Feature Reports

Energy on Islands: Three Case Studies

Reunion Island sight of the sky
Reunion Island sight of the sky ©SHUTTERSTOCK

Islands, whose size can range from a few square kilometers to the equivalent of a whole country, have certain features in common. Their fossil fuel resources are often meager, forcing them to rely on expensive fuel imports. Their electricity needs are generally increasing due to higher standards of living and, in certain cases, growing populations. And their tourism levels are often booming, which is clearly beneficial for the economy but requires a lot of energy. This feature report studies three clearly distinct cases :

  • The island of Samsø in Denmark, which has set out to become a laboratory of ideas and new behaviors.
  • Réunion Island, which has set itself the goal of increased energy independence.
  • Madagascar, the “Big Island”, which is highly sensitive to the effects of global warming.


The small Danish island of Samsø which is comparable in size to Belle-Île in France, wants to become a template for the energy transition in Europe. The island does not test cutting-edge technologies, but rather validates green energyPrimary energy is described as "green" or "clean" when only small amounts of pollutants are generated during its conversion... methods, a job facilitated by its small size and strong community support.

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La Réunion

One of the five French overseas regions1, Réunion Island is located on the Indian Ocean cyclone path and has a tropical climate. The volcanic island, which is three times smaller than Corsica, is home to one of the world’s most active volcanoes: the Piton de la Fournaise (Peak of the Furnace). Economic activity is concentrated along the coasts, where the cities of Saint-Denis, the capital, and Saint-Pierre are located. Due to the high birth rate, the island’s population rose from 600,000 in 1990 to 850,000 in 2015. This growth, along with significant tourism development, has caused energy consumption to increase by 40% since 2000.


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Madagascar, the fifth-largest island in the world,1 is located in the Indian Ocean a few hundred kilometers off the coast of Africa. Measuring more than 1,500 kilometers from north to south, it has a greater surface area than France and Belgium combined. In 2017, the country had a population of 25 million, growing by 2.7% per year (versus a global average of 1.2%).

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