Mauriitus: An Innovative Solar Energy Laboratory was unveiled this morning, by the Vice-Prime Minister (VPM), Minister of Education, Tertiary Education, Science and Technology, Mrs Leela Devi Dookun-Luchoomun, at the University of Mauritius (UoM), in Réduit.
The Laboratory has been set up with the support of Huawei Mauritius and forms part of a long-term project known as the Park of Excellence in Solar Photovoltaic (PESP) at the UoM.
The Minister of Energy and Public Utilities, Mr Georges Pierre Lesjongard; the Vice Chancellor of the UoM, Professor Sanjeev K. Sobhee; the Chief Executive Officer of Huawei Mauritius, Mr Zheng Kui; and other personalities, were present during the unveiling ceremony.
This Laboratory project aims to: make the UoM a global reference in terms of electricity use, develop capabilities and experts to support Photovoltaic (PV) education, research, innovation and development, and; contribute towards economic and societal development locally and internationally.
In her address, Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun highlighted that this Laboratory marks a milestone in the history of the Indian Ocean and comes at a time when the decarbonisation of the power sector and adoption of smart technologies are at the fore of discussions.
Moreover, she indicated that this project will provide industries and companies with strong supporting capacity-building in solar energy. “This Laboratory will allow us to come closer to the Government’s commitment to ensuring that 60% of the country’s energy is produced by green energy by 2030,” the VPM added.
According to her, this venture will bring a fresh impetus to the energy sector and PV education, research, innovation, and development. “As part of the Small Island Developing States, the Republic of Mauritius is vulnerable to climate change, and this project is most welcome as a reduction in carbon emissions is essential to mitigate the impacts of climate change on the island,” she pointed out.
The VPM emphasised that the use of renewable energy is not only essential to transforming the energy system but is also key to improving our energy security by reducing the traditional appetite for and reliance on fossil fuels. “It is greatly satisfying to therefore find so many energy users turning to renewable sources of energy through the use of hybrid and electric vehicles, among others,” she said.
Furthermore, Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun observed that by coming up with this Solar Energy Laboratory, the UoM had shown its commitment to providing education responsive to the current and future needs of the country as well as maintaining a high standard of education while keeping pace with innovative research institutions around the world.
“My Ministry encourages such initiatives and commends the UoM for forging linkages with industries and for setting up such facilities,” she stated.
For his part, Minister Lesjongard indicated that energy security and reliability had been key elements in the socio-economic development of Mauritius. He emphasised that using the renewable energy approach is more and more unsustainable, both environmentally and economically, and will help to further our ambition for the transition to a low-carbon economy.
On this score, Mr Lesjongard dwelt on some bold policy measures announced by the Government, including the phasing out of coal for power generation by 2030 and; reviewing of the renewable energy roadmap for the electricity sector in 2022 so as to facilitate the green energy transition and to optimise the combination of those renewable energy technologies to allow for the achievement of the set target by 2030.
These measures, he stressed, are in line with the creation of a new pillar of economic activity which is the green energy industry. “The potential for wealth creation and employment generation in the green energy sector is indeed immense and awaits to be tapped,” Minister Lesjongard said.
As regards Solar PV technology, the Minister remarked that it is the first choice around the globe as it is not only cost-effective but is also safe and reliable clean electricity that can be generated where it is needed.
“In Mauritius, solar energy can be fully exploited using PV technology at all scales, and that is why, supported by the various schemes introduced by my Ministry and the Central Electricity Board, more than 120 MW of PV have been installed across Mauritius,” he indicated.
On this score, Mr Lesjongard underlined that the setting up of this innovative Solar Energy Laboratory under the PESP at the UoM comes at an opportune time as with the aid of the state-of-the-art equipment in the Laboratory, a number of experiments and demonstrations may be performed to better understand the operation and safety aspects of PV systems and communication features present in new generation PV technologies.
This Solar Energy Laboratory, Minister Lesjongard underscored, will make students more passionate on the subject of renewable energy, in particular as regards solar PV, as well as allow the University to further research in the field of solar PV and PV-based microgrids. “I hope to see the birth of a new breed of future entrepreneurs who can actively contribute to the national green energy transition by bringing innovative ideas and their unique skill set to the service of the green energy industry,” he highlighted.
As for the Vice Chancellor of the UoM, he pointed out that the Laboratory has been set up with several modern and unique pieces of equipment, including a video conferencing system that will allow remote learning of solar energy technologies.
“This unique facility will further strengthen the quality of education imparted and the skills set of the graduates who will benefit from hands-on training and experiential learning,” Professor Sobhee indicated.