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Renewable Energy Powers Mauritius’s Journey towards Carbon Neutrality

By : Jason Xia Hesheng, CEO of Huawei Eastern Africa Multi-country Office

When Santa changed into a winter suit and put on a swimsuit to search for chimneys on the rooftops of Mauritian residents this year, he found that some of the roofs this year were particularly prone to slipping-some have installed solar panels.

Mauritius, a stunning paradise in the Indian Ocean, is well-known for its beaches with clear turquoise sea and silver sands. The natural beauty, however, hides a harsh reality that the tiny island has a fragile ecosystem and is bearing the brunt of climate change and natural hazards.

How to preserve the country’s overwhelming beauty and biodiversity? I think it would be renewable energy, such as solar energy.

Urgency is Immense : Three Reasons Why Mauritius Must Accelerate Renewable Energy Transition

 With limited conventional energy resources, Mauritius has to heavily depend on imported fossil fuels to meet its energy demands. According to the latest data, the country generated 79.3 percent of its electricity from non-renewable sources, mainly petroleum products and coal, according to the Renewable Energy Roadmap 2030. The energy sector alone accounts for 62 percent of Mauritius’ total greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon emissions released during the combustion of fossil fuels have adverse impacts on health and the environment.

Economic disruptions triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic reinforce the urgency of the country’s climate targets. Seizing green energy opportunities through increased investments in renewables is key to the post COVID-19 economic recovery.

  1. Affordable and clean energy to mitigate climate change

Small islands, like Mauritius, are sitting on the front line against climate change. As clean energy technology advances, cost-effective and sustainable renewable energy solutions will slow down the effects of climate change and enable vulnerable communities to get prepared for the impacts.

Mauritius has ratified the Paris Agreement and embarked on an ambitious path to reduce its carbon footprint. The government plans to increase the share of renewable energy to 60 percent of the electricity mix by 2030, phase out the use of coal by 2030 and reduce overall GHG emissions by 40 percent in 2030.

2. Renewable energy to power Mauritius’s economic recovery

The raging pandemic deals a heavy blow to the tourism-dependent Mauritius, whose economy contracted by 15% in 2020. The COVID-19 crisis, together with the challenges of global warming reinforce the need for a just and inclusive transition toward a clean, reliable energy supply, which fuels a job boom in renewable energy and its supply chain. In the Global Renewables Outlook 2020, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimated jobs in renewables would reach 42 million globally by 2050, through the increased focus of investments on renewables.

Achieving a fair shift from coal, oil and gas to solar, wind and bioenergy requires the government’s efforts to create an enabling environment for renewable energy investments. Mauritius has introduced many incentives to promote the renewable energy sector, including VAT exemption on solar PV projects, accelerated income tax depreciation provision for investment in green technology equipment, among others.

  1. Clean Energy to increase Mauritius’s Energy Security

Mauritius has no indigenous fossil-fuel energy reserves. The small island nation has 80 percent of its energy from costly imported fossil fuels to power its economy, which represents more than 15% of its import bill. Due to the long-distance imports, its economy is highly sensitive to transportation costs and volatile oil prices.

Increasing the energy self-sufficiency rate through renewable energy sources will help shore up Mauritius’s energy security, reduce the burden on its national budget, and cut carbon emissions.

Challenges and Solutions for Renewable Energy Transition

While Mauritius’ targets to increase the share of renewables in the electricity mix are ambitious, a primary challenge remains whether the existing national electricity grid has the capacity to take up the increased power generated from renewables to ensure a reliable, secure, and affordable energy supply. What’s more, the increasing renewable electricity generation is not impact-free. Concerns have been raised that renewable electricity could have unintended and unexpected impacts on local ecosystems if operators are not careful. For example, hydropower does not directly cause air pollution, but building and operating a hydroelectric reservoir tend to influence the flow of rivers, which can alter ecosystems and negatively impact wildlife and people.

The smooth energy transition is achieved through technical innovation and digitalization. In the energy system, digitalization is key to integrating renewables in the electricity grid, improving the reliability of power grids, and reducing the cost of access to electricity, therefore contributing to a more just and equitable energy transition.

As a leader in Africa’s ICT sector, Mauritius has formulated a Digital Mauritius 2030 Strategic Plan to accelerate the building of a digital economy by utilizing emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing, and IoT. The combination of Mauritius’s digital and clean energy strategies will stimulate a sustainable and green economic recovery.

Solar Energy: The Key for Mauritius to Go Carbon Neutral

The tropical island, situated in the southwestern Indian Ocean, is blessed with abundant sunshine throughout the year, with a potential average annual solar radiation value of some 6 kWh/m2/day. This makes the country an ideal place to benefit from free and reliable sunlight. As PV technology has advanced in recent years, the cost of installing solar systems has drastically decreased, making solar energy an affordable and dependable choice for customers, on top of all the green benefits it offers.

In addition to the solar roof, Mauritius can also turn its eye to the floating PV, which means solar panels will be mounted on a structure that floats on a body of water. Mauritius’s spatial constraints will lead renewable energy players to look offshore, to the open seas, as a viable alternative for generating solar energy, ultimately deploying the PV system in coastal waters.

Zhanhua District, Binzhou City, in the north of Shandong Province, used to be dominated by salt fields and traditional aquaculture, resulting in low efficiency of land and ocean utilization. Since the introduction of the “fishing and light integration” project, blue photovoltaic panels extend neatly into the sky and ponds are full of fresh fish and shrimp. Large areas of photovoltaic power generation systems are continuously delivering green electricity to thousands of households every day.

Unlike inland water bodies, the open sea is subject to a range of conditions and is prone to change, from fluctuations in temperature and rough swells to the corrosive nature of saltwater. Such unfavorable conditions require project owners to choose field-proven and technically robust solar equipment, especially the inverter, which functions as the heart of the solar system.

Huawei offers leading Smart PV solutions by harnessing more than 30 years of expertise in digital information technology. We have launched an advanced solution for utility, C&I, and residential solar customers based on the ‘Optimal Electricity Cost and Active Safety’ concept. Back in 2018,

Huawei supplied inverters for a 10MW solar plant in Beau Champ Mauritius. Featuring a fully sealed design with IP65, 0 touch O&M and Multi-MPPT inputs, Huawei’s solution delivered higher yields with superior performance.

Generating green power at scale is vital in the fight against climate change and is key to achieving the carbon-neutral goal. It’s imperative that we act right now to facilitate the deployment of clean energy and build a renewable-dominated energy system of the future. Let’s work together to build a greener and better Mauritius.

Hope when Santa comes next year, he will choose another route to deliver the gifts since Mauritius houses are all covered with solar panels.

Renewable Energy Powers Mauritius’s Journey towards Carbon Neutrality

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