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At the second meeting of the MID Energy working group last week, we presented our major project of 2011: how Mauritius can be entirely self-sufficient in energy. The need to drastically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels is best illustrated by the graph showing them as a percentage of our total merchandise imports. From 1970 to 2000 they were in the range of 5-10% then, from 2000 to 2008, they rocketed up to over 20% and only fell back again as a consequence of the global financial crisis. If we get back to the “business as usual” trajectory, within a decade or two, our fuel bill will be unaffordable unless we are prepared to do without other imports like computers, refrigerators, clothes or food.

Our scenario for self-sufficiency comprises several interdependent components of supply and demand:

  • Increasing efficiency in everything we do.
  • Switching to electric cars and ethanol powered buses.
  • Maximising the potential of the sugarcane sector to generate electricity and biofuels.
  • Transforming our waste into fertiliser and biogas for electricity.
  • Generating a further third of our electricity needs from wind and solar.

We emphasised the important distinction between highly variable sources of electricity (wind and solar) and those that can be highly flexible (sugarcane and biogas) and the need to use the latter to make room for and make up for the former. In our scenario, the demand from charging electric cars is also highly flexible – controlled by a smart grid. Overall we demonstrated that Mauritius can enjoy a high standard of living as well as having complete energy security for both transport and electricity.

While some may say it is a dream for Mauritius to be energy self-sufficient, in reality it is those who believe we can continue to depend on fossil fuels who are dreaming. Our nation will be unable to afford them long before supplies are exhausted. Either we wake up and pro-actively make the transition to renewable energies now or wait until future energy and/or economic crises shock us out of our sleep. The risk is that if awake too late, we will find ourselves in a nightmare.

The full presentation, including with explanatory notes, is available here: 20?? energy scenario.