Clean Energy Island: Maldives Goes Carbon Neutral

Making an entire country or U.S. state carbon neutral would “rock the world,” at least according to former President Bill Clinton. He suggested that move (along with 10 specific policy points) in a speech at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas last summer. Since then, a string of nations have set ambitious renewable energy and carbon-reduction targets. Many of these countries have at least one thing in common: They’re surrounded by water.

maldivesThe Maldives, which yesterday announced a goal of achieving complete carbon neutrality within a decade, comes as the latest addition to a growing number of islands going all out for clean technology. As Reuters reports, Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed said yesterday that the $1.1 billion plan involves swapping out fossil fuels for 155 1.5-MW wind turbines and a half-square-kilometer solar farm to power the republic’s 200 inhabited islands. For greenhouse gas emissions associated with tourists’ air travel, Nasheed said the government will offset the environmental impact by buying and destroying EU carbon credits.

After the state-owned electric utility becomes privatized, it will open up investment and donation options to help finance the effort. Outside investment will also be needed.

Last month, we wrote about a 70 million euro (about $90 million) smart grid project that IBM has planned for Malta. Big Blue wants to complete the first national smart grid network on the archipelago by 2012, complete with 250,000 smart meters that will enable the national utilities and their customers to better manage energy and water use. IBM also joined a smart grid project in Denmark last month that will start off with test work on a small island before tackling the whole nation.

In the U.S., Hawaii has made a big push for clean energy, aiming 70 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable resources by 2030. Last July, the U.S. Department of Energy and New Zealand launched the International Partnership for Energy Development in Island Nations, which is meant to promote development of energy efficiency and clean energy technologies in island nations and territories.

Many island-state governments have a sense of urgency when it comes to addressing climate change, because island economies and residents will likely suffer some of the earliest, harshest consequences of rising sea levels and increased frequency of severe tropical storms as a result of climate change. They also offer closed systems where companies can gather data on how an entire network or community interacts with their technology, and where fossil-fuel imports are often costly.

Maldives photo credit Flickr user notsogoodphotography

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