The Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, and Technology has said that the relocation of solar panels on the Sinamalé highway entails a significant financial cost and such a decision could potentially discourage foreign investments in the renewable energy sector.

The solar panels were installed under a project carried out as part of the Accelerating Sustainable Private Investment in Renewable Energy (ASPIRE) initiative. The US$11 million project, a collaboration between the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, and Technology and the World Bank, is being carried out by Thailand’s Ensys Co.

The Environment Ministry’s statement came after President-elect Dr Mohamed Muizzu, speaking in Hulhumalé on 28 October, said that the poorly implemented installation of the panels had obscured the area’s scenery and the panels would be removed, relocated, and put to use on other islands.

The decision to install solar panels on the Sinamalé highway, which connects Malé, Hulhulé, and Hulhumalé, was made by Muizzu during his tenure as Minister of Housing and Infrastructure, the ministry said. Removal of the panels will undermine investor confidence in the sector and stall future investments.

The ministry pointed out that the project represents the largest private investment in renewable energy in the Maldives and it is one of the pioneering projects to be initiated under the Carbon Neutral Investment Plan, which was formulated in 2010.

According to the ministry’s statement, the panels were installed on the beach side to offer additional shelter during events, with the added goal of enhancing the area’s greenery and creating a distinctive landmark.

“Decisions such as the relocation of solar panels will discourage foreign investments and change the perception of the Maldives in the eyes of donors such as the World Bank,” the ministry statement read. “If the solar panels are removed from the site and relocated, the state will have to spend an estimated MVR 170 million. Moreover, network upgrades and battery storage for the rural electrification system will require additional higher costs,” the ministry said.

The concept design for the project was prepared, stakeholder consultations were initiated, and necessary permits were obtained between 2017 and 2018 under the then-President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom. Funding was secured through private sector finance with guarantee facilities provided by the World Bank.

“The present administration has carried out this project in line with the concept formulated by the Yameen administration, considering that such national development projects initiated by one administration should be continued by the following administration,” the statement further said.

The electricity generated under the project will be sold to STELCO at approximately MVR 1.68 (US¢10.09) per unit. Electricity generated from the 1.5 MW solar PV system, installed in 1,000 housing units in Hulhumalé under the first phase of ASPIRE, is sold to STELCO at MVR 3.50 (US¢21) per unit.

The project is expected to generate 7.3 million units of electricity per year and save the state between MVR 15 to 20 million in fuel spending.