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Islands in the sun: Mauritius, Barbados to tender for electricity from renewables and energy storage


Island nations Mauritius and Barbados have both begun renewable energy procurement processes that involve energy storage.

In common with other island regions around the world, both countries rely on importing fossil fuels at great cost to meet their energy demand and have seen energy storage paired with renewables, particularly solar PV, as a solution.

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The Central Electricity Board (CEB) of Mauritius in East Africa issued a request for proposal (RfP) last week for the purchase of electricity from hybrid renewable energy facilities, defined in this instance as solar PV-plus-battery storage. 

The CEB, a government-owned and operated power generation and distribution agency, has invited sealed bids from prospective bidders. The board plans to sign agreements for purchasing between 90MW to 110MW electricity. 

A model energy supply and purchase agreement (ESPA) is expected to be made available to bidders within a month after the RfP opens and bidders have until 22 June 2022 to submit bids.

Also advertising for international bidding a few days ago was another CEB RfP for purchase of electricity from small scale renewable energy hybrid facilities, this time seeking to procure 30MW to 50MW. 

CEB built the first grid-scale battery systems in Mauritius in 2018, with funding support from the multilateral Green Climate Fund (GCF), which has to date supported billions of dollars of projects in 150 countries.

In Mauritius, the GCF part-funded the battery systems as part of a raft of measures to accelerate the development of low-carbon energy in the country, which meets 84% of its primary energy requirements with imported fossil fuels.

Coal and fuel oil imports in particular have been feeding rising greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) but the country it targeting for renewable energy to provide 35% of its energy demand by 2025 and then 60% by 2030. 

After that first pair, which were each of 2MW power output and 1.12MWh capacity and built at two substations, a 14MW battery energy storage system (BESS) project split across four CEB substations was commissioned through the GCF programme late last year, also supported by the United Nations Development Programme. 

The 14MW project, split into three 4MW sites and one 2MW site, required a budget of about US$10 million to complete. Siemens France supplied the BESS, which is being used for frequency regulation ancillary services.

CEB general manager Jean Donat said at the time that project was inaugurated that the era of renewable energy optimisation “is well on the way,” in Mauritius, with the board having integrated more than 100MW of solar PV into the grid by then.  

The country’s government said in 2020 that it was committing funds to increase battery deployments to 40MW in a 2021-2022 budget announcement. 

Imported fossil fuels harm island economy while polluting

Meanwhile the Caribbean island of Barbados is targeting 100% renewable energy use and carbon neutrality by 2030 and — as was the case with the UNDP’s assessment of Mauritius — the government has described renewables with storage as a powerful way of democratising energy. 

In seeking to create a framework for the procurement of renewable energy and/or energy storage, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is hosting a competitive solicitation for consultancy services to help develop it. 

Issued a few days ago, interested parties have until 4 April 2022 to respond. The project is called “Support for the Design of Carbon Neutral Strategies in the Context of Energy Transition in Barbados”.

It is offering a seven month contract for consultancy services with an estimated budget of US$200,000.

According to the IDB’s summary, the island, with 280,000 inhabitants, imports fossil fuels for over 90% of its energy needs and in 2018 its fuel import bill stood at US$253 million. Only 5.5% of electricity sold in the country came from renewable sources, abut 3.5% from rooftop solar PV and 2% from its sole 10MW utility-owned solar farm. 

As well as the high cost of fuel, the impact can be felt in damage to Barbados’ natural habitat, which as an economy dependent on tourism also has a knock-on economic effect.

In transitioning the energy sector, the government Ministry of Energy and Business Development will need to procure large capacities of renewable energy, hence the need for a framework to be in place. 

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