Chinese firm signs energy deal with Male

Its project off Sri Lanka’s Jaffna Peninsula was suspended after India objected

Chinese firm Sino Soar Hybrid Technology, whose energy project was suspended in Sri Lanka after India raised concern over its location close to the Tamil Nadu coast, has recently signed a similar project in Maldives.

PSM, the state broadcaster in the Maldives, reported that the country’s Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Technology signed a contract with Chinese energy company Sino Soar for the “design, supply, installation and maintenance of grid-tied” solar PV-diesel hybrid power generation plants in all 12 inhabited islands of Thaa Atoll, south of capital Male. “We are installing total of 2.5 MW of solar PV, 975 kW of Battery Energy Storage Systems and other related works in all the inhabited islands in Thaa Atoll — with this, we will reduce our emissions by 2900 tons of CO2 and save approx mvr 12 million annually,” a tweet from Shauna Aminath, Minister of Environment, Climate Change & Technology said on November 29.

Sri Lanka project

It was in February this year that Sri Lanka’s Cabinet cleared an energy project involving the same firm, in its northern islands of Nainativu, Delft or Neduntheevu, and Analaitivu, located off Jaffna Peninsula in the Palk Bay, some 50 km off Tamil Nadu. The Chinese company had won the competitive bid to execute the project that was to be carried out with a loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

India’s concerns

However, New Delhi raised concern immediately, offering to execute the same project with a grant of $12 million. While there has been no official announcement on the project since, official sources told The Hindu that “discussions [on the India-backed project] are on”. Sri Lanka’s Tamil parties too objected to the Chinese project then, saying it posed a “security threat” to India.

Meanwhile, drawing attention to the development, the Chinese Embassy in Colombo on Thursday tweeted: “Sino Soar Hybrid Technology, being suspended to build Hybrid Energy system in 3 northern islands in Sri Lanka due to ‘security concern’ from a third party, has inked a contract with Maldivian govt on 29 Nov to establish solar power plants at 12 islands in Maldives.”

Following news of Sri Lanka suspending the project in February 2021, the Chinese firm issued a strongly worded statement objecting to “outrageous interference” by a “third party”, referring to India.

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