What Guadeloupe Teaches Us About Energy Transition in Isolated Systems

Binding EU regulations do not only require the French government to find solutions for continental France – but for overseas territories too. Denominated as ZNIs (insular zones non-interconnected to a continental grid), the goals of Guadeloupe, a French DOM, are to achieve 50% of renewable energy by 2020 and 100% by 2030. And by definition, the ZNIs can only consume the energy they produce themselves.

Solar and wind energy seem attractive, but don’t function well for ZNIs. These isolated systems would be extremely vulnerable to the sporadic availability of resources needed for these types of electricity: the variations between supply and demand would quickly drive prices up and damage the economy if used immediately. We would need to invest in storage facilities to counter this effect.

In Guadeloupe, biomass is the answer to replace their largely fossil fuel-driven electric production. It was calculated that consuming bagasse, a sugar cane residue, instead of coal would decrease the greenhouse gas emissions of one of the island’s main coal plants by 87%. Biomass would also be burned in the same thermal plants used for fossil fuels – which were, additionally, recently renovated. This means no additional taxes to pay for new facilities.

However, this technique also entails geographic obstacles: replacing only a quarter of Guadeloupe’s current fossil electric consumption with biomass would overrun at least 33% of the total agricultural area of the island. This calls for a combination of locally-grown biomass and crop imports to reach renewable goals. These crops need to be affordable – and preferably make their way to Guadeloupe with low carbon impact.

In sum, Guadeloupe’s energy transition not only demonstrates the need for a plurality of renewable energies, but also that local systems cannot always be self-sufficient. The specificity of Guadeloupe shows the way to address isolated systems as a whole – starting local but keeping the bigger picture in mind. Governance at different scales is key.

Chloé Joubert

Chary, Killian, Joël Aubin, Loïc Guindé, Jorge Sierra, and Jean-Marc Blazy. “Cultivating Biomass Locally or Importing It? LCA of Biomass Provision Scenarios for Cleaner Electricity Production in a Small Tropical Island.” Biomass and Bioenergy 110 (March 2018): 1-12. https://archimer.ifremer.fr/doc/00427/53878/55107.pdf.

“Une Centrale à Charbon Va Se Convertir à La Biomasse En Guadeloupe.” Le Monde De L’Energie. November 15, 2018. Accessed April 07, 2019. https://www.lemondedelenergie.com/centrale-charbon-biomasse-guadeloupe/2018/11/15/.

“Biomasse: Enjeux Et Stratégie Régionale – Biomasse/Biogaz.” Guadeloupe Energie. Accessed April 07, 2019. https://www.guadeloupe-energie.gp/energies-renouvelables/biomasse/3-quelles-opportunites-pour-la-guadeloupe/.

Bernard Mahiou (2013). Gérer les énergies intermittentes pour la production d’électricité dans des îles. Responsabilité & Environnement, (69), 60-71,134,137,140,143. Retrieved from https://acces–distant-sciences–po-fr-s.acces-distant.sciences-po.fr/http/search.proquest.com/polcoll/index /docview/1330855275?accountid=13739

France. Ministère De L’agriculture, De L’agroalimentaire Et De La Forêt. Conseil Général De L’alimentation, De L’agriculture Et Des Espaces Ruraux. Valorisation De La Biomasse En Guadeloupe. By Jean-Yves Grosclaude. 2015. agriculture.gouv.fr/telecharger/75711

“Transition énergétique Dans Les ZNI.” CRE. Accessed April 07, 2019. https://www.cre.fr/Transition-energetique-et-innovation-technologique/Soutien-a-la-production/Transition-energetique-dans-les-ZNI.

Photo by robin inizan on Unsplash




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