Islanders discuss the energy planning process at the Samsø Energy Academy

The Island Institute’s Energy Planning for Island Communities (EPIC) initiative is helping New England island communities plan and implement their transitions to clean energy systems. With some of the highest energy costs in the country and aging infrastructure, many islands are at critical junctures for designing and implementing solutions to their energy challenges. Through EPIC, the Island Institute and its partners are providing technical support and leveraging a host of resources that will empower islands to create and implement their own energy plans and projects. These plans will provide a practical roadmap for implementing projects that will reduce carbon emissions and stabilize energy prices.

Current initiatives

In its pilot phase, EPIC will test various frameworks for community energy planning including the U.S. Department of Energy’s Islands Playbook energy planning platform and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Renewable Energy Optimization (REopt) modeling tools to help communities identify the best energy solutions for their unique challenges. The Island Institute is currently working with the following Maine island communities:

Monhegan

With an aging power generation system and very high energy costs, Monhegan is looking for ways to reduce its dependence on costly imported fuels. While the island is currently taking steps toward integrating renewable energy options, the REopt team is helping the community explore various energy scenarios for the future.

Background documents:

Monhegan Island leaders discuss their energy challenges with state officials during a site visit


Isle au Haut

Isle au Haut faces a significant decision: replace an aging submarine cable or use alternative sources of power to take the island off-grid. Laying a new cable ensures energy security but involves long-term costs to pay off debt associated with the project that could significantly increase electric rates. Centralized solar PV with battery storage and diesel backup would provide reliability in the event of bad weather or malfunction and create equitable benefits for all ratepayers but may also impact rates. REopt is helping Isle au Haut analyze the local potential for innovative and economic smart grid solutions for optimizing the use of excess power from the PV system.

Background documents:

Next Steps

Following the pilot stage, we will seek to expand EPIC to include other communities in Maine and New England through programming to support local capacity building, technical assistance, and project implementation. Possible future participants may include:

  • Matinicus – With electric rates near $0.70/kWh and an old power system plagued by safety, reliability, and efficiency challenges, Matinicus is looking to renewable energy and storage technologies to lower costs and improve performance in its islanded system.
  • Swan’s Island - Looking for ways to stem the tide of increasing electric rates while maintaining safe and reliable service, Swan’s Island is considering whether the local electric cooperative could be acquired by a larger utility on the mainland, possibly resulting in an immediate 50% reduction in electric rates while also considering options for locally owned renewable energy as well.

Adapted from the National Renewable Energy Lab's Community Energy Planning Cycle


Project Partners

The Island Institute is pleased to partner with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s REopt team, supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Transition Initiative, to provide technical assistance to the islands through EPIC. EPIC is led by the Island Institute with support from the Islanded Grid Resource Center.