Rising energy prices, climate change, geopolitical instability. Energy autonomy, from production to consumption, more than an ideal, becomes an emergency. Corsica has its part to play in creating a new model
“L‘energy is our future, let’s save it!’ The message has haunted every advertisement for energy goods and services since March 2007, when it became a legal requirement. Fifteen years later, the recommendation message sounds like a warning. The climate context and the massive surge in energy prices, a consequence of the fighting in Ukraine and the global economic recovery following the health crisis-imposed shutdown, sound like the death knell for a way of thinking about energy. .
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Gone are the Christmas lights that shine all night long, no more cozy houses where residents walk around naked in the middle of winter, goodbye to those long hot showers after a hard day. Hello energy sobriety. If “The best energy is the one that is not useds”, which Emmanuel Macron launched last September, it must be admitted that our society is dependent on energy consumption.
But more than its consumption, it is a whole process that is being questioned. From production to distribution to the end user. All the political, academic and business actors present at the University of Corsica on November 10 agree with the observation: the change is significant. But how do you implement it on the island? Can it move towards energy autonomy and define the model of tomorrow?
complexity of the island
Introducing this exchange day at the University of Corsica, organized by the Chair of Mutations and Territorial Innovations, the President of the Agency for Sustainable Development, Urbanism and Energy of Corsica (AUE), Julien Paolini, draws a parallel with the 1973 oil shock, “en hoping that the climate and energy crisis will have the same electric shock effect and accelerate the adoption of new practicess”.
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Due to its island location, Corsica faces several challenges. “Like all islands, it differs energetically from continental territories. Firstly, because it is not connected to a larger distribution network. These are referred to as non-interconnected zones (ZNI).“, explains the lecturer at the University of Corsica, Gilles Notton. This makes the production of energy in Corsica much more expensive. “The average cost of MWh produced in 2022 is 257 euros. There are far fewer on the continent“, the specialist points out the energy problem of the islands.
A difference explained by the island’s means of production, which make up the energy mix. “The carbon footprint of energy production is seven to fifteen times higher than on the continentsays Gilles Notton.
The dominance of the use of fossil fuels is questioned. “Local renewable energy (ENR) accounts for 14% of what is produced on the island in 2020“, explains Judicaël Ambach-Albertini, head of the AUE’s climate-air-energy department.
water resources, sunshine, wind and much more. However, Corsica has great potential for renewable energy “but some, like wood, are not always used enough“, Julien Paolini slips. For Gilles Notton it is rather “her interruption“, which poses a problem. How to ensure that nature has enough forbearance for sufficient energy production, especially electricity? The remoteness experienced as a brake could well be a boost.
South of Ajaccio, the science stations Myrte and Paglia Orba have been dealing with the question of using renewable energies and using them to harness other energy sources such as hydrogen for several years.
The island with its limitations acts as a laboratory to create the model of tomorrow. And it does so in partnership with other islands like Tilos in Greece, where energy autonomy has been achieved thanks in large part to renewable energy. But that’s only part of the solution, according to Gilles Notton.
Because in addition to production and consumption, the energy problem also arises at the level of distribution. “Because production is centralized, large power lines are required for distribution. The future lies more in decentralization, with smaller production units spread across territories to have weaker power networks‘ explains the scientist.
Developing smarter grids, using predictive models to predict energy production, increasing the share of renewable energy in the energy mix, decentralizing production units, developing storage. Technological developments suggest the creation of a cleaner and more profitable model.
On the other hand, society as a whole has to take the train of change because “Attaching photovoltaic panels to buildings that are energy sieves makes no sense“, caricature Judicaël Ambach-Albertini.