The Maldives is scaling up investments in solar energy, while hoping to discover fossil fuels in its waters.
The government, noting the need for reducing oil dependency, has signed its second renewable energy project in a month, but has also asked a visiting American research vessel to conduct tests for oil and gas near a UNESCO biosphere reserve.
CCE Oasis Technology Corporation of China was handed today a contract to design, supply and install 2.5 MW of grid-tied solar photovoltaic and diesel hybrid systems in five islands, including southern Addu City, according to the environment ministry.
On October 15, the ministry had signed an agreement with China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) to install 1.5 MW of solar energy in the capital Malé’s suburb Hulhumalé.
Environment Minister Thoriq Ibrahim said today that the government wants to reduce the Maldives’ dependence on fossil fuels. The Maldives spends more than 20 percent of its GDP on importing petroleum products, he noted, adding the expense reduces foreign currency for social spending.
“Given Maldives’ dependence on fossil fuels, changing prices of oil on the world market impacts this country negatively. Since we have not found an oil reserve, this is something we must consider deeply and find a solution to,” he said.
Exploring for oil is among President Abdulla Yameen’s key campaign pledges.
The Maldives, however, is lobbying to reduce global carbon emissions and keep global temperature rises to 1.5 degree Celcius.
Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee has been leading the effort to explore for oil. A German research vessel was asked last year to conduct tests for oil and gas in Maldivian waters.
Now, an American research vessel, Joides Resolution Limas Soil, that arrived in the Maldives to do research on island geomorphology, has been asked to conduct tests in specific areas for the presence of oil and gas.
Drilling vessel to do a geological survey entering Male’ anchorage. Info obtained very useful for O&G prospecting. pic.twitter.com/fed4kUqV68
— Mohamed Shainee (@mshainee) October 18, 2015
The boat is active near Baa Atoll, a UNESCO biosphere reserve. Shainee told the The Maldives Independent that the boat will not be conducting research inside the reserve, but declined to answer further questions.
The Maldives Independent was not able to clarify the exact locations for the tests, but the Environment Protection Agency said permits had only been issued for areas that are not environmentally sensitive.
In February, some 20 NGOs urged President Abdulla Yameen to reconsider the oil exploration policy, saying the venture will risk the country’s economic and environmental health.
At today’s ceremony, state-owned utility State Electricity Company (STELCO) said it spends MVR2.7 million on diesel daily for electricity production. It buys some 240,000 litres of diesel from State Trading Organization. Monthly expenditure on oil stands at MVR81 million.
Thoriq has previously said the government aims to produce 30 percent of energy required for all inhabited islands through renewable sources.