Electricity is a basic need. Without it, economies falter and basic (and critical) social needs such as medical care, communication and education for instance are not met. The violent protests in Madagascar ,which started in December last year, in response to a poor and mostly non-existent power supply are evidence of this.
Poor power supply is causing damage
The country’s energy crisis is bringing the country to its knees. The poor supply dates back to 2009 and has deteriorated since President Hery Rajaonarimampianina took office last year.
Only about 15% of Madagascans has access to electricity and locals are forced to make do with only a few hours of power each day. The regular power outages have severely impacted the country's economy, with small businesses taking the biggest hit. The textile industry is particularly affected by the outages, with a growing number of small businesses forced to invest in generators. Meanwhile, the huge multinationals, which currently exploit Madagascar's mineral resources —including nickel mining—are simply building power stations to meet their own energy needs.
Madagascar's electricity network is comprised of 114 power stations. Jirama, (Jiro sy Rano Malagasy) which uses diesel to produce 60% of its power, is in serious financial trouble. The company has been unable to pay its rocketing fuel bills for two years now. To make up for this deficit, the government reduced import duties on fuel in exchange for diesel, but tariff hikes in July 2014 interrupted the delivery of fuel and prompted the rolling blackouts.
In September 2014, Rajaonarimampianina expressed concern over Jirama's increased fuel consumption, saying the significant increase in spending is not reflected by the company's level of service to the public. Jirama officials are under investigation from BIANCO, Madagascar's independent anti-corruption office.
Renewable potential in Madagascar
While Jirama remains highly dependent on fossil fuels for electricity generation, Madagascar boasts a huge potential for hydropower which has yet to be harnessed. This could help improve electricity coverage for everyone including those residing in rural areas. There are currently 19MW of small-scale hydropower projects in the pipeline, carried out by corporations like GIZ, which supports the Rural Electrification Agency (ADER) in planning small-scale hydropower projects and implementing these in cooperation with private operators and investors.
Madagascar also has a large solar energy potential with an incident energy of about 2,000kWh/m2 . Almost all regions of Madagascar have over 2,800 hours of sunshine per year. Regions of Diana, Sava, Sofia, Boeny Menabe High Matsiatra, Atsinanana have a higher level of 5,500W/m2 radiation. Small scale projects are being carried out by foreign companies like French-based Tenesol which has been installing solar-powered pumps for cleaner water. The company has been assisting the country with various electrification projects since 1997.
There is also a large potential wind resource, among the highest among countries in Africa, as well as some potential for biomass in Madagascar.
The government has set targets of 75% of electricity generation and 54% of final energy from renewables by 2020. However, despite this potential, the government’s lack of focus may be hindering the development of the country’s electricity sector, which will herald devastating effects for the economy and for the islanders’ general well-being.
Engerati has recently written a number of articles on the critical development of renewable energy on the South Pacific islands especially. Perhaps Madagascar’s energy sector could learn a few things. [Engerati- Spotlight On South Pacific – On The Way To A Clean Energy Future.]