Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sustainable energy for a sustainable economy

“I’d put my money on the sun and on solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait ‘til oil and coal run out before we tackle that”, wrote Thomas Edison at the turn of the 20th Century.

Well, this homily applies to Seychelles because the country’s energy bill is so large that the Government has to borrow money to buy oil. The oil bill has put a strain on the country’s finances. In fact, Seychelles probably consumes more fossil fuel per capita than any other Small Island Developing State.

Therefore a move to more sustainable energy systems would not only be good for the environment but for the economy as it would reduce the large foreign currency outlays. At the moment except for some limited photo voltaic electricity generation on some small islands the energy needs of this country are met though imported oil.

If we take a look at Mauritius we see an energy picture that is worth examining in more detail. Mauritius has adopted the “Sustainable Island” slogan to pursue a path to renewable energy. Currently, 20% of Mauritius' electricity is generated from renewable biomass systems.

In recent years thousands of Mauritians have obtained loans at a preferential interest rate from the Development Bank of Mauritius to purchase solar water heaters. Small photo voltaic solar panels to power sodium lamps at night are a common sight in many public gardens, parks and car park areas.

Innovations like a new project to build a tidal power station to generate electricity from the sea are going ahead. A UNDP and Agence Française de Développement project is underway to provide technical assistance to install a wind turbine as a pilot for developing a larger wind farm, to develop energy audits and to use solar thermal energy in large institutions such as hospitals.
Mauritius plans to produce 40% of its electricity from renewable sources within the next 10 years. And it seems it will meet this target. As a major route to energy savings, it also introduced Daylight Savings Time (DST) in 26th October on a trial basis. Simulations suggest that the country would use 15 megawatts less of energy through DST.

Yes, Mauritius is fortunate in having sugar cane waste or bagasse since this is a vital component of the government’s national target for renewable energy. But its other energy strategies may be relevant to Seychelles. Whatever the case may be, it is imperative that we adopt a renewable energy policy and national targets and move to implementation of renewable energy programs across the board to meet these targets.

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