The importance of renewable energy for water distribution in Small Island Developing States

Norma Cherry-Fevrier, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission

Renewable energy and energy efficiency are becoming increasingly attractive to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) as part of strategies aimed at building resilience to climate change, reducing energy costs and ultimately becoming more energy secure. As populations increase, water demand also increases, placing additional pressure on governments and state-owned water providers to source water for various uses. Water and energy, as we know, are intricately linked – water is used to generate energy and energy is used to provide water. In efforts to increase energy security and become more energy efficient, water distribution in SIDS should seriously pursue the incorporation of renewable energy components to water distribution.

 

Current situation

In many SIDS the distribution and provision of water come with high costs. In Caribbean SIDS for example, the mountainous terrains require significant pumping in order to transport water from source to the taps of consumers. Significant amounts of pumping in such cases equates to very high electricity costs for water companies which are in almost all cases owned by the Government. In addition, heavy reliance on fossils fuels - due to the fact that most power companies do not yet allow for widespread use of renewable energy - is a major setback. As a result, electricity costs due to pumping do not allow water companies the flexibility to improve their services by investing in new and more efficient technologies such as geographic information systems (GIS) that can assist with challenges such as reducing non-revenue water, thus leading to improvements in the overall management of physical water infrastructure as part of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) Strategies.

Importance of renewable energy for water distribution

Given the current situation - where the majority of state owned water companies in SIDS are heavily reliant on electricity generated by fossil fuels to pump water - a major shift is required. As part of overall climate resilient and low carbon strategies, governments must integrate water distribution with renewable energy components, such as solar or wind energy, for pumping. Existing dams, water catchment and distribution facilities must include renewable energy components to reduce the exorbitant costs normally associated with pumping. Furthermore, any Small Island Developing State that is aiming to build resilience and adapt to climate change should pursue such a strategy. Therefore, as part of their low carbon policies and strategies, SIDS, wherever feasible, should aim to include renewable energy for water distribution both for large-scale water distribution at the national level and for small scale facilities at the community level.

Low electricity bills for state owned water companies can translate into significantly improved water services through investments in new and more efficient technologies for water management and the availability of financing to pursue broader macroeconomic goals. Such goals include achieving economic growth, reducing unemployment and tackling overall poverty reduction, which are important in building resilience and adapting to climate change.

COP 21 must ensure financing support for SIDS

This week the world is meeting in Paris to hopefully agree to a robust and legally binding agreement to reduce emissions and tackle climate change. SIDS who are minimal emitters of greenhouse gases are the ones who feel the brunt of the impacts. Given some of the storms that we have seen in 2015 such as Tropical Strom Erika and how it ravaged Dominica, it is evident that storms are becoming more intense and more devastating to SIDS, causing them to lose gains made in their development over several decades.

SIDS therefore need support to assist them in the area of renewable energy for water distribution that has the potential to enable state owned water companies to reduce their reliance on electricity generated from fossil fuels and high electricity bills. Developed countries need strong commitments on finance and other means of support, as well as ease of access to finance through mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to enable them to engage in renewable energy technologies that improve water services and efficiency. Furthermore, engaging in renewable energy for water distribution can also place SIDS on a low carbon pathway that leads to more climate resilient development.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Norma Cherry-Fevrier is a Programme Officer at the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission. She is trained in Economics, Natural Resource and Environmental Management and is Project Management Professional (PMP) Certified. She can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .