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Citation Information

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Master of Arts in Island Studies
Title Evaluating renewable energy options for small islands using emergy methodology
Author(s)
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2014
URL http://www.islandscholar.ca/download_ds/ir:9430/OBJ/ir_9430.pdf
Abstract
The Pacific Island Countries including the Fiji Islands are heavily dependent on imported petroleum fuels
for their energy needs. This is a major cause of environmental vulnerability as well as economic
vulnerability due to high and volatile crude oil prices. A combination of Demand Side Management
(DSM) to reduce energy consumption and optimize usage, and Renewable Energy Technologies (RET) to
substitute fossil fuels can reduce their vulnerability. DSM consists of Smart Grids, Energy Efficiency and
Storage, while RETs substitute fossil fuels by harnessing solar, wind, small hydro, biomass, geothermal
and ocean energies. Comparative costs of electricity from RETs show that most of them are cheaper
than the typical price of electricity in Pacific island countries.
Nearly half of Fiji’s electricity is generated using petroleum fuels that can be substituted by biodiesel
produced from locally grown coconuts. To evaluate the sustainability of coconut biodiesel, two different
Environmental Accounting methods have been used: i) Emergy Analysis, and ii) Embodied Energy
Analysis. Emergy Analysis is a holistic methodology that integrates all major inputs from the human
economy and those coming ‘free’ from the environment, to evaluate complex systems. Emergy
Performance Indicators for coconut biodiesel are: i) Emergy Yield Ratio is 1.32 indicating a low ability to
exploit local resources efficiently; ii) Environmental Loading Ratio is 8.57 implying that biodiesel
production causes significant environmental or ecosystem stress; and iii) Emergy Index of Sustainability
is 0.15 indicating a low contribution to the economy per unit of environmental loading and a very high
degree of environmental stress per unit of Emergy yield. Embodied Energy Analysis is a complimentary
methodology that accounts for only the commercial energy (in kgs oil equivalent) required directly or
indirectly to provide all the inputs (goods and services) for the entire biodiesel production process.
Embodied Energy Performance Indicators are: i) Energy Return on Energy Invested is 2.47 which means
that it is not worth the effort in energetic terms; and ii) Carbon dioxide Emissions during the production
of coconut biodiesel is 1.38 kg CO2 per kg biodiesel showing that biodiesel is not climate neutral.
This thesis adds to the growing body of knowledge that uses Emergy Analysis to evaluate sustainability
of biofuels and other renewable energy options in a holistic manner. This is the first time in reported
literature that Emergy Analysis has been used to determine the sustainability of coconut biodiesel. The
Emergy and Embodied Energy performance indicators clearly show that coconut biodiesel is not a
sustainable alternate source of energy for the Fiji Islands.

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