Remote Community Renewables - Diesel Offset

  • Hey everyone, trying to get the conversation started around the types of clean energy initiatives that are possible currently.

    Something that is interesting is the idea of "greening" the infrastructure of a remote diesel-dependent community. For reference, here is a link which discusses the many communities in Canada's north that are still highly dependent on high emission diesel generation methods to supply most of their power.

    The gist of it is that there are a lot of remote communities (islands, inaccessible places, etc) around the world that are importing diesel fuel to fuel their lives. It's dirty and - here's the opportunity - expensive. The costs curves of renewables (mostly wind and solar) are coming down fast enough that it is starting to make sense for some places to become self-sufficient in generating and managing their own clean energy systems.

    I've listed some important considerations below. It would be amazing if the community could chime in with thoughts, data, insights on the following:

    • How to structure such projects for financial success?
    • What are the most effective ways to procure and develop the physical assets required for these types of projects?
    • What are best practices for building support necessary to make these projects feasible from a political and regulatory perspective?

    Any comments or contributions you can provide would be amazing.

  • @ericvanular this is a great idea which could work hand in hand with indigenous empowerment efforts! I don't know about the technical or financial aspects but the benefits go beyond just emission reduction

  • @aviary as a follow up, I saw this article today about how certain critical structures (airports in this case) are moving towards creating their own micro grids for energy self sufficiency. The plans are hybrid renewable solutions but the trend towards distributed generation is interesting and telling I think

  • @ericvanular

    Hi Eric, I do this for a living. Not in Canada though. You are right that the economics of renewables in these communities are radically different from major grids.

    The current biggest problem is that the prices of everything is higher in these communities. If we could build solar and wind out there for the prices that we pay in Texas/California, those villages would be at 70% renewables (across all energy consumption (not just electricity)) before I could type another sentence. Renewables do have more favorable economics in the villages, but that still is only enough to push the standard 20-35 percent of fuel usage (electricity only no heating).

    From a political climate standpoint, there is not enough incentive to decarbonize. It makes people feel good, but there is not enough push behind fighting climate change. People want to improve their lives or infrastructure when they do something (I can’t blame them) and so the cost of these projects balloons to unfeasible numbers for dollars per kwh delivered. When a carbon tax goes in, as it increases. Rural villages and camps will be forced to green at a world record pace.

  • @isknapp awesome that you've joined the conversation. Whereabouts are you working on this?

  • @velodrone

    I hope this isn’t paranoid but I would rather keep the public comments on this account general. However if people with specific inquiries are interested in DMing me, I would be glad to help them understand our corner of the microgrid landscape.

  • @isknapp no need to share any details that you're not comfortable with. I think your comment is incredibly intriguing though and would love to learn as much you're willing to share about the challenges associated with renewables in remote areas.

    A few general questions would be:

    • What kinds of groups are financially backing most of the projects you work on? Are they community driven, public, or private endeavours?
    • Am I reading your comment correctly that in order to unlock higher renewables penetration on the local microgrid, a carbon tax is what is required?

  • @isknapp no worries, I just think what you're doing is really cool

  • @ericvanular

    I have not heard of much operation in privately funded microgrids recently. Every instance seems to be primarily government funded (with local purchase agreements and matching funds). Parts of India and Africa would probably be exceptions, but those focus on “electrifying for lights-plus-cell-phone-charging” more often than “decarbonizing a near-developed-world living standard.”

    People are working on financial instruments to ease the introduction of private capital, but private capital (even altruistic or green capital) is very flighty, and when you talk about the specifics of decarbonizing, they inevitably go with someone else. In the end, the market competes hard for private capital, and our projects aren't that sexy.

    Re carbon tax: a carbon tax would likely be devastating to all rural areas across the world, but for locations with strong renewable potential, they have an excellent chance at producing low carbon living at an acceptable price point. The nut to crack would be transport.

  • @isknapp Thanks for sharing. What is driving private capital in India/Africa? Is it just much cheaper to build there? I understand that the infrastructure required for just getting lights and cell charging is much less than a modern microgrid would demand

  • @isknapp you have a really interesting job! What's the most surprising thing that you've learned or experienced in the last year doing what you do?

  • @isknapp Could you please elaborate on the nut to crack being transport? What is it about transport that would open things up? Thanks for sharing your knowledge

  • @Felix-G
    Hey felix,
    What i was referring to is the carbon intensity of rural transportation. When people move individually they consume a lot of energy: car atv, plane. To remove carbon intensity in rural areas, there will have to be electric transportation options. I think an electric atv would have a nice combination of usability and affordability. It would also be possible with today’s technology.

  • @aviary in parts of India and Africa there is no existing electricity infrastructure. So private capital wants to come in and provide a source of economic development. This investment is frequently done with green energy. Because these places don’t have existing fossil fuel generation, they can accept tradeoffs that first world customers never would (outages and generation limits)

  • @isknapp Transportation sounds like a feasible short term focus to start decarbonizing remote populations. I suppose even if the transportation is electrified, a lot of the energy that would provide power would come from diesel generation - still probably less overall emissions than directly from internal combustion.

    What major obstacles exist to electrifying remote transportation options like ATVs currently? Is there a major blocker other than the capital up front?

  • @isknapp Do you have any ideas on what the general population can do to push projects like yours forward? What have you seen in terms of effective action to get remote community decarbonization happening at a faster rate?