A massive oil spill in the Galapagos Islands in January 2001 was the wake up call for many that the islands’ pristine ecology should be safeguarded in the future against such catastrophes through efforts to replace fossil fuels with clean Renewable Energy sources such as solar, wind and fuel cells.Quito, Ecuador – March 11, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] A major new initiative is now under way as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the government of Ecuador, launched one of the most ambitious conservation partnerships ever undertaken. The agreement, signed Friday aims to transform the Galapagos Islands into a model for 21st Century clean energy use over the next 10 years. Devised jointly by WWF, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. and the engineering firm Kreider & Associates of Boulder, Colorado, the Galapagos Sustainable Energy Initiative aims to create a renewable, non-polluting energy supply for the Galapagos through a series of projects and investments in the islands’ power supply, transportation, fishing and tourism sectors. Through an estimated investment of US$25 million, the effort’s ultimate aim is to move the islands toward meeting their energy needs without the release of carbon dioxide. “It is fitting that the cradle of our understanding of evolution should lead the way in showing how energy needs can be met in harmony with the needs of nature,” said Kathryn S. Fuller, president of WWF-US. “Combining WWF’s conservation expertise with cutting edge technology from Toyota and other major corporations will help keep the Galapagos protected from pollution and other threats for generations to come.” With President Lucio Gutierrez Borbua presiding, Foreign Minister Nina Pacari signed the agreement for Ecuador at a ceremony at the presidential palace in Quito. Other signatories included Guillermo Castilleja, WWF Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean, and Xavier Bustamante, national executive director of Fundacion Natura, WWF’s conservation associate in Ecuador. Senior representatives from leading technology companies that are committed to supporting the plan also attended the ceremony. They included Toyota, Northern Power Systems, BP Solar, Stuart Energy and New Energy Capital. The Galapagos Sustainable Energy Initiative was initially conceived by WWF in the aftermath of the oil spill that occurred when the Ecuadorian tanker Jessica ran aground near the islands in January, 2001. “That incident was a wake-up call that we had to do more to protect the flora and fauna that so inspired Charles Darwin from the growing impact of human activities,” Fuller noted. With major assistance from the Advanced Technologies Division of Toyota Motor Sales USA and the University of Colorado’s College of Engineering, a 10-year plan was drafted to overhaul the islands’ aging fuel storage facilities and begin replacing conventional fuel usage with wind and solar power and other alternative fuels such as hydrogen. The government of Ecuador is already implementing the plan’s recommendations for overhauling the Galapagos’ main fuel storage facilities at Baltra, based on a technical assessment conducted by Toyota. In signing Friday’s accord with WWF, it has now approved the rest of the plan, clearing the way for its implementation, including project design, construction and finance.