A regional Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) pertaining to the importation and storage of natural gas will be signed next month between the countries of the Indian Ocean.

This announcement was made yesterday by the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Energy and Public Utilities, Mr Ivan Collendavelloo, at the inauguration of a Photovoltaic solar plant in Solitude. The Southern African Development Community, he recalled, is developing a Master Plan for natural gas in the region.

The Deputy Prime Minister also pointed out that most of the countries in the region are dependent on charcoal, which he qualified as an economic tragedy. Furthermore, he indicated that countries of the region have around 600 000 billion of m3 of natural gas adding that these reserves are sufficient to eliminate charcoal.

As regards the Photovoltaic solar plant in Solitude, Mr Collendavelloo underlined that the project is being carried out on the lands of 26 planters. Voltas Yellow Ltd is renting 20 hectares of land on which 60 000 photovoltaic panels have been installed and the project has necessitated an investment of 20 million euros (Rs 800 million), he stated. At present, six solar farms are operational in Mauritius and four additional ones will be constructed in the months to come, he indicated.

Speaking about the renewable energy policy of Government, the Deputy Prime Minister emphasised that several initiatives, fiscal measures and strategic decisions have been put in place so as to promote clean energy. These include: training of engineers in renewable energy; streamlining of authorisations for renewable energy projects which were cumbersome; and more competitive calls for tenders. Mr Collendavelloo said that several renewable energy projects are being implemented across Mauritius such as the Small-Scale Distributed Generation Net-Metering Scheme, the Medium Scale Distributed Generation Project, and the Home Solar Project.

Lauding the Home Solar Project, the Deputy Prime Minister explained that it is a significant one since it aims at helping low-income communities to be energy sufficient, save energy costs and protect the environment. The Central Electricity Board (CEB) will pay for the installation of the photovoltaic panels on the rooftops of those 10 000 households which have been identified, he added.

Moreover, he highlighted that a sum of Rs 350 million (USD 10 million) has been granted as a loan from the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development and the International Renewable Energy Agency for the implementation of this project. According to Mr Collendavelloo, the project will bring 10 megawatts of new renewable energy capacity into the grid, resulting in savings of over USD 35 million in fossil fuel imports over the project lifetime and improvements in the energy security of Mauritius. People in low income communities will also benefit from significant electricity bill savings, he added.

The solar power plant of Solitude

The production capacity of the solar plant is around 16,34 MW and will be able to produce electricity for 6 000 households. The project will also enable 28 000 tons of CO2 to be saved per year. The electricity produced will be directed to the sub-station in Riche Terre to supply the region and the economic zone of Jin Fei.

The solar power plant of Solitude feeds into the CEB's national electricity grid, replacing the country's energy mix (mainly coal/oil) with clean, renewable energy. This project is part of Government's vision which aims at reaching 35% of renewable energy in Mauritius by 2025.

Source: Republic of Mauritius