The environment ministry today introduced “net metering regulations” for connecting renewable energy systems managed by private parties to state-owned utility power grids.
“Under the net metering regulation consumers will be able to invest in production of energy for themselves by means of renewable sources,” the environment ministry explained.
“While consumers can decide the level of power production from producing partial to full power needs by renewable sources, consumers can also supply the unused power to the power grid of the local service provider under the new regulation.
“Power supplied by consumers will be credited and settled from amounts billed by the service provider. Thereby, reducing the expenditure spent on power for consumers being served under the regulation.”
Net metering will allow residential and commercial customers who generate their own electricity from solar power to feed electricity they do not use back into the grid. The solar panel owner will be credited for the electricity added to the grid and billed for “net” energy use.
The net metering regulations will come into force on February 28.
Speaking at a ceremony held at the Hotel Jen this morning, Environment Minister Thoriq Ibrahim said the enactment of the new regulations is a significant accomplishment in the efforts to develop the renewable energy sector.
Solar panels capable of generating 2 megawatts of electricity have been set up across the country during 2015, Thoriq said, and efforts are underway to install 4 megawatts of solar panels next year.
The government’s target is is generating 30 percent of daily peak electricity demands in all uninhabited islands through renewable sources within the next three years, he said.
The Maldives’ energy demand is almost completely met by fossil fuels with up to 30 percent of the country’s GDP spent on importing petroleum products.
“If we are able to reduce this figure by even a small amount, the money we can save for other development will increase. We know that renewable can be used very broadly in the Maldives. There are now resorts with 100 percent renewable energy,” he said.
The State Electricity Company (STELCO) spends MVR2.7 million (US$175,000) on diesel daily for electricity production for the capital. The state-owned utility company buys some 240,000 litres of diesel from State Trading Organisation. Monthly expenditure on oil stands at MVR81 million (US$5 million).
In a new action plan submitted ahead of crucial climate change negotiations in December, the government pledged to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 10 percent before 2030 by switching to renewable sources of energy.
The current administration has faced criticism over its plans for oil exploration in Maldivian waters. In February, some 20 NGOs urged President Abdulla Yameen to reconsider the policy, saying the venture will risk the country’s economic and environmental health.
Local environmental groups opposed to the move say exploring for fossil fuels is hypocritical, as the Maldives is among the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change impacts such as sea level rise, ocean acidification and extreme weather events.
In its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution – submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change secretariat – the government said switching to alternative energy options is “severely constrained by the limited land area, geographic isolation of islands and geographic dispersion of populations.”