[BLOG] Open Letter to the Minister of Energy
Khalil Elahee
Tue 02/20/2024 – 4:40 p.m.

Electricity cuts in Reunion: Alert for Mauritius?

As you know, after a so-called “red” alert, on Friday February 16, 2024, Reunion is currently under “reinforced vigilance” with the unavailability of several means of electricity production. There is an imminent risk of localized outages scheduled in 2-hour time slots, or “rolling load sheddings”, as occurs almost daily in South Africa. The case of the sister island does not have the same causes as for the latter country, but it is imperative that in Mauritius we act urgently in light of what is happening there. Especially with a cyclone around.

1.Peak demand

We have already experienced a record peak in demand this year here and we can expect a maximum of more than 510 MW before winter, if not at the end of the year. As in Reunion, the massive use of air conditioners, among other things, in the face of heat waves and humidity, is largely responsible for this imbalance between supply and demand, particularly during the evening peak. It is essential to systematically raise consumer awareness of the urgency of sober and fair demand management here too. Otherwise, preventive and rotating cuts will be inevitable. This is in no way a question of the specter of a generalized blackout, a term that some manipulate to frighten, but of the need to call for greater responsibility on the part of all users. We cannot indefinitely depend on coal-fired power stations, especially, and also on heavy oil engines, often obsolete, in order to meet uncontrolled, even abusive, demand.

2.The energy transition

Another lesson from the Reunion case study is how an energy transition can endanger the security of electricity supply. By focusing on mega projects such as power plants dependent on imported biomass or rapeseed oil, instead of more affordable local resources such as more decentralized photovoltaic units on the roofs of buildings, the unavailability of these large-scale means of production weigh heavily in the balance between demand and supply. Technical issues are more practical to resolve on much more resilient distributed mini-systems, otherwise they have less impact on the entire national grid. The choice to exploit vast areas of “prime land” agricultural land for photovoltaic farms is also not reasonable, if only with the aim of achieving better food self-sufficiency. A systemic approach in the application of our sustainable energy roadmap is essential. It is crucial to develop a holistic plan for the sustainable development of the entire territory, taking into account climate vulnerability to know which areas to devote, for example, to electricity production. Another situation on the sister island that we must avoid here is the impossibility of powering electric cars, and therefore of traveling for some, when there is no electricity.

3.Cyclone and Flash flood

With climate change, we must rethink our infrastructure as we also do with energy sources. The Rivière de l'Est hydraulic power station in Réunion has been reduced in production capacity to 20% since the passage of cyclone Belal. Significant work is currently necessary there. We must ensure that our electrical generation, transmission and distribution arrangements are protected from extreme climatic phenomena such as cyclones or flash floods. We must, of course, undertake the pruning of trees which represent a serious threat to our lines, especially those of high tension. But the case of Réunion also shows us that the existing power plants were in no way originally designed for the excessive conditions that we must endure today. The risk can come as much from a river overflowing its bed as from its obstruction by waste, a disaster scenario for the operation of certain thermal power plants but also hydroelectric power plants which are so crucial in the face of peaks in demand.


May God protect us, of course, but can we take measures now to remain standing in the face of Cyclone Djoungou, or else get back on our feet as soon as it probably passes? Immediately afterwards, it will be necessary to ensure that the production units are able to operate. For example, it will mainly be coal if the stock is not affected by rains and cyclonic gusts, or from petroleum products drawn from a strategic reserve that we must plan for. In the medium term, afterward, we will have to consolidate our resilience, but this time with the challenge of integrating an optimal mix of local resources. A transformation of the energy landscape based on a just transition and control of demand, taking into account climate change, will then allow us to avoid facing the problems of Reunion. Better still, it will be an opportunity to move quickly towards sustainable energy independence.

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