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Why is an Island Electric Utility Hindering Incredibly Cost-Effective Solar?

| Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on May 23, 2014 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

The Northern Mariana Islands are one of several island U.S. territories, lying three-quarters of the way from Hawai’i to the Philippines. Like most islands, their electricity supply has been almost entirely supplied by diesel-fueled generators, at enormous cost.

So why have islanders in the Marianas – such as the residents of Saipan – been struggling to install solar and other renewable power?

The utility, Commonwealth Utilities Corporation, has raised the same objections of mainland utilities, that technical barriers inhibit the reasonable uptake of variable renewable energy. But the cooperative utility serving Kaua’i island in Hawai’i is forecasting that 50% of its daytime electric demand will be met with solar by the end of next year. And California utilities are finding solutions to many of the purported technical barriers.

The economics are ironclad: switching from imported diesel to domestic clean energy would save a bundle.  The following presentation explains.

For more on the Saipan island electricity system, see these resources:

Photo credit: Shell Vacations Hospitality

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About John Farrell

John Farrell directs the Energy Democracy initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and he develops tools that allow communities to take charge of their energy future, and pursue the maximum economic benefits of the transition to 100% renewable power. More

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