Islands and remote coastal areas are often subjected to the misconception that they require scaled-down continental solutions. Nonetheless, these areas face a different reality than their continental counterparts and, therefore, may require localised solutions. The livelihoods of their inhabitants depend on the use of limited natural resources and much trade with the mainland, albeit through small and sometimes intermittently available channels of exchange and transport. Common economic activities in islands and remote coastal areas include fisheries, tourism, and maritime transport. Some islands and remote coastal areas perform small manufacturing activities, mostly to meet local needs. Furthermore, some islands, particularly those considered small developing states (SIDS), face several development challenges due to the size of their economies and their remote and small nature: poor access to clean and affordable energy and water, exposure and vulnerability to natural disasters, among others.
Islands and remote coastal areas face energy challenges that require attention. These regions tend to meet their energy needs through exchanges with mainland via submarine cables or their own fossil fuel-based generation facilities. Both alternatives pose problems that include vulnerability to the volatility of fuel prices, high carbon footprint, low fuel mix diversity and risks of disruptions in supply. Moreover, these regions are increasingly vulnerable to climate change and sea-level rise, which amplifies the challenges that they already face. Resilience and mitigation as well as sustainability are key concerns in islands and remote coastal areas.
Low-carbon economies and clean energy technologies pose a relevant opportunity for these regions to address some of their concerns and challenges. Particularly, these regions are looking at seizing their renewable energy potential to face the challenges of the energy trilemma: security of supply, environmental sustainability, and energy affordability. Ocean energy technologies can be an appealing option for these energy markets, offering advantages compared to other renewable energy technologies such as low visual and environmental impacts and predictability. Furthermore, islands and remote coastal areas tend to coincide with good resource potential for some of these technologies and, due to the high costs of incumbent energy technologies, ocean energy could face fewer difficulties to compete with more mature technologies in these markets.
Potential challenges to the adoption of ocean energy technologies in these markets have been identified and include: socio-environmental issues such as misinformation and social acceptance, regulatory and political barriers due to the relatively nascent nature of the ocean energy sector where support mechanisms are missing, infrastructure (both hard and soft) not in place in these isolated regions, and a lack of financial incentives to aid the economic feasibility of the technologies. To overcome some of these challenges, this report discusses opportunities to enable the integration of ocean energy technologies into the energy systems in islands and remote coastal areas and create synergies between the economic and energy sectors.