Biodiesel Energy in Small Island Developing States: Addressing Challenges to Development
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Petroleum-based fuel dominates the global energy system despite the fact that this resource is diminishing. Additionally, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) face a number of challenges to development such as resource scarcity, locational isolation, and uneven development. These challenges make it difficult for these nations to compete in the global market for fuel. Incidentally, biodiesel, made from waste cooking oil, can be used in automotive diesel engines or diesel generators for electricity. Currently, these two areas: development in SIDS and biodiesel, are separate topics in the literature and a relationship between the two has yet to be developed. This research will describe how a biodiesel-based energy system can address some of the challenges to development faced by SIDS. One such system in Barbados is used as a case study. Informal interviews and participant observation reveal the benefits and challenges of setting up and maintaining a biodiesel energy system. Also, the potential to scale-up the biodiesel energy system to the national level is assessed. An evaluation framework, derived from the literature, is used to rate the success factors of the existing biodiesel operation and as well as the steps required for scaling up. The results of this study prove the numerous and interconnecting benefits of a biodiesel-based energy system. Biodiesel produced on the island using locally-generated waste cooking oil creates a new local resource, addressing the challenge of resource scarcity, and reduces the demand for imported petroleum-based diesel. The biodiesel system addresses the issue of uneven development by connecting different communities across the island through public participation. However, funding difficulties in the biodiesel operation arose after a change of ownership. This made obtaining methanol, an ingredient in biodiesel production, problematic and ultimately halted production. Based on the findings, it is recommended that community biodiesel-based energy systems include the use of a locally-produced alcohol as a substitute for methanol. Also, operations should be scale-up through decentralization in order to keep equipment costs down and better address the challenge of uneven development faced by SIDS. With proper management and sufficient funding and community support, a biodiesel-based energy system is able to contribute to sustainable development in light of the unique situation present in SIDS.