Madagascar's Energy Sources

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Madagascar's energy needs are at odds with its rich biodiversity.
Madagascar's energy needs are at odds with its rich biodiversity. (Image: Keren Su/Photodisc/Getty Images)

The Republic of Madagascar is the world's fourth-largest island nation (after Greenland, New Guinea and Borneo) located east of Mozambique off the coast of mainland Africa in the Indian Ocean. The country’s narrow coast, high plateaus and mountains makes electricity distribution to its 20 million people problematic. The erosion and deforestation from the use of firewood as a source of fuel has sparked a recent increase in the construction of hydropower plants.

Diesel Power

The state energy company Jirama maintains dozens of isolated diesel power plants around Madagascar. One is at Foulpointe, a small coastal tourist town on the eastern coast north of Toamasina, where the 270 KW diesel oil-fired Foulpointe Station operates. Another is the larger 40 MW Mandroseza Station, operating since 2007 and constructed to end the constant blackouts and load shedding on the Antananarivo grid. The 10 MW Ambohimanambola Station opened in 2000 east of Antananarivo. Operated by the French company Hydelec, it was Madagascar's first foreign-owned power plant.

Hydropower

With the abundance of small rivers on the island, hydropower has become the environmentally sound choice for generating electricity, and Madagascar’s seven hydro-electric power stations contribute two-thirds of the country’s electric power. The 15-MW Sahanivotry Hydro-Electric Power Station was commissioned in 2008 on the Sahanivotry River south of Antsirabe in the province of Antananarivo. It is Madagascar’s first privately owned and operated hydro plant and the first to be built on the island since 1982. Currently producing 10 percent of the island’s electricity supply, Sahanivotry feeds the Antananarivo and Antsirabe grid, which have experienced chronic power outages.

Biomass

Electricity makes up only five percent of the total energy used on Madagascar. The burning of bagasse (sugar cane waste), firewood and charcoal are still the primary energy source, accounting for 82 percent of the island’s fuel. But this energy supply has come with a high environmental cost. The harvesting of firewood for fuel has caused concerns over soil erosion from deforestation and the effect it’s having on Madagascar’s rich biodiversity. The island is home to five percent of the world's known plant and animal species, and 80 percent of those species are unique to Madagascar.

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