JICA completes US$11 million solar energy project

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has completed the “Project for Clean Energy Promotion in Malé” with the installation of solar panels at the Ministry of Finance and Treasury today.

Some 740 solar panels were installed in 12 government buildings in the capital under the US$11.1 million (MVR141.5 million) grant aid solar energy project launched in December 2011.

In the first phase of the project, solar panels capable of generating 400 kilowatts of solar power were installed in the President’s Office, the Maldives Centre for Social Education (MCSE), the State Electricity Company (STELCO), Thaajuddeen School, and Hiriyaa School.

While solar panels were installed in the Maldives National University, Kalaafaanu School, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ghiyasuddin International School, and the Velaanaage in the second phase of the project, the Ministry of Finance and Treasury and the Hulhumalé hospital received solar panels in the third and final phase of the project.

Of the four schools, Kalaafaanu, Ghiyasuddin, and Hiriya were constructed with Japanese grant aid while Thajauddeen was reconstructed with Japanese grant aid and reopened in June 2004.

The grant aid agreement for the solar energy project was signed in March 2010.

The project was based on a feasibility study conducted by JICA – the Japanese government’s bilateral donor agency – from February to November 2009 at the request of the Maldivian government during the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

The project was designed to contribute to the Nasheed administration’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2020.

Then-President Nasheed launched the project in December 2011 by personally installing panels on the roof of the President’s Office.

Nasheed had previously installed 48 solar panels on the roof of his official residence, Muleeage, provided gratis by LG Electronics Californian company Sungevity.

At the launching ceremony of the JICA-funded project, Nasheed said a transition away from fossil fuels would increase the energy efficiency of the Maldives by 20-30 percent by the end of 2013.

Low carbon development

Speaking at a function at the Finance Ministry this morning to mark the conclusion of the project, Environment Minister Thoriq Ibrahim observed that the Maldives spent US$487 million a year or 31 percent of GDP annually on importing oil.

The figure is expected to rise to US$700 million by 2020.

According to the Maldives Customs Service, of the MVR7.2 billion (US$466.9 million) worth of goods imported in the first quarter of 2014, one-third was spent on petroleum products.

As the domestic economy was adversely affected by the high cost of oil imports, Thoriq stressed the importance of reducing the country’s dependence on fossil fuels whilst increasing investment in renewable energy.

The government’s target was generating 40 kilowatts of power across the country from renewable energy sources during the next five years, the environment minister revealed.

The government will seek assistance from international partners and private parties for investment in renewable energy, he added.

Japanese Ambassador Nobuhito Hobo meanwhile pledged assistance for similar renewable energy projects in the Maldives.

At a workshop last week, Environment Minister Thoriq revealed that the government was working on a low carbon development strategy to improve energy security.


Ministry of Environment and Energy reveals hundred-day roadmap and energy data publication

Ministry of Environment and Energy has launched a road map for the first hundred days of President Abdulla Yameen’s administration, joining several other government institutions that revealed similar plans.

Environment and energy minister Thoriq Ibrahim said the implementation of some projects related to waste management, land erosion, water, sanitation and energy and preparatory works for more projects will commence within the first 100-days.

He said an effort will be made to strengthen the legal framework and it’s enforcement. To achieve this goal, implementation of waste regulation and emissions standard regulation will begin while the Environment Police is also expected to start working within this period.

According to the ministry, the Environment Police Unit formed through a memorandum of understanding with Maldives Police Service will investigate violation of environment and biodiversity laws.

The “Maldives Energy Outlook for Inhabited Islands 2013”, a compilation of electricity data of Maldives’ inhabited islands was also revealed at the ceremony held to announce the road-map. While this is the first publication of energy statistics, the ministry plans to publish this data annually in the future.

In a foreword to the document the minister highlighted the importance of having a consolidated national energy database and regular publication of such information at island and national level.

The publication states that 481,577metric ton of fuel was imported to meet energy demands of the country in 2012; out of which 10,019metric ton was cooking gas, 337,531metric ton was diesel, 38,008metric ton was petrol and 96,019metric ton was aviation gas. And 39 percent of the diesel imported was used to generate electricity in inhabited islands, making it the biggest consumer of imported fuel. It states that 49.4 percent (247.17 Gwh/year) of electricity generated in the country are consumed in the congested capital Male’ City.

Maldives Energy Outlook for Inhabited Islands 2013 is available for download here.


Maldives’ oil spend spikes in line with world oil prices

Saudi Arabian oil exporter Aramco has expressed unease about the global economy as oil prices have continued to rise, as unrest drops the rate of production in Africa and the Middle East.

Prices reached US$124 a barrel yesterday, after peaking earlier this month at US$127. Worldwide output fell 700,000 barrels in March amid ongoing political turmoil in Libya, Yemen, Syria, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast.

CEO of Aramco Khalid al-Falih told an industry gathering in South Korea that “We are not comfortable with oil prices where they are today… I am concerned about the impact it could have on the global economy.”

