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How can aquaculturists harness renewable energies?

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By Milthon Lujan

energia renovables pesca acuicultura

Renewable energy sources are gaining attention. Solar energy, wind power, biomass energy, and geothermal energy are being used in applications within food value chains.

Renewable energy can provide energy supply solutions where traditional energy sources fall short. Additionally, renewable energy has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint in food value chains.

In recent years, different experiences have emerged in the use of renewable energies, such as shrimp farming or bivalve cultivation.

In this regard, the Value Chain Development Team of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Division of FAO published the report “The small-scale fisheries and energy nexus – Opportunities for renewable energy interventions,” which describes the current situation and proposes a way forward regarding the use of renewable energies in small-scale fisheries and aquaculture.

The document provides general guidance for decision-makers and development specialists on options, benefits, and challenges related to the use and adoption of renewable energies in small-scale fisheries and aquaculture.

Energy use in fishing and aquaculture

Energy is an essential input in all stages of fisheries and aquaculture value chains; however, the type of energy varies.

Fossil fuels and their derivatives are required for the operation of fishing vessels, while in the cold storage stage, electricity is necessary for the operation of refrigeration equipment.

In the storage stage, energy is needed to produce ice or for the operation of refrigeration equipment. Artisanal fishermen and fish farmers are generally dependent on ice to cool the caught fish.

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Benefits of using renewable energies in fishing and aquaculture

The study authors highlight that interventions with renewable energies should be carried out at all links in the fisheries value chain since they are essential for modernizing the value chains, despite the fact that each intervention initially involves additional investment capital, which can create barriers to access for artisanal fishermen and small-scale aquaculture.

However, in the long term, these interventions can provide benefits to fishing and aquaculture families and communities. The benefits include:

  • Increased income due to higher catches and optimal aquaculture production.
  • Extended preservation time.
  • Improved distribution of the final product, which generally implies less loss of end products.
  • Interventions can reduce production costs, increase income, and improve working conditions for fishermen and fish farmers.

The report presents different options for renewable energy interventions in artisanal fisheries and aquaculture value chains. Most proposed interventions in the study are based on each country’s profile published by FAO.

Use of renewable energies in fishing and aquaculture

The use of solar energy for refrigeration and cold storage is increasing in rural communities in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia due to the decreasing costs of these technologies.

The cost of solar photovoltaic electricity and wind power has decreased by 82% and 40%, respectively, between 2010 and 2019.

There is a growing interest and need to promote the use of renewable energy for applications in all stages of artisanal fisheries and aquaculture value chains.

Solar energy, in particular, can be used in various processes within fishing and aquaculture. This includes operating lights for fishing, aquaculture equipment (feeders, pumps, aerators, etc.), charging electric motors for fishing, ice production, cold storage, among other applications.

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Potential of Renewable Energy Use

Renewable energy sources can be utilized on both small and large scales to generate electricity or heat. However, the potential for energy production varies across different geographical areas and depends on the availability of resources, location of the production system, and characteristics of the employed energy transformation technologies.

The report provides information on various renewable energy options, with a focus on solar and wind energy, hydroenergy, bioenergy, geothermal energy, and marine energy.

For each renewable energy source, the study authors described the key technical factors that affect the system, as well as the requirements and location considerations that must be taken into account.

Costs of Renewable Energies

The document presents costs for different renewable energy systems, including solar energy, wind energy, bioenergy, hydroelectricity, and geothermal energy.

According to the report, photovoltaic installations have the lowest cost compared to other renewable energy systems. Residential systems with a capacity of less than 10 kW require an initial investment of over US$1,000 per kW of installed capacity, while operation and maintenance costs are approximately US$15/kW per year.

On the other hand, large-scale offshore wind installations are more expensive than onshore systems. They require an initial investment of around US$1,300/kW, with operation and maintenance costs reaching US$16.4/kW/year.

Opportunities and Challenges of Renewable Energy Use

The use of renewable energies in fishing and aquaculture brings various environmental and socio-economic benefits. However, significant barriers exist for the adoption of the identified technologies.

The barriers preventing technology adoption are classified into three groups:

  • Cost and financing for renewable energy and equipment.
  • Environmental policies and local capacity.
  • Knowledge and acceptance of the technology.

Each of these groups is discussed in the report.

Conclusion

The use of renewable energies presents a significant opportunity for small-scale fishing and aquaculture to improve their sustainability, as demonstrated by ongoing experiences. Photovoltaic energy is the most widely used and the cheapest option in this regard.

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However, there are still barriers that need to be overcome to make renewable energies a viable choice for fishermen and aquaculturists.

The preparation of the report was funded by the FAO under the Programme Priority Area of “Reducing Food Loss and Waste”.

Reference (open access)
Puri, M., Kojakovic, A., Rincon, L., Gallego, J., Vaskalis, I. & Maltsoglou, I. 2023. The small-scale fisheries and energy nexus – Opportunities for renewable energy interventions. Rome, FAO. https://doi.org/10.4060/cc4903en

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