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Mauritius: One third of electricity from sugar by 2015

About a third of Mauritius' electricity will come from sugar waste by 2015, making it by far the largest component of an ambitious national target for renewable energy, a senior sugar official said on Wednesday.
Hit by rising global energy prices, the Indian Ocean nation aims to produce 40 percent of electricity from renewable sources within a decade, the government announced this month.

Mauritius already produces 19 percent of its electricity by burning bagasse, the remaining waste when sugar cane is crushed. That is one of the world's highest ratios of renewable energy.

Now it is testing other varieties of cane and the burning of waste left in the fields after harvest according to Babu Rajpati, Executive Director of the Mauritius Sugar Authority.

"All this could bring me closer to 32 or 33 percent of electricity," he said in an interview to Reuters. "The horizon is 2015."

The increased use of sugar in electricity production will eventually displace about 300 000 t of coal every year, saving nearly a million tonnes of carbon dioxide, he said.

Mauritius imported 401 600 t of coal in 2007, according to official data.

In the same year coal, diesel and fuel oil, and hydro-energy accounted for 40,3 percent, 37,2 percent, and 3,4 percent of electricity production respectively, according to official data.

Mauritius is also looking to produce energy from burning waste, wind farms, sea water, sun, and tapping landfill gas emissions.

Boosting electricity production from sugar cane would not require any major new investments, Rajpati said. "You can burn all this biomass in existing installations."

Facing a 36 percent cut in European sugar prices over four years, the Mauritian sugar industry has already begun a 10-year reform programme to modernise itself, rationalising and building capacity to produce refined sugars, ethanol, and electricity.

Expecting to export about 15-million litres of ethanol last year, Mauritian cars should use an 80-20 mix of fuel and ethanol, Rajpati said.

"There is no price for energy security in a small island," he added.

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News date: 18/06/2008

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