Edinburgh Global

Galápagos decarbonisation: sustainable energy transition

Through a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, Universidad San Francisco de Quito and the British-Ecuadorian Chamber of Commerce, the Living Lab for Energy Innovation is working to deliver objectives of the Galápagos Plan 2030. Interdisciplinary teams have been researching the challenges and opportunities in sustainable and inclusive decarbonisation of the islands, the focus of a three-day summit held there in July 2023.

Edinburgh and the Galápagos Islands

The Galápagos Islands have fascinated Edinburgh scholars for nearly two centuries. Famously, Charles Darwin, who studied medicine and the natural sciences at Edinburgh, made observations in the Galápagos which informed the theory of evolution. Our recent work in the Galápagos Islands emphasises the importance of teamwork and partnerships as we strive to create a sustainable and inclusive decarbonisation plan that aligns with the goals of the Ecuadorian government to reduce emissions by 2040.

Summit 2023: Towards the Sustainable and Inclusive Decarbonisation of the Galápagos Islands

In July, the Galápagos Islands hosted a summit for researchers, local and national authorities, business representatives, local leaders, and students.

The event promoted research collaboration for engineering, science, and technology development to support the decarbonisation of the Islands, in harmony with the environment and local communities. It set out to:

  • Understand the challenges of making energy transition sustainable and inclusive.
  • Explore ongoing research and local initiatives to tackle these challenges.
  • Develop and publish a collaborative plan for an inclusive and sustainable energy transition.

Professor Peter Mathieson, keynote at the summit, said:

The University of Edinburgh is very proud to be part of this collaboration, together with the University of San Francisco and the Ecuadorian-British Chamber of Commerce, in considering the needs, opportunities and challenges for the energy transition in the islands. It is important to note that the cooperation between these entities began several years ago. Our teams worked on projects and proposals. This event is a way of communicating the results of this joint work.

Professor Peter Mathieson

Living Lab for Energy Innovation

The Living Lab for Energy Innovation is one of the initiatives which co-hosted the summit, and that seeded collaborative projects which provided a foundation of knowledge for the event.

Our vision is that the ideas, strategies and solutions developed and tested through this partnership can promote meaningful collaboration, leading to transformative transitions in the islands.

Professor Peter Mathieson

The Living Lab for Energy Innovation was established in 2019 with the goal of achieving the Galápagos Plan 2030, which links to several UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The Lab has provided seed funding to collaborative research teams from The University of Edinburgh and Universidad San Francisco de Quito with the aim of helping local communities in adapting to economic and cultural changes while creating a sustainable energy system.

The success of this partnership hinges not only on its global significance, setting up the pathway to sustainable and inclusive energy transition committed to biodiversity conservation, but, more crucially, on addressing the needs and priorities of the resilient Galapagos community. Despite facing diverse economic, social and environmental challenges, the people of Galapagos have shown remarkable resilience.

Professor Sole Garcia FerrariDean of Latin America
Video: Galapagos Living Lab for Energy Innovation -MH
Del 03 al 05 de julio de 2023, las Islas Galápagos fueron la sede de la Cumbre de Descarbonización Sostenible e Inclusiva, un evento que fue impulsado por la Cámara Ecuatoriano Británica -Britcham UIO-, la Universidad de Edimburgo y la Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), y que se enmarca en la iniciativa Galapagos Living Lab for Energy Innovation, suscrita por las tres entidades en el marco de la COP26. En 2021, se cristalizó esta propuesta de implementar un think thank, que permita la cooperación entre Gobierno, academia y empresas para generar propuestas de sistemas de energía alternativa, acordes a la realidad local. Así nació Galapagos Living Lab for Energy Innovation, un espacio de acción donde participan líderes de opinión y actores claves de diferentes sectores del país.

Edinburgh academic contributors

Dimitri Mignard, a Senior Lecturer in Engineering, was one of the academics from Edinburgh who joined the summit. He co-led a Living Lab seed-funded project that focused on hydrogen-powered boats. His wider research interests are in the field of adapted technology for development, including access to energy, water, and food security.

Dimitri Mignard on a boat off the Galapagos Islands

What motivates me is making a difference to the wellbeing of current and future generations, resolving technical issues in close consultation with people’s express needs.

What I gained from going to the Summit was meeting brilliant people to work with in person, insightful stakeholders who live on the islands. It gave me an awareness of the fragility of the local environment, the huge challenges of the increasing pressure of tourism on that environment, with currently unsustainable practices regarding energy, food, water and waste.

By being here, we’ve not only met with our partner USFQ and our sponsor the British-Ecuadorian Chamber of Commerce, we’ve also made new connections with individuals and organisations that are critical stakeholders for future work including within the communities that we are seeking to serve. For example, we are looking forward to collaborating with Orcatec (a sustainable solutions company working in solar energy, and waste and water management) and other partners, a proposal is being designed at the moment. And potential collaborations with a National Laboratory working on freshwater, C02 and resource extraction from seawater. We’re also collaborating with USFQ on student exchanges and teaching.

Dimitri MignardSenior Lecturer in Engineering
Dimitri Mignard with two colleagues from Orcatec in the Galapagos Islands

Action for decarbonisation

The main driver for action to achieve the necessary energy transition in the Galapagos Islands is partnership and collaboration, supported by institutional policy development and implementation. The seed-funded projects are demonstrating tangible opportunities for change, in line with local plans and priorities. Scaling up these initiatives will be the next step, with benefits in further exploring the interconnections between energy, food, and water, ensuring biodiversity conservation, and developing an informed framework to support scenario planning and inclusive decision-making processes.

Professor Sole Garcia Ferrari

Collective expertise and meaningful impacts

As a globally renowned university focused on extensive research, our purpose is to tackle the most significant challenges of the future. Through this collaboration with the Universidad San Francisco de Quito and the British-Ecuadorian Chamber of Commerce, we combine our collective expertise and aspirations to create a meaningful and beneficial impact in the Galápagos archipelago and beyond.


Find out more

About the Summit 2023

About the Galápagos Living Lab for Energy Innovation

Visit the Universidad San Francisco de Quito website