Maldives appeals to world for technical help with carbon neutral plan

The Maldives has become the first country to crowdsource its renewable energy plan on the internet.

The current draft of the plan focuses on using solar energy to generate most of the country’s electricity and cut emissions by 60 percent before 2020.

The plan suggests that up to 80 percent of the electricity island communities use could be derived from renewable energy, without the cost of energy increasing.  The plan also proposes a shift to wind, batteries and biomass to complement solar power, retaining existing diesel generators for reserve power.

The Ministry of Economic Development revealed that economic modeling had shown that it was already cheaper to generate electricity from solar photovoltaic panels than from diesel on many Maldivian islands.

The direct cost of daytime solar PV is around US $0.21 per kilowatt hour, compared to $0.28 – $0.44 per kW/hour for existing diesel generators.

The cost of decarbonising the Maldives, which spends almost 25 percent of its GDP importing fuel, mostly on marine diesel, is estimated to be US$3-5 billion over the next 10 years.

“The investments will largely pay for themselves because the Maldives would save huge sums of money on oil imports,” the Ministry of Economic Development observed in a statement.

The Renewable Energy Investment Office, based in the Ministry of Economic Development, was established to help combat global warming. Last week it opened an internet forum for local and international groups and individuals to advise the Maldives’ plan to develop solar energy, which has been approved by the Cabinet.

“The government has limited experience working with renewable energies because these are relatively new technologies to the Maldives,” noted Minister for Economic Development, Mahmoud Razee.

“We have published our investment framework online and highlighted areas where we require feedback and help. We are crowd sourcing our energy plans and inviting the whole world to help us,” Razee said.

A more detailed plan will be submitted again in February, with details on investment strategies, explained Razee.

“Maldives is the first country to do this on a global scale and over the internet. This shows that we are innovative and willing to share by working with other countries on this issue, which affects everyone. Also, it shows that we are willing to be as transparent as we can,” Razee said.

Forum users must register with their real name and submit identification information before contributing, and they will be asked a series of questions to confirm that they are qualified to share their expertise. The forum rules encourage debate, but note that comments that “are deemed offensive or inappropriate, or don’t relate to the question” will not be published.

The forum rules further requests that “criticism of a proposal has to be supported by offering a better alternative, with a clear idea of cost and practicality,” in order to be useful.

The goals of the plan, Razee stated, were to free the country from the uncertainties and costs of its oil dependency, and to demonstrate global leadership in the fight against climate change.

“While we are working now on the initial production planning and development we will also be looking to use local and international expertise to develop storage capacity,” Razee said, acknowledging that storage was a primary concern.

While the Maldives has abundant sunlight during the day, the battery technology required for large-scale power generation at night is extremely expensive.

“Right now, we aren’t looking at storage because it would double the cost in this current economic environment. Technology is evolving reasonably rapidly though, and in five or ten years we think that providing storage will more affordable,” Razee said.

“Batteries are used at night, and as we know a lot of electricity is generated then. So we will need to address the issue of storage and how to provide energy at night within our larger goals.”

Forum topics in the comprehensive crowdsourcing project include solar and wind technology, energy storage, system control and demand management, novel technologies (including marine current and ocean thermal), biomass power generation, and finance.

Under each topic the Maldives appeals for expert assistance on several technical questions, around issues such as the use of solar panels in corrosive environments, the economics of tracking or fixed solar panel systems, and the viability of low velocity wind turbines.

Visit the forum (English)