The islands in the first lines in the fight against global warming, the case of the Canary Islands

Canarias Solar

The islands are directly affected by global warming: rising water levels, loss of territory, violent hurricanes ... They are therefore clearly in favor of measures limiting the use of fossil fuels. Moreover, importing fossil fuels to meet their energy needs is costly and can sometimes lead to supply problems. The islands represented by several institutionsthus clearly position themselves in favor of renewable energies and an energy transition.This first article of the series on islands, we will look particularly here the case of the archipelago of the Canaries, an autonomous province of Spain in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa.

Geographic location

The Canary Islands are located off the Western Sahara in Africa and consist of seven main islands: El Hierro, La Palma, La Gomera, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. The two most populated islands, where most civilian structures are found, are Gran Canaria and Tenerife.



The island's GDP is about 42 million euros and tourism accounts for 30% of GDP. 

So there are a lot of hotels and tourist complexes, which use heat for their laundry system, kitchen, hot water for sanitary facilities... There is also a refinery on the island of Tenerife, the Refinery of Petróleo in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, which is one of the oldest and most important in Spain. As far as agriculture is concerned: mainly bananas are grown as well as pineapple. The majority of the production is exported to Spain.The Canaries also produce and export a lot of tobacco. Especially in the islands of La Palma, Tenerife and Gran Canaria.

The energy context and environmental measures

Given its insular situation, much effort is being made to promote renewable energies. The islands are isolated from each other and due to the volcanic origin of the islands, networks of electricity are difficult to connect between the islands of the archipelago. The majority of energy is currently produced through the combustion of fuel oil and natural gas. The price of natural gas was 0.0685 euro per kWh in 2005. 

There are several agencies and organizations that are very active on the environmental level: the Tenerife Energy Agency, the Renewable Energy Technology Institute, the Canary Islands Technology Institute and the Sureste community, which is a member of the IECLI. Moreover, Spanish legislation is favorable to solar thermal and to the Canary Islands between 40 and 70% of the hot water of the new constructions must come from solar depending on the climatic zone.

Examples of environmental projects and the solar thermal issue:

One of the smallest islands of the Archipelago, El Hierro has developed an interesting project. In June 2014 this isolated small island of the continent inaugurated a hybrid wind and hydroelectric power station. Wind turbines have been installed as well as a retention basin at the top of the mountain and one at the bottom. When the wind stops, hydroelectricity takes over. The objective is to provide 100% renewable electricity to the 7500 inhabitants of the island. For the time being, the project provides 50%. It has attracted the attention of many other islands. Delegations from Japan, Seychelles, Indonesia and the Caribbean Islands visited the site.

A study by the German Aerospace Agency predicts that the Canary Islands could be fully fueled with renewable energy by 2050 if decision makers opt for a renewable energy transition. 80% of the island's needs could be met by solar thermal, photovoltaic and wind energy. So when is a solar thermal project for the tobacco industry, for laundry systems, electricity project, and for solar desalination will be set on this island?

For more informations:

Please contact Joséanne Joseanne, Business Development Director at Rackam: