Aim no1: Cover the needs for electricity and water through local production
The island uses almost exclusively petrol to produce the electricity needed for light, heating, cooking and to make the water drinkable. On the island, the journeys are made on foot, and in order to reach the continent, ferries also exclusively use petrol. This system is entirely dependent on the national solidarity fund, and is not only a financial pit, but is also profoundly harmful to the environment. It moreover does not contribute in the slightest to the economic activity of the territory, making it a system that is neither sustainable nor lasting. However, all the resources are available on the island, be it the ocean and its waves and tide; the generous wind; a summer sun more present than on the continent…As well as a population who is aware of the issue, who is determined, committed and united. By using the tried and tested existing technologies intelligently, the objective is perfectly realistic from a technical point of view as well as from an economic point of view.
Aim no2: Implement a real territorial project that supports the local economy
The fact that the population is working together to set up a local company in order to implement such a large, innovating and ambitious project will galvanise the entirety of the territory and its actors, and will inevitably create momentum. Moreover, this energy transition will automatically involve the creation of jobs that cannot be outsourced: home insulation specialists, technicians for the regulation of the system, researchers for the implementation of prototypes (such as water turbines), service agents, etc. Numerous studies have shown that the transition from fossil energy to renewable energy leads to the direct creation of numerous jobs (Négawatt). Indirectly, the project may also lead to the development of new activities linked to the island. Indeed, the development of an activity that would use the low-priced electricity available during periods of overproduction is now conceivable. It would also be possible to develop a touristic activity linked to energies with events such as research seminars being organised. Eventually, it may also become possible to lead projects pertaining to electricity-powered boats.
Aim no3: Optimise the use of the national solidarity fund
On the island, the cost price of electricity is set at around 40 cent/kWh, whereas the selling price for customers on the island is set at around 5 cent, and is the same as for all French customers benefiting from the regulated rate (cost of production, excluding taxes and network costs). This is possible with the help of the national solidarity fund CSPE (contribution au service public de l’électricité), which is funded by all French electricity consumers. The fund helps finance the difference between the production cost and the selling price, and represents – for Sein – a yearly amount superior to €400,000. This amount is currently transferred to EDF, and is used to buy petrol. For the entirety of the islands that are not connected to the metropolitan grid, it is estimated that the total of the solidarity fund evolved from €0.3 billions in 2003 to €2 billions in 2014. The project led by IDSE would therefore allow for a significant reduction of this tax while also allowing for an important decrease in the import of petrol and the emission of greenhouse gas.
Moreover, a better use of the fund will promote the economic activity of the island through an endogenous development. This will create a virtuous circle and transform an economic disadvantage into an advantage!
Aim no4: Turn the island into a land of innovation and experimentation
The technical difficulties encountered by the island, which is electrically cut off from the continent (no electric cables pass between the island and the continent), will become an advantage for the conduct of experiments and to innovate. Indeed, as the island is not connected, there will be no risk that the national network could be disrupted, and it will also allow for a precise and rapid analysis of the steps taken. Moreover, the inhabitants of the island have always been very aware of environmental issues and are very economical in terms of water consumption and waste production. During peak consumption in winter, they are also used to rapidly reduce their consumption if needed. Moreover, an improvement of the electrical services is expected, as the electric generators are unreliable, the network is in need of repairs and the quality of the electricity provided can be poor. As the island is a small territory where inhabitants (permanent or holiday-makers) all know each other, it is the ideal setting to launch innovations in the field of energy, and notably in terms of smart grid demand management.
Aim no5: Build a collaborative project that respects the values and the heritage of the island
Should a boat be in distress in the tidal water of the Raz de Sein, the SNSM lifeboat and its crew of Sein inhabitants will go out in the harshest of weather to rescue the boat’s crew. It is often reminded that a seaman should help whoever is in distress, regardless of the possible tensions between them. Sein usually decides of its own fate (see WWII) and the inhabitants take their fate into their own hands. A good catch? Fish will be given to those who have not, or could not go fishing. Moreover, all the men of the island of age to go fighting went to London when the Général de Gaulle broadcast his famous appeal. The island is also one of the five towns to receive the “Compagnons de la Libération” (“Friends of the Liberation”) label. As such, the IDSE project wishes to be aligned with a history of solidarity and of communal work. Sein still bears the signs on its rocks, but also in its hearts and minds, of the oil spills that have stained its coasts (the Boehlen in 1976 and the Amoco Cadiz in 1978). If an oil tanker is washed ashore and spills tonnes of waste, the entire population will help with the cleaning up. The preservation of the environment and of the heritage of the island is an issue dear to all inhabitants of Sein. A majority of the inhabitants was in favour of the creation of the maritime park of the Iroise Sea, which aims to protect the maritime environment and to develop sustainable maritime activity. As such, the IDSE project is perfectly aligned with the desire to preserve the environment AND to implement an economic activity that respects the island.