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Middle East Countries Putting the Sun to Work Overtime

Dec 28, 2010 - Ramanathan Menon -

While renewable energy production scenario is improving slowly in many developing nations, more action is now happening in the oil producing countries of the Middle East. Because, Middle East countries which have been leading the non-renewable energy race for the past few decades have now turned their sights to leading a new race -- A race to become the world's leading producers and exporters of renewable energy.
Forecasts suggest that by 2050, up to half of the Middle East's required energy will come from renewable sources, of which solar is expected to make up a large percentage. The Middle East receives 3,000 -- 3,500 hours of sunshine per year, with more than 5.0 kW/m2 of solar energy per day. Solar energy has the potential to equip the Middle East with centuries of sustainable, clean electricity. A solar power plant the size of Lake Nasser has the capacity of supplying the electricity needs of the entire region.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, in his speech in Saudi Arabia in January 2006 to 400 business people from the Persian Gulf said: "If I where you, I would stop trying to make Saudi Arabia the oil capital of the world and make Saudi Arabia the energy capital of the world. You should take your cash right now and go out and buy half the solar capacity in the whole world and you should start at the equator. All the way around the equator and go north and south until you put solar power everywhere the weather will tolerate it. You will save the planet and get richer."

Abu Dhabi, where Sun does overtime: The emirate of Abu Dhabi -- one of the world's leading oil and gas producers -- has its focus on the future. A post-oil future. Abu Dhabi has started to put into practice a bold commitment to renewable and sustainable technologies that will enable it to continue as an energy leader after oil has declined.

As a result, Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, was chosen last year to be the headquarters of the newly formed International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena). One of Irena's main activities will be the collection, generation and sharing of knowledge about renewable energy.
Irena, the first international agency to be based in a developing country, will create an international network of experts and will advise members on the financing of renewable energy projects. It also will build a comprehensive global database of policies to promote renewable energy. The agency will be housed in Masdar City, a new, $22 billion city, under construction near Abu Dhabi International Airport, that will be powered entirely by renewable energy. Masdar City aims to become the Silicon Valley for clean, green and alternative energy. More than 1,500 companies from around the world will locate there to fund, research, develop and implement new and sustainable technologies.

The carbon-neutral, zero-waste city, designed by UK-based architectural firm Foster & Partners, will include the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology. The institute, which is modeled on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, enrolled 90 students from 22 countries in September 2009.

Masdar, also known as Abu Dhabi Future Energy, is a subsidiary of Mubadala Development, the investment vehicle of the Abu Dhabi government. "The Masdar Initiative is a continuation and evolution of Abu Dhabi's five decades of leadership as a global energy provider," says Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, CEO of Masdar. The city will also demonstrate the practical viability and appeal of living in an alternative-energy environment, he says in a statement on the company's website.

Abu Dhabi has committed $14 billion to the project, with another $8 billion expected to come from outside investors. The Masdar Clean Tech Fund closed its first round of financing in last February after raising $265 million. The fund is co-managed by Masdar Venture Capital and DB Climate Change Advisors, part of Deutsche Bank's asset management business. Credit Suisse and Siemens were among the investors. The fund will support water and waste-management projects.

No automobiles will be allowed within Masdar City's walls. A solar-powered water desalination plant will provide water for the city's population, which could reach 50,000.

Meanwhile, neighboring Saudi Arabia has expressed interest in joining Irena and has begun work on its first solar-powered desalination plant to serve 100,000 people in Al Khafji, which is located near the border with Kuwait.

Saudi Arabia will emerge as a major exporter of solar energy, which could reach the current level of the kingdom's oil exports, according to US energy secretary Steven Chu. "The kingdom's drive to invest a portion of its oil revenue on scientific and technical research will enable it to strengthen diversification of energy sources and promote renewable energy programs."

Khaled Al-Nabulsi, a professor at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, says that studies have proved that Saudi Arabia could become the largest exporter of solar energy in the world. The country has the capability to produce large amounts of solar energy due to its great expanse of open areas exposed to direct sunlight, he says.

In the Kingdom of Bahrain, which has an abundance of solar energy and wind energy, wind power has been used through the use of turbines to generate nearly 13% of the total energy of the Bahrain World Trade Centre. The kingdom has also begun the implementation of a pilot project on the use of solar energy in street lighting.

In Qatar, plans are afoot for a $1 billion solar project, according to Shadi Abu Daher, manager of the World Trade Center in Doha. This is the right time to launch major projects, he says, because construction costs in Qatar have fallen by 40% from their peak as a result of the financial crisis and real estate slowdown. Qatar Foundation announced a joint venture with SolarWorld, based in Germany, to produce polysilicon, the main ingredient in solar panels, at a $500 million plant in northern Qatar.

The Authority for Electricity Regulation, Oman has confirmed a shortlist of six (6) renewable energy pilot projects, two (2) for immediate implementation and four (4) that may proceed following further discussion with the developers.

The pilot project shortlist is: Two (2) pilot projects will proceed to implementation subject to finalization of certain technical and contractual matters with the Developers and Rural Areas Electricity Company SAOC (RAEC). The two projects are: (i) A 500 kW wind project in Masirah Island (Developer: Gulf Renewable Energy, a BOO project); and (ii) A 100 kW PV solar project in Hij (incorporating 50 kW of thin film and 50 kW of mono crystalline) (Developer: Itochu Corporation a EPC project).

