Climate change is a major driver of global energy innovation, says Clinton Foundation climate initiative senior regional manager Fiona Wilson.
Speaking at the Africa Energy Indaba, in Johannesburg, on Wednesday, she said climate change has not just become an environmental concern, but also an economic imperative globally.
“This is most evident in island nations. Although they are relatively small and have a low carbon footprint, their experiences with climate change have significant implications on a global level,” she said.
She noted that island countries have demonstrated themselves as leaders in climate change action, not only in terms of mitigating climate change but also in becoming resilient to it.
Wilson pointed out that island nations were among the most vulnerable geographies to climate change, especially taking rising sea levels and extreme weather events into account.
“Small island nations have stepped forward as a community globally. They were a key negotiating group in the lead up to Conference of the Parties 21 and the Paris Agreement, and they are a real political driving force in ensuring that the Paris Agreement addresses some of the most vulnerable countries,” she said.
She added that they also had some of the best renewable-energy resources in the world.
Historically, they have relied on expensive, imported diesel fuel, which has made them vulnerable to geopolitical influences, Wilson said.
“We view those island States not only as leaders but also as a microcosm for challenges that larger economies are eventually going to have to tackle,” she noted.
She explained that growth in renewables in island nations have been expedited, mostly owing to the large price difference between solar photovoltaic (PV) energy and diesel, driven by the sharp drop in the cost of PV and battery storage.
“This has prompted utilities to invest in battery storage and PV systems,” she said.
Wilson pointed out that many countries, and especially island nations, have started to highlight resiliency as a key factor in energy planning.
“This past year in the Caribbean, there have been horrible climate events, causing devastation. Those countries, as well as island nations in the Indian Ocean in Africa, have decided to make energy systems not just more cost-effective, but [also] more resilient,” she said.
She added that this has led to many technological advances related to the way energy control systems are built, especially to weather disastrous climatic events.
“That’s what we will be seeing going forward on the African continent in the next five to ten years – resilient, renewable systems,” Wilson stated.