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“The difficult foundation works for regional cooperation in the energy sector have already been laid

Talking ENERGIES with… Dr  P. M. K. Soonarane, National Focal Point for Mauritius for the ENERGIES programme

Tell us a bit about your professional background. 

I hold a PhD in Renewable Energy from the Imperial College, Science, Technology and Medicine, United Kingdom. I have worked for more than 30 years at the Ministry of Energy & Public Utilities in a wide range of areas, including energy planning, energy policy and strategy formulation and renewable energy development. 

I have been pivotal in the development of the energy efficiency and renewable energy framework in place in the country. Currently, I am Director, Technical Services, at the Ministry and have the responsibility for strategic and technical matters with respect to energy and I am actively involved in the implementation of strategies for the progressive decarbonisation of the energy sector in Mauritius. 

I also have wide experience in working with multilateral institutions such as the UNDP and regional organizations such as SADC, COMESA and the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), as well as financing institutions such as World Bank, AFD and AFDB.  

What are your main responsibilities as a National Focal Point for the ENERGIES programme? 

My main responsibilities as National Focal Point (NFP) are the following: to represent the government of Mauritius at the level of the Steering Committee (COPIL); to ensure that the projects implemented meet the set objectives. Also, the NFP provides the energy policy context of his country for articulation at regional level. Finally, to ensure financial governance of ENERGIES, to approve the programme estimates.   

What part of the job do you find the most rewarding? 

Sharing of experience at regional level, which allows Mauritius to fine-tune certain strategies, where such lessons are applicable.  

And which part do you find the most challenging? 

The project governance, which comprises a project team at the IOC, has not posted one of its representatives at each Member State level. This has resulted in a constraint in terms of fine-tuning project activities which would have been beneficial in terms of the project’s results.    

What are the specificities of the Mauritian energy sector? 

The particularities of the energy (electricity) sector of Mauritius are the following: access to electricity in Mauritius is 100%. Mauritius is still dependent on fossil fuels for electricity generation. In an era of accelerating developmental changes, whereby the energy demand is increasing and the uncertainty in the energy market place is growing, there is a pressing need for the country to enhance its energy security and take actions to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Moreover, Mauritius has pledged to reduce its GHG emissions by 30% by 2030 in its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in the context of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. 

With the view to ensuring a smooth energy transition towards greener and cleaner energy, and with further development of renewable energy to achieve the target of 35% RE by 2025, a clear strategy has been charted by the government of Mauritius. Government has given a new impetus to the development of renewable energy projects since 2015 and as a result, a quantum leap in the contribution of renewable sources in the electricity mix by 2020 will be made. The most significant impact will come from solar energy, whereby 11 PV farms will come into operation by mid-2019. This revolution in the use of solar PV technologies will allow solar energy contribution to attain about 8% by 2020 from a low level of 0.8% in 2014.

In addition, Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) projects are being implemented to strengthen the grid so as more intermittent power can be accommodated. Mauritius has two dedicated institutions, one each in the field of Renewable Energy (MARENA) and Energy Efficiency (EEMO). Another particularity of Mauritius is the National Energy Efficiency Programme (PNEE) in which both the public and private sectors are actively involved and this project is now being replicated across the region.   

Globally, what is your appreciation of the ENERGIES programme? 

Mauritius has benefited from the ENERGIES programme, particularly in terms of capacity building, awareness raising in the energy efficiency sector, equipment for testing facilities of electrical appliances for energy efficiency levels and a grant for a water desalination plant in Rodrigues using solar energy.  

How do you propose that the projects and initiatives launched under ENERGIES be sustained beyond the timeframe of the programme in order to ensure a lasting impact?  

It has been proposed that the Indian Ocean Commission should continue to dialogue with institutions such as the European Union (EU), the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and regional donors to develop another programme, which can build on the achievements of the ENERGIES programme. Such an initiative will benefit from early momentum as the difficult foundation works for regional cooperation in the energy sector have already been laid.

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