The Authority will engage with the developers of four (4) short-listed projects that merit further and serious consideration to see if terms can be agreed to move the projects to implementation. These projects are: (i) A 4,200 kW wind project in Saih Al Khairat, a Wilyiat of Thumrait (Developer: Zubair/Tefirom/Suzlon, a BOO project); (ii) A 292 kW solar project in Al Mazyonah (Developer: DSME/Conergy/Bahwan Engineering, a BOO project); (iii) A 1,500 kW project at location to be confirmed (Developer: Centrotherm Photovoltaics AG, Nvalue GmbH, Merit International, a BOO project); and (iv) A 28 kW solar project in Al Mathfa incorporating battery storage capability (Developer: Phoenix Solar / Silver Circle, a BOO project).

The six short-listed projects totally offer 6.6MW of renewable capacity at an investment cost of some 8.1 million RO. The projects, if implemented, would allow RAEC to replace 11GWh of annual diesel generation with renewable sourced electricity, this would reduce diesel fuel consumption by 3.1 million liters per year and avoid 8,298 metric tons of CO2 per year.

Jordan's best wind resources are in Aqaba and the Jordan Valley, and the government intends to build 600 MW of wind by 2015 and a further 600-1,000 MW by 2020. In summer 2010 negotiations for Jordan's first wind farm were under way again (having stalled earlier) -- this is to be a 30-40 MW wind power plant in Kamshah.

Syria's target is for renewable energy to make up 4.3% of primary energy demand by 2011, and it has two wind farms (100 MW and 30 MW) in planning, with two locations being opened up for investment by Syrian and foreign companies.

A new plan for Syrian energy, entitled `Masterplan for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energies' (MEERE), is being drawn up together with the Germany's GTZ (Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit -- German Technical Cooperation) and expected to be released later this year. Meanwhile an interim MEERE report from January 2010 confirmed that Syria has good potential for wind energy development, and indicated that a possible 2030 target could be 1,000-1,500 MW.

Sultanate of Oman is a small country with only 2.6 million inhabitants, and considerable reserves of natural gas and crude oil, and a total installed power generation capacity of around 3.5 GW. To meet increasing demand, this is forecast to grow by 2.8 GW by 2014. Natural gas and oil exports account for around half of Oman's GDP, and preserving its reserves is the key incentive for the government to look at developing the country's renewable energy resources.

A recent study commissioned by the government found an excellent potential for solar energy deployment and considerable wind power potential. Wind energy could be developed mainly in the southern part of Oman and in the mountains north of Salalah. Interestingly, the measured wind speeds were highest in summer months, when electricity demand in Oman is at its peak.

The GWEO scenarios For Middle East: Considering the significant potential for wind power in some Middle Eastern countries, the GWEO scenarios for the region are by far more optimistic than the IEA's Reference scenario. This forecasts that the region's total installed wind capacity, which stood at 101 MW by the end of 2009, will grow to around 2.5 GW by 2020 and 6 GW by 2030.

Under the Moderate scenario, which takes into account current and anticipated government targets and a growing interest in reaping the benefits wind power can bring to the region, the Middle East's installed wind capacity would grow to 2.5 GW by 2020 and 24.8 GW by 2030. In the Advanced scenario, this would grow even further, to reach 10.5 GW by 2020 and 34.2 GW by 2030.

The electricity generated through wind power in these scenarios would enable some of the Middle Eastern countries to improve their energy independence and help those rich in fossil fuel resources to realise considerable fuel savings.

By 2020, between 6 (Moderate scenario) and 26 tWh (Advanced scenario) could be produced every year, and this would increase to 61-84 tWh by 2030. Accordingly, CO2 emission savings would be between 3.6 and 15.5 million tons per year by 2020, and as much as 36.5 and 50 million tons by 2030.

World Future Energy Summit -- An Impetus to Middle East's Clean Energy Initiatives: Since its inception in 2008, World Future Energy Summit "WFES" has evolved as the world's foremost and must-attend annual meeting for the renewable energy and environment industry. In 2010 WFES uniquely brought together over 24,760 attendees from 148 countries including world leaders, international policy makers, industry leaders, investors, experts, academia, intellectuals and journalists to find practical and sustainable solutions for today's energy security and climate change challenges.

WFES promotes innovation and investment opportunities surrounding renewable energy and environment. It represents an unrivalled business platform bringing together project owners and solution providers with investors and buyers from both the public and private sectors.

WFES includes a world class summit, two exhibitions, young future energy leaders program, round table discussions, industry and investment seminars, corporate meetings and social events.

The imminently upcoming WFES-2011 in January 17-20, 2011, in Abu Dhabi, is expected to offer an excellent opportunity to present solutions for a modern and sustainable energy system.

Masdar, the Mastermind: Established in April 2006, in Abu Dhabi, Masdar is a multi-faceted company advancing the development, commercialisation and deployment of renewable energy solutions and clean technologies. Masdar integrates the full renewable and clean technology lifecycle -- from research to commercial deployment -- with the aim of creating scalable clean energy solutions. Masdar works with global partners and institutions to integrate new research with proven technologies to produce efficient systems and processes that can be replicated globally.

Our beautiful planet gives us the opportunity to make proper use of sunlight, flowing water, strong winds, and hot springs and convert these into energy. These energy sources are abundant and free to use. We must be sure that we convert the energy the right way, without causing other problems that can again hurt our environment. Luckily, the many efforts by individuals and companies show that this can be done.


Updated: 2016/06/30

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