In January 1999, the world witnessed the end of a century of cheap oil. It then cost less than $20 per barrel. Few predicted it would reach the $100+ levels of today. Some are predicting $500 oil by 2020. This would be devastating for Mauritius, not only for tourism but for most of our industries and our quality of life. Well before this level is reached, it will be cost effective to convert coal into oil, as South Africa has done for decades, causing coal prices to increase too. Is it possible to avoid catastrophe and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels?
Few countries are at greater risk from man-made climate change than Mauritius. The Maldives may be more dependent on their beaches and Bangladesh on its agricultural land, but can we afford to lose either? Low lying countries and island states were quite rightly joining their voices at Rio+20 in 2012 to call for global agreements to cut greenhouse gas emissions. So why is our government undermining the cause by repeatedly declaring its commitment to coal?
During MID week at the University of Mauritius in March 2009, Nissan presented its plan for our island to be the 7th nation in the world where the Leaf, their new electric car, would be available for sale. In February 2012, we became the first country in the southern hemisphere to have the vehicles delivered, so why does it appear that we might be the last place on earth where one is actually sold? Some say this is because the government cannot determine what import duty to levy on each car, but might this apparent confusion actually be the fruit of incoherent policies?
“BLACKOUTS!” This is the threat that some quarters are using to argue the case for more coal-fired electricity production, i.e. CT Power. Environmentalists and local residents are protesting against this but have yet to present viable alternatives. What is the real situation and do we have other options?
Recently, peak demand for electricity reached 410MW – an increase of 90MW in 10 years, but 74MW less than the CEB was predicting in 2003. This has avoided the necessity of adding the equivalent of three quarters of CT Power’s 100MW capacity. Clearly the best option for generating electricity is not needing to in the first place. Can we do that?
Several issues affect the sustainable development of Mauritius. One is our dependence on fossil fuels for transport and electricity. These sources of energy are finite and hence, at some point in time substitutes will have to be found. A second issue is the disposal of waste. By taking a broader perspective on these two is it possible to come up with more integrated solutions?