Soaking up the sun on the Maldives

House with solar modules on roof

Solar modules have been installed on the roofs of public buildings; picture: GIZ.

Tourists aren't the only ones who appreciate the Maldivian sunshine: solar roofs installed on top of public buildings on the island of Ungoofaaru, which enjoyed a ceremonious inauguration last November, are also eager to soak up the sunshine. These solar facilities have already generated around 35,000 kilowatt hours of electricity since being commissioned at the end of August 2014. They are part of a project aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions that Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has been carrying out on three Maldivian islands since the end of 2011 in partnership with the local Ministry of Environment and Energy. This project is being financed by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB).

The Maldives hope to set a good example for others with this project. Climate change mitigation is an existential issue for the island nation, which is under greater threat of becoming submerged as global warming causes further rises in sea levels. Thanks to an abundance of sunshine hours, solar energy provides an obvious alternative to diesel generators that have been commonplace up to now. This likewise serves as an economical option since solar electricity is cheaper to generate, and the initial investment costs can quickly be recovered. Other islands in the Maldives have been closely monitoring this pilot project, and several atoll administrations have already demonstrated their interest.

Island in ocean

More than solar energy

In addition to supporting the Maldivian Ministry of Environment and Energy in matters of renewable energy, the project is also assisting in the implementation of measures aimed at energy efficiency. One example of this involves the energy efficient lighting that will soon illuminate harbours on the islands of Ungoofaaru and Khudahuvadhoo. Moreover, the project worked with its partner in developing informational campaigns for the local populace. An example was a campaign entitled 'it's cool at 25', which reminded residents living on roughly 200 islands that the air conditioner does not have to be set at winter-like temperatures in order for them to feel comfortable in the heat. In particular, school children have been a target group for fostering environmentally friendly behaviour. The project's local work has also included training courses covering efficient energy use for the staff of Maldivian ministries and energy suppliers.

The Maldivian government is also engaged beyond its home islands in promoting development that is both sustainable and conserves resources. The Maldives recently assumed the role of chair for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), which is comprised of 39 member nations. Therefore, the Maldivian government will represent AOSIS at next year's UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.