The Maldivian economy is dependent on oil to such an extent that is spends a quarter of its GDP on it – US$245 million – the vast majority on marine diesel, making imported energy one of the single largest drains on the country’s economy.

Customs documents obtained by Minivan News in January showed that Maldives was spending almost US$100,000 more per day more on fossil fuels than it was in the summer of 2010. At that time, oil was US$86 a barrel.

By the same calculations but with today’s oil price, the Maldives is paying an additional US$450,000 per day for oil compared to summer prices last year.

In Male’, the increase in price has compelled the State Electric Company Limited (STELCO) to increase the fuel surcharge component of its electricity prices, with Haveeru reporting a STELCO official as acknowledging an increase in complaints about the cost of their bills price. The fuel surcharge reached Rf 1.41 per kilowatt hour in March, dropping slightly to Rf 1.27 in April.
“The rise in fuel prices leads to an increase in the fuel surcharge, which eventually push the electricity charges up,” the official said.
The Maldives has meanwhile pledged to become carbon neutral by 2020, but little has been done to wean the country from the growing financial burden of its oil addiction.

In a previous interview with Minivan News, President Nasheed’s Energy Advisor Mike Mason suggested that spiralling oil costs could prove to be a strong argument for a return to sailing.

“I think there is a huge opportunity to take a knowledge of sail, wind and current – the thinking that has served the Maldives well for 2000 years – and apply modern technology such as solar to create a new transport paradigm. A sailing vessel with a modern hull, utilising modern technology can reach 30-40 knots, and would greatly reduce the reliance on diesel,” Mason said at the time.


Fuel prices increase after tsunami and Middle Eastern instability

Petrol prices have risen Rf 0.87 and diesel by Rf 0.96 a litre on the back of growing instability in the Middle East and panicked Asian markets after Japan’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown threat.

The State Trading Organisation (STO) raised petrol to Rf 12.67 a litre and diesel to Rf 12.61, the second increase of the year. Local retailers followed suit.

The Maldives spends 25 percent of its GDP on fuel and is among the most vulnerable countries in the world to oil price rises. A government official recently speculated that were the price of fuel to double, the Maldivian economy would “collapse within hours”.


STO claims airport fuel contract under one year deal

GMR Male’ International Airport Limited (GMIAL) has announced that the Maldives State Trading Organization (STO) will begin supplying fuel to its operations from the beginning of April under the terms of a one-year contract.

The company has claimed that STO beat off competition from a host of international bidders to win the contract that will commence from 1 April 2011. The contract is expected to amount to a total value of US$140m over its twelve month lifespan – reflecting the supply of about 1.1 million barrels of fuel.

GMIAL said in a statement that the success of STO’s bid was based on both technical and economic factors such as the capability to supply both Jet A-1 fuel and Marine Gas Oil (MGO) as well providing testing facilities and the lowest financial premiums.

Andrew Harrison, CEO of GMIAL, said the decision was a key step in working to try and set the airport up as a world class facility and reduce any interruptions to transport services, while also offering direct economic benefits to the local economy.

“This contract will bring commercial revenue in form of US Dollar receipts to a Maldivian company, which will be a valuable benefit in terms of foreign exchange trading,” he stated.


Fuvamulah runs out of gas

Rain has prevented gas supplies from reaching Fuvahmulah, forcing the islanders to switch back to wood for fuel, reports Haveeru.

Gas retailers told Haveeru that the two main supply boats have been forced to remain in Laamu and Huvadhu Atoll due to the bad weather. Islanders are now using firewood and oil for cooking.

Haveeru also reported that switching to traditional methods of cooking has been a “painful” experience for the people of Fuvahmulah.


Drifting speedboat rescued at sea

A speedboat that ran out of fuel and was drifting with the currents in Baraveli Kandu last night has been rescued by MNDF Nothern Area Command.

The boat was travelling from Raa Alifushi to Lhaviyani Hinnavaru carrying six people and a child. According to MNDF they left Alifushi around 10:45 pm.

The speedboat,  ‘Zaako’, belonged to Mohamed Ismail of Lhaviyani Hinnavaru, Jambuge, and ran out of fuel around 1.40 am.

The MNDF dispatched a coast guard launch to find the stricken vessel, eventually discovering it at 3:00 am, two miles west from Lhaviyani Madivaru.

The speed boat was towed into Lhaviyani Hinnavaru harbour at 3:40 am, and all on board were reported to be fine.

Speaking to Minivan News about the incident, Lieutenant Abdul Ali of the MNDF said such incidents were becoming “more and more common.”

“Those in charge [of vessels] hould realise how long the journey will take, and if ensure they have sufficient amounts of fuel,” he said.  “It is important to be cautious before travelling at sea.”

When asked about what actions the coastguard had taken to try and reduce the number of incidents, Ali claimed the authority continuously gives advice and holds many awareness programs.

MNDF urged all sea travllers to contact the nearest MNDF area command if an incident should occur, or if that number is not known, to dial the toll free emergency number 191.