EU helps Jordan adapt to renewable energy
AMMAN - The European Union is assisting Jordan to adapt to renewable energy to ease its reliance on imported crude oil and natural gas, which eats up nearly half of the cash-strapped Arab country’s budget.
Until the “Arab spring” revolutions, four-fifths of Jordan’s electricity was produced from natural gas delivered through a pipeline from Egypt. But the flow was disrupted by militant attacks on the pipeline, which forced Jordan to turn to more expensive imported crude oil.
Jordan, however, has made noticeable achievements towards energy independence, mostly in the use of renewable energy. The Jordanian government is working on raising the alternative energy share of its total energy use from 1.5% to 11% by 2025, while targeting a 15% contribution from nuclear power in the same time-frame.
Andrea Matteo Fontana, the EU ambassador to Jordan, told The Arab Weekly an EU-sponsored awareness campaign started in Jordan in November in conjunction with the Energy Ministry.
“The campaign aims to spread awareness of the benefits of using renewable energy,” Fontana said. “Jordan is blessed with nine months (a year) of sunny days. That is why solar power is an important element in turning to renewable energy to cut the cost of diesel.”
“We’re very happy that Jordan has committed itself to achieve a reduction of 20% in energy cost by 2020,” he added.
Jordan has 1,000 megawatts (MW) of wind and solar projects under development, of which power purchase agreements have been signed for 400MW.
Jordanian Energy Minister Ibrahim Saif said the European Union was Jordan’s “strategic partner on the economic level”.
He explained that the European Union’s assistance in energy-related programmes came in various forms, primarily funding some projects or providing expertise and technical help in others.
“The European assistance is helping us face the challenges in the sector,” he said.
Energy Ministry Secretary-General Ghaleb Maabreh said energy demand is on the rise.
“That will increase the burden on the Jordanian economy as well as dependency on imported fuel,” he said. “To reduce this dependency, the national energy strategy seeks to increase the renewable energy’s share in the energy mix to at least 10%.”
Maabreh pointed out that, although the state is trying to develop renewable energy and boost energy efficiency in Jordan, “people made limited efforts to conserve energy”.
“That is why this campaign will be focused on that segment of people who should understand the importance of preserving energy and go for renewable energy,” he added.
Solar water heating systems can be seen on rooftops in Amman. The systems are widely used for their practicality and affordability.
“I’ve been using solar water heating for more than ten years and somehow it cuts my fuel bill significantly,” said Amman bank clerk Khaled Abed Malek, 40.
“I know there are solar systems that generate enough electricity to light up a house but they’re expensive and some of us cannot afford it. That is why we need some kind of a strategy to benefit from our sun and make it work for us.”
According to Abed Malek, some people have installed the $10,000 photovoltaic system to generate 500 kilowatt hours (kw/h) per month.
“Their monthly electricity bill went down from $30 to $3,” he said. “This is good.”
About 70% of households in Jordan consume 600kw/h or less per month.
Using energy-saving light bulbs, energy-efficient appliances, insulation and wind energy are some of the techniques that can result in substantial savings on monthly energy usage.
“A couple of years ago, we noticed an increase in the number of people who were buying energy-saving bulbs, which means they are aware of the benefits of buying them and using them at home or in the office,” said Ahmed Sayad, 37, owner of an Amman electric appliances shop.
“Such a demand allows us to import better quality and different brands,” Sayad said. He said the increased demand on solar-powered and other energy-saving lights indicates that people wanted to “pay less for bills at the end of each month”.
Waleed Shaheen, a general manager for the National Energy Research Centre, said studies by the Royal Scientific Society indicated that about 25% of the country’s total energy consumption can be conserved.