To boldly grow renewable energy – using space data & EO

How space data and the Institute for Environmental Analytics’ expertise is helping Small Island Developing States in their journey to renewables


Posted February 6, 2019

By Dr Maria Noguer, Climate Programme Manager, Institute for Environmental Analytics (IEA)

When we first turned up in the Seychelles in 2017 to explain to our in-country partners that a combination of space data and our expertise could help them transition to a low carbon economy, they looked at the sky and then at us with suspicious eyes. Space sounded esoteric but they were intrigued and excited.

UK Space Agency IPP funding

The Institute for Environmental Analytics had just been awarded a grant by the UK Space Agency International Partnership Programme to ‘develop a space-based solution to address a grand challenge in a developing country’. Seychelles, and most Small Island Developing States (SIDS), face significant financial and environmental challenges: high dependency on imported fossil fuel with the associated high cost of energy, and high vulnerability to the impact of climate change – both of these challenges can be helped by implementing renewable energy. That was the grand challenge for our IPP project, RE-SAT: How can space data help SIDS transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy generation?

Sharing success at the Space Applications Networking Event

We had the opportunity to share our story so far at the Space Applications Networking Event (#SANE19) in London on January 30th. This event, organised by the UK Space Agency, brought together for the first time the largest gathering of ‘space scientists’ working on real space applications. Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE opened the conference with her contagious passion for the subject and the audience was soon warmed up and enthused to start sharing, talking and learning. And that we did! We also had the chance to hear about solutions developed by the Space for Smarter Government Programme (SSGP), from electric vehicles charging infrastructure, to tracking transport and monitoring national flood defence, etc. Other IPP projects, like ours, showcased their work and this helped us put our project into context, it gave us new ideas and exposed us to potential new collaborators. Sharing challenges encountered and overcome gave us all refreshed impetus and fulfilled the event’s aims of bringing the downstream space applications community together, exposing us to organisations that offer support and those that want to engage, including funding bodies and application programmes.

Supporting evidence-based renewable energy decisions for policy and planning

The event was structured around six panel sessions and ‘market stalls’ featuring individual projects. As well as featuring in the presentations I was delighted to join the discussion panel. Most of the action seemed to be around the stalls, if the volume of the conversations could be a measure for action! We displayed our IPP project, RE-SAT, and also presented it during the Infrastructure session. RE-SAT is our innovative new energy analytics platform to help policy makers and planners make evidence-based decisions about the deployment of renewable energy, making best use of all available environmental data, Earth Observation and ground weather measurements.

Satellite data enables solutions

It was very clear at the conference that space was a key contributor to development and that all the solutions were enabled by satellite data.

I was able to share a bonus benefit of our RE-SAT programme to our partner countries – when we bring together each island’s stakeholders and different ministers at our initial RE-SAT workshops it is the first time that they have all sat around the same table to talk about energy. New strategic relationships are formed and exciting new conversations open up.

At the forefront of switching to reliable green energy

The ultimate goal of the IPP is to develop solutions that underpin the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and bring economic and social benefits to our international partners. RE-SAT is aiming to do just that – perhaps better to hear it from someone else. Here is what the British High Commissioner to the Seychelles, Her Excellency Caron Rohsler, said at the launch following the successful pilot of RE-SAT: “I am delighted that the UK, through the UK Space Agency grant and the expertise of the Institute for Environmental Analytics, is at the forefront of helping Seychelles to switch to green energy. As we have heard, this is about gathering and correctly analysing the right data to identify the most suitable mix of renewable energy sources – solar, wind and wave – to provide a reliable supply and build the right infrastructure to deliver it.”

Dr Maria Noguer presents RE-SAT
Dr Maria Noguer presents RE-SAT to the Space Applications Networking Event.
RE-SAT renewable energy planning platform
RE-SAT slide presented at Space Applications Networking Event
Dr Maria Noguer at the 2019 Space Applications Networking Event where she presented the IEA's RE-SAT renewable energy planning platform.
Dr Maria Noguer at the 2019 Space Applications Networking Event where she presented the IEA's RE-SAT renewable energy planning platform.
UK Space Agency