark buildings, leveraging the experience to create both visibility and lasting social impact. 

The non-profit’s work was inspired by a 1979 campaign by US president Jimmy Carter who had solar water heaters installed on the White House to conserve energy and set an example for the public in the middle of an energy crisis. In 2010, the President of the Maldives followed the example and in partnership with Sungevity installed solar panels on the Maldivian Presidential Palace. The prominent vision for implementing renewable energy was an impetus for the formation of SHOS by building an association of green energy pioneers worldwide. 

To date, the Governments of Maldives, Jamaica and Saint Lucia have partnered with the Solar Head of State to install solar photovoltaic (PV) panel systems on their landmark executive residences: the Muliaage- the Official Presidential Residence of the Maldives, the national executive office- Jamaica House and the Government House of the Governor-General of Saint Lucia.  While island nations are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and contribute less than 1 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, these projects and the leadership they demonstrate are reminders that island nations are also leading in finding sustainable solutions. 

Small islands have also committed to ambitious plans to decarbonize their energy sectors and boost their uptake of renewable energy.  The Maldives for instance is aiming to be 100% carbon neutral by 2020. Jamaica is a climate leader among the Caribbean island states – the solar installation project is a shining reflection of the government’s commitment to using renewable energy and a manifestation of the significance of solar energy. Saint Lucia was among a group of 15 climate vulnerable countries, which together became the first nations to ratify the Paris Agreement in 2016. By leading on renewable energy, the island nations are showing a strong commitment to increase their resilience and showcasing the deployment of solutions for sustainable energy for larger nations to follow.

Featured Photo: Solar Head of State Facebook Page
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