Islands in the Sun

Cape Verde and Aruba are island nations well on their way to total reliance on clean, renewable energy for their electricity generation needs.

Are they harbingers of a transition to take place in mainland nations, which by virtue of size alone make such a shift from fossil fuels a more complicated proposition?

If trends are any indication, the islands ambitious transformation foreshadows similar moves in many other parts of the world. Indeed, commitments to derive 100 percent from wind, solar, hydro, and other renewable sources are edging toward our shores slowly but surely. Our own island state of Hawaii is seeking to take advantage of its maritime location and exposure to the elements to emulate its smaller cousins. The goal is 100 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2045. [That still leaves the formidable challenge of phasing out fossil fuel consumption in transportation as a result of the internal combustion engine.]

One hundred percent targets have also started to take root in scattered locations on the United States mainland. San Diego, Salt Lake City, and Aspen, Colorado, are among the few cities that have so far officially committed to that ambitious objective.

Nor has the energy transition been overlooked on a national level. A resolution has been introduced in Congress calling for a one hundred percent American renewable dependency by the year 2050. Environmental groups recently sponsored a week to promote the establishment of a 100 percent national renewable energy system, also by 2050.

A pipe dream? Several well documented studies make the case for reaching that goal in the United States 20 years earlier. Recent technological advances, falling prices, and extensive job creation make attainment of the 2030 goal all the more plausible.

Meanwhile, Cape Verde off the coast of West Africa is exploiting its location by adding tidal-generated energy to its current 35 percent renewable mix. The initial target is 50 percent renewable energy dependency in nine of its 10 islands and 100 percent on the remaining one by 2020.

Caribbean-situated Aruba is even more ambitious, with a 100 percent target by 2020. Accordingly, it is reducing import duties on wind turbines and solar panels.

In our country, there is still some residual unwarranted skepticism regarding the feasibility of a wholesale transition to renewable energy, even as the technology gathers momentum in China, Europe, and many other places abroad.

That is all the more reason not to lag in making the changeover lest our nation end up a disadvantaged backwater island in a sea of international energy progress.