Private companies and international actors are leading renewable energy implementation in the Maldives while the government “prepares” for various solar power projects.
Renewable Energy Maldives (REM) is working with approximately 25 islands, various resorts nationwide, and international actors to develop renewable energy systems and improve energy efficiency.
This private company connected solar photovoltaic (PV) panels generating 752 kilowatts (kW) to the power grid in 2012, Renewable Energy Maldives Managing Director Ibrahim Nasheed told Minivan News.
“Essentially, we are doing the [renewable energy development] work despite the government.
“President Waheed [Hassan Manik]’s government has not honored the Memorandums of Understanding signed under the previous government.
“Additionally, Fenaka – the re-centralised utilities company formed under Waheed’s government – has spent all of 2012 restructuring,” Nasheed stated.
“Since September 2011, REM and the Japanese Government are the only ones implementing renewable energy projects.
“The government has not implemented a single project this year,” Nasheed added.
Nasheed highlighted that despite the renewable energy, climate change mitigation and adaptation funds coming into the Maldives, securing financing has been very difficult.
“The major problem is the lack of funding. It is difficult to form good relationships with solar PV manufacturers so they will lower the costs because they need a bank guarantee,” he said.
To encourage Maldivian renewable energy businesses, Nasheed suggested banks provide financial backing, while money should be set aside from the climate change and renewable energy donor funds for these ‘guarantees’.
Nasheed further explained that the Scaling-up Renewable Energy Program (SREP) originally planned to be submitted to the World Bank in February 2012, but was not due to the political upheaval that resulted from former President Mohamed Nasheed’s controversial resignation February 7, 2012.
The World Bank’s Climate Investment Funds to support clean energy initiatives would have provided SREP financing. Now Waheed’s government is revising the proposal, renamed the Sustainable Renewable Energy Project (SREP) and will try to resubmit, according to Nasheed.
Abdul Matheen, the State Minister for Energy, told the publication oilprice.com in October 2012 that under the [new] SREP, the Maldivian government plans to begin a $138 million renewable energy project that will provide 26 mega watts of clean electricity within five years.
“[The government] is making preparations to commence the project during next month.
“Under the project, 10 islands would run solely on renewable energy. In addition, 30 percent of electricity in 30 islands will be converted to renewable energy,” Matheen told oilprice.com.
Meanwhile Nasheed emphasised there are currently “no regulations or standards” in the renewable energy sector.
“[Governmental] progress [developing renewable energy] has been slow, it’s not as fast as we thought or would like. REM is the ‘guinea pig’ since we are leading the renewable energy provider in the Maldives. It’s a lot of work, but we have the advantage of being very involved in the process,” Nasheed stated.
Collaborative solar programs
A handful of solar PV programs have taken root on islands throughout the Maldives over the past year.
Recently, Renewable Energy Maldives and the University of Milano-Bicocca launched a renewable energy pilot project on Magoodhoo Island in Faafu Atoll to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by connecting 30 kW of solar PV panels to the island electric grid.
“Through this project, we will in particular have the possibility of reducing fuel consumption, thereby reducing the impact on our economy. Harnessing solar energy means less pollution and less dependence on external energy,” said Naseer Abdulla, Island Councilor of Maghodoo.
The “benefits from the use of renewable energies” project is focused on developing solar panels, low consumption light bulbs, and conducting courses on environmental sustainability. This project aims to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, abate environmental degradation and ensure greater energy self-sufficiency, especially on the more remote islands.
“This project represents a challenge for us to show how the problems of global climate change can be addressed by combining all available forces, the local community and beyond,” stated Paolo Galli, Coordinator of the project and Director of Marine Research and High Education Center (MARHE), and researcher from the Department of Biotechnology and Biosciences of the University of Milano-Bicocca.
“Only with the combined effort of everyone, in fact, can you get a real improvement of the environment and, consequently, the quality of life,” Galli added.
Solar PV systems are profitable and sustainable for local communities as well as Male’, according to REM and the University of Milano-Bicocca.
Diesel delivery and generator maintenance is expensive and problematic, REM’s Managing Director Nasheed explained.
However, every 3 kWh of electricity produced by solar panels saves a liter of diesel. Furthermore, 1,000 illumination points equipped with low power consumption LED light bulbs will lead to an additional savings of about 20 kWh, the University of Milano-Bicocca highlighted.
“People in Male’ use 2 to 3 kW per household daily. When they use solar power generated energy from their own systems, the excess power produced gets sold back to the power grid.
“They become very energy aware since there is a interest to reduce consumption,” stated Nasheed.
REM also explained there are numerous benefits from renewable energy, particularly solar panels, but the government has not focused on marketing these incentives.
“Villingili Island normally has to ‘shed load’ to do diesel generator repair work, but with the solar installations they didn’t have to do that.
“There was no income loss and no power loss during this maintenance period in 2012, which promotes a reliable image for the State Electric Company (STELCO),” Nasheed stated.
REM installed solar panels on six islands in Kaafu Atoll, at their own expense. Under power purchase agreements the 652 KW of power generated from the PV systems was then sold to STELCO for US.25 cents, which is a “considerably lower rate than diesel,” Nasheed explained.
The Japanese government has been involved in a number of renewable energy projects in Male’ and the Atolls as well.
In 2011, the “Project for Clean Energy Promotion in Male’” was launched. This one billion Yen grant is to install a solar rooftop grid-connected PV system on public buildings in Male’, to be completed in 2013.
Additionally, a project conducted by the Japanese government and Global Sustainable Electricity Partnership (GSEP) aimed to install a 40kW solar PV grid-connected system on Dhiffushi Island in Kaafu Atoll.
Government solar projects
Since early 2012, the Maldivian government has overseen the initial stages of a few new renewable energy projects.
The Ministry of Environment in conjunction with the Ministry of Finance has issued a prequalification application for the “Solar Maldives Programme.” This project aims to “design, build, finance, own, operate and transfer grid-tied solar photovoltaic systems for integration with diesel generators on 15 islands” in the south, north, and upper north provinces.
“As part of the National Development strategy, the Government of the Republic of Maldives has been planning to transform the electricity sector though private sector investments in renewable energy development on a large scale under its Sustainable Private Investments in Renewable Energy (SPIRE) Project,” reads the application.
The government has also received bids to install a 300 kW grid connected solar PV system on Thinadhoo Island, the regional capital of Gaaf Dhaal (Huvadhoo) Atoll. This is part of the “Clean Energy for Climate Mitigation (CECM) Project” financed by the Climate Change Trust Fund (CCTF) – a collaboration between the Maldivian government, World Bank, European Union (EU) and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID).
“The system is expected to meet 30 percent of the peak day time demand of electricity and will offset approximately 300 tons of carbon dioxide annually,” states the Ministry of Environment.
The Ministry of Environment was unavailable for comment at the time of press.