Ivan Collendavelloo has seen reason and we apologise to him for not acknowledging this sooner. In response to a question about CT Power in the National Assembly earlier this month, the Minister for Public Utilities announced that his Ministry “intends to recommend to Cabinet that the Government does not go ahead with this project“. Yesterday, the Cabinet confirmed the decision. Hooray! Moreover, the Minister has revealed that “all the reputable funding agencies are telling us that they will not subsidise coal-fired power plants“. So this appears to sound the death knell for the replacement of the coal/bagasse power stations currently operated by the sugar estates. However, what will replace them remains a matter of speculation.
A subsequent intervention reveals a stunning change of mindset in a man who, a couple of months ago, was saying that his hands were tied and CT Power would go ahead. While old dogs may not be able to learn new tricks, Mr Collendavelloo is certainly capable of comprehending new global realities and the need to put more effort into protecting our environment through local action and international influence:
“We are a small island State. We are subject to climatic change…We are an economy which relies a lot on tourism and tourists are high consumers of water and energy, ten times more than the average Mauritian. All this is the fate of many small islands like Seychelles, Vanuatu, Samoa and we are all in the same boat. On top of that, we have a lot of municipal wastes from tourists and Mauritians. What do we do with it? We take it, we dig a hole and we put all the wastes in it and all this goes to pollute our leaching fields, that is the harm that is caused to small islands. And, we, Mauritius, do not contribute to climate change, we are innocent victims in this matter. We are surrounded by Australia, Indonesia, China, India and even South Africa. They are the largest contributors to the climate change and we suffer the consequences of this. We must, therefore, take the lead….They will forget the small islands that we are unless we put up a united front of small islands and Mauritius must be in the lead.”
The Minister has even raised the bar for renewable energy: “Now, we have 18% of our electricity from renewable sources. This is bagasse, water and solar photovoltaic. We’ve got to increase it. The target of my predecessor was 35% in 2025, we’ve got to meet it. But, we’ve got to try and achieve 50%.” He now clearly recognises the barriers to achieving this:
“CEB has consistently stressed the low absorption capacity of renewable energy with the CEB’s grid…I will have to impress on the CEB that they need to have a culture change, that they need to accommodate their grid, they cannot just live in the same system that has been in existence since 1939…The CEB will have to move out of what they were doing and we will have to have a new paradigm shift for the installation of reliable, renewable, safe and constant energy for Mauritius in the years to come.“
Brilliant words. Even if he refused to meet us in person, he has at least taken on board the main issues we raised in our open letter and thus he deserves our respect. We will now work on a roadmap to achieve his target of 50% renewable electricity by 2025.