While Palo Alto, Calif. bumbles badly with a poorly designed feed-in tariff, the Indian ocean archipelago of Mauritius 900 km (550 miles) east of Madagascar has closed its recently expanded program because of its success at attracting domestic investors.
Mauritius’ modest program was expanded from 2 MW late last year with an additional one megawatt, which was quickly subscribed earlier this year.
Palo Alto, on the other hand, offered a feed-in tariff for solar only that was “too cheap to meter” and no one bothered to sign up.
The island nation of 1.3 million inhabitants was formerly a French then, subsequently, a British colony. Since independence the country has been consistently ranked as having one of the best managed and most transparent governments on-or near in this case — the African continent.
In contrast to many so-called developed countries where data on energy is guarded as if a state secret, data on Mauritius renewable energy program and energy consumption in general is easily accessible and can be downloaded in spreadsheet format.
The Mauritian government launched a policy in 2010 to reduce its energy imports by developing the country’s renewable resources. While further expansion of the nation’s hydro resources are limited, the country has abundant solar and wind resources.
Mauritius generates nearly one-fifth of its electricity from biomass, specifically bagasse, from sugar cane.
Total generating capacity on the island is 367 MW of which 59 MW is from large hydro. Total electricity consumption was 2.7 TWh in 2011.
Imported oil and coal account for 80% of electricity generation. The price of coal to the island has more than doubled since 2002. The economic hemorrhage resulting from fossil fuel imports led the government to act in late 2010.
The initial program was timid even by U.S. standards and limited to 2 MW total. Individual projects were limited to microgenerators of 50 kW or less.
Nevertheless, the success of the initial program led quickly to a 50% expansion for a total of 3 MW, still a mere 1% of installed generating capacity.
This program was also oversubscribed by January 2012 and has since been closed.
Unlike successful feed-in tariff programs elsewhere, the tariffs in Mauritius are paid only on surplus generation fed to the grid. Thus, the program is limited to existing accounts and does not permit “green field” projects as in Germany, Ontario, or other locales.
If “exports” to the grid exceed three times consumption, the tariffs are reduced 15% from the posted prices.
There is no information on whether the program will be expanded further.