To travel throughout the Azores is to get to know nine islands where the same genetic code generated profiles that are very distinct from one another. Located in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, the archipelago is composed of nine islands and several islets of volcanic origin: Flores and Corvo in the West, Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial in the Centre, and São Miguel and Santa in the East.
Along with the archipelagos of Madeira, the Canary Islands and Cape Verde, the Azores belong to the biogeographic region of Macaronesia, a name that means "fortunate islands" – and fortunate they are!
Scattered along a 600km stretch of the ocean, you will find an abundance of stunning natural and cultural heritage. The archipelago has a long history of protecting its natural environment, which brought the Azores their reputation as a sanctuary of biodiversity and geodiversity and one of the favorite locations for Nature Tourism in the world. Sites of particular interest include the historical centre of Angra do Heroísmo, the landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture, who have both been classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as well as the Biosphere Reserves Graciosa, Flores and Corvo.
Throughout the millennia, eruptions and earthquakes shaped a land with a common characteristic: the mark of volcanoes. Yet each of the islands has its own identity, and is home to more than 250,000 people.
Valuing both tradition and progress, you will find endemic plant and animal species sharing their space with international species, such as Japanese cedars or Hydrangeas, as well as the various migratory birds that choose the Azorean soil to rest during their long intercontinental journeys. Ocean lovers will relish in the multitude of dolphin and whale species and other submarine life that inhabits or crosses the seas of the Azores.
An energy mix ready for transformation
Capitalising on their local renewable energy resources, the Azores currently generate about 40% of their electricity from renewables, 60% of which come from geothermal energy (the remainder is provided mainly through wind and hydroelectric power). 60% of the Azores’ energy is imported from the mainland in the form of fossil fuels. About 20% of the Azores’ energy consumption goes into buildings, and around 40% are used for transportation.
Transport on the islands is mostly done using individual road vehicles, a behavior set to change with renewed public transport policies, growing urbanisation and fuel prices. Transport by boat and airplane is available among the islands while transport to mainland is ensured by airplane.
Energy prices for electricity and fuels are the same in all islands, in an effort to preserve equity and cohesion along the territory. Buildings are under strict energy efficiency norms, following on the premises of the EPB Directive, although higher renovation rates are needed in order to reach full decarbonization by 2050.
Isolated in the Atlantic, the Azores have always been an archipelago with a strong sense of respect for Mother Nature. It is this respect that moulded the Romeiros’ pilgrimages around the islands in an attempt to appease the vulcanic bursts of activity, a sense of care for the landscape that is still imbued in the Azoreans of today.
Over time, this care has naturally converged with concerns on the security of energy supply, the economics regarding an isolated, small-scale region, as well as the growing knowledge on the impact of greenhouse gases on climate. The first wind turbines were installed in 1988 and were soon after followed by geothermal powerplants that today supply a significant share of the archipelago’s electricity. Today, renewable generation technologies have been installed in all 9 islands, together with a strong push for energy sufficiency and efficiency. The 2030 Azorean Energy Strategy, under preparation in an open collaboration process, will provide the guidelines and detail the energy policy option for the coming decade.
How to turn geographic isolation into an asset?
The biggest challenge at the moment is the same the Azores have ever faced: how to make a small, isolated, and archipelagic region prosperous and sustainable when the economies of scale which render most of the mainland solutions feasible are often not available?
The Clean Energy for EU Islands Secretariat will support the Azores in their efforts to push forward on their clean energy transition and economic development, all the whilst preserving their long-held tradition of protecting their natural environment.
Organizations involved in the Azores’ clean energy transition
Amigos dos Açores
Observatório do Mar dos Açores
Regional fund for Science and Technology
Chamber of Industry and Commerce
Association of Municipalities