Re­new­able en­ergy on the rise in Jor­dan

Viet Nam News - - INSIGHT - Ka­mal Taha

AMMAN, Jor­dan — Set atop a mosque in the south of Jor­dan’s cap­i­tal, dozens of shim­mer­ing so­lar pan­els re­flect a grow­ing trend in the re­source-poor desert king­dom as it tries com­bat its heavy re­liance on im­ported en­ergy.

Stand­ing in front of the Ham­dan al-Qara mosque, Sheikh Ad­nan Yahya says that be­fore in­stalling the pan­els he used to pay up to 13,000 di­nars (US$18,350, 15,500 eu­ros) a year for elec­tric­ity.

“The bill has now dropped to al­most zero,” says the imam.

With pan­els pop­ping up on the rooftops of homes, schools, ho­tels and fac­to­ries across Jor­dan, the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of so­lar power is easy to spot.

The dishes and other de­sert­based so­lar fields are part of the king­dom’s drive to steer the coun­try away from for­eign en­ergy and to­wards re­new­able op­tions avail­able do­mes­ti­cally.

Jor­dan im­ports nearly 98 per cent of its en­ergy needs, and has long re­lied on gas, heavy fuel oil and diesel to run its power plants.

Each year, it pays more than $4.5 bil­lion on oil im­ports alone, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial data.

Pub­lic debt ex­ceeds more than $40 bil­lion in Jor­dan, rocked this sum­mer by rare anti-aus­ter­ity protests.

But a gov­ern­ment plan to make clean en­ergy 20 per cent of the coun­try’s over­all power con­sump­tion by 2020 has seen al­ter­na­tive en­ergy projects sky­rocket in re­cent years.

At the be­gin­ning of this year, a set of 140 pan­els were af­fixed to the top of Sheikh Yahya’s mosque at a cost of $45,000 — gen­er­at­ing nearly 44 kilo­watts of en­ergy.

The in­stal­la­tion pow­ers the 1,500-per­son ca­pac­ity place of prayer, its 50 air con­di­tion­ers, 35 fans, 120 lamps, 32 cam­eras and sound sys­tem.

“In the past, wor­ship­pers would com­plain about the heat in the sum­mer and ask us to turn up the air con­di­tion­ers. But now they tell us: ’Turn it down, we’re freez­ing!’” the white-bearded sheikh says with a broad smile.

The Ham­dan al-Qara is one of 380 mosques and churches across Jor­dan that have been sup­plied with so­lar-power sys­tems in the past five years, ac­cord­ing to the en­ergy min­istry.

Last year, so­lar plants were opened at the Syr­ian refugee camps of Zaatari and Azraq, pro­vid­ing tens of thou­sands of peo­ple with free and clean elec­tric­ity.

In Maan prov­ince, the king­dom’s largest which stretches from the south of the cap­i­tal west to the bor­der with Saudi Ara­bia, 11 re­new­able en­ergy projects have been launched since 2012.

They in­clude the Shams Maan so­lar plant.

Man­aged by a con­sor­tium of com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Jor­dan’s Kawar in­vest­ment group, Qatar’s Ne­bras Power and Ja­pan’s Mit­subishi, the $170 mil­lion project gen­er­ates 52.5 megawatts of elec­tric­ity — one per cent of the coun­try’s elec­tric­ity pro­duc­tion.

“So­lar en­ergy will help Jor­dan save on the price of fuel pur­chased from abroad in hard cur­rency and help it to be self-re­liant in power gen­er­a­tion,” says Hanna Zaghloul, Kawar’s chief ex­ec­u­tive.

“Jor­dan is el­i­gi­ble for such vi­tal projects and the re­sults are very en­cour­ag­ing. So­lar en­ergy is avail­able 320 days a year and pro­vides hun­dreds of jobs,” he says.

With 640,000 pan­els set up across a two-square-kilo­me­tre area, Shams Maan is the largest project of its kind in Jor­dan, adds Zaghloul.

“God gave us the sun and the wind, which is a lo­cal en­ergy, the more we use it, the more we be­come de­pen­dent on our­selves,” says En­ergy and Min­eral Re­sources Min­is­ter Hala Zawati.

Ac­cord­ing to her, Jor­dan is “wit­ness­ing a rapid qual­i­ta­tive leap in the field of re­new­able en­ergy”.

No op­tions

Be­fore 2012 there were no re­new­able en­ergy op­tions, laws or reg­u­la­tions in the king­dom.

But to­day, wind and so­lar power con­tribute “seven per cent of the elec­tric­ity con­sumed in Jor­dan,” she says.

And as it be­comes more preva­lent, the cost of re­new­able en­ergy pro­duc­tion has dropped too.

“To­day, a kilo­watt of so­lar en­ergy costs about four cents, which is less than half the cost of oil de­riv­a­tives, and this is steadily de­creas­ing,” says Zawati.

The former min­is­ter of state for eco­nomic af­fairs, Yusuf Mansur, says Jor­dan “must take ad­van­tage of this clean, cheap and widely avail­able en­ergy”.

Cur­rent projects “con­tribute to ef­forts to bal­ance the bud­get and will lead the state to­wards more en­ergy in­de­pen­dence,” he says. — AFP

The Ham­dan al-Qara mosque in south­ern Amman has 140 so­lar pan­els on its roof. — AFP Photo

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