Cyprus, like many island nations, faces serious energy challenges as it grapples with an isolated grid, a costly dependency on fossil fuel imports and some of the highest electricity prices in Europe.
The countrys energy needs, its growing embrace of renewable energy and the similar challenges faced by other island countries with booming tourism industries were at the focus of the two-day Renewable Energy Applications for Island Tourism conference organized by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Cypriot government.
Founded in Bonn, Germany, in 2009, and now headquartered in Abu Dhabi, IRENA has made renewable energy on islands a global topic through its Global Renewable Energy Islands Network (GREIN), providing a platform for island nations burdened by high costs for imported energy to exchange knowledge and sustainable energy solutions.
As part of the network, Cyprus is working with GREIN to redevelop its national renewable energy roadmap in an effort to meet or exceed its 2020 renewable energy targets.
In his opening speech on Thursday, IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin said renewable energy was "no longer a niche industry but a significant global player. Innovation has led to steep price reductions and most renewable energy technologies are now cost competitive, or even the cheapest option in many countries.
"Take solar PV for instance, where we have seen a drop in module prices of up to 70% in the last four years. We have also seen costs for wind turbines drop significantly, today producing electricity at 4-5 cents per kilowatt-hour in many places. Solar and wind energy are cost competitive, if not the cheapest source of electricity, in an increasing number of locations, including islands. In 2013, we witnessed another increase in the rate of growth for installed renewable capacity a signal that renewables are increasingly more affordable. Looking at the current trends, this is set to continue."
Making the case for renewable energy on islands, Amin said electricity tariffs could be steep and highly volatile: "Power is usually supplied from generators running on imported diesel fuel at a cost of at least 35 U.S. cents per kilowatt hour. Hotels and resorts depend either on utility power or onsite diesel generators for air conditioning, water heating, lighting and other services to create an attractive destination. Remote resorts running on small scale diesel generators, with very difficult fuel delivery, can experience a generation cost above 1 U.S. dollar per kilowatt-hour."
?Also addressing the conference, Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, the Cypriot minister of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism, stressed Cyprus’ achievements in renewable energy over the past 50 years while adding that Cyprus continued to work on the acceleration and deployment of renewable energy installations with the aim of increasing its renewables contribution to the country’s energy consumption and consequently achieve or exceed its binding 2020 targets.
Cyprus’ 2020 target calls for a 13% renewable energy sources contribution to its gross final energy consumption. With a current renewables share of about 9% (160 MW), the country is well on its way to achieving the goal, Lakkotrypis said.
The energy minister praised the country’s muscular solar thermal industry, which was established in the early 1960s and, with some 44 small and medium-sized companies, has become a leader in the Mediterranean region.
"Currently, more than 93% of households and 52% of hotels are equipped with solar water heating systems," Lakkotrypis said, pointing out that the country led the world in installed solar collectors per capita.
Photovoltaics and its role in Cyprus was the focus of one of a number of panel discussions and presentations on renewable energy applications for island nations and their hotel industries.
Cyprus is aiming for a solar energy share, including both photovoltaics and concentrated solar power, of 7.2% by 2020. The government launched a solar auction process for 50 MW of PV last year and selected 24 projects, most in the 1 to 2 MW range. In addition, the Cyprus Energy Regulatory Authority (CERA) has also authorized the large-scale of net-metering for buildings.
pv magazine will examine some of the presentations offered by participants at the IRENA conference in the coming days.