EU helps Jordan adapt to renewable energy

Friday 27/11/2015
An Amman street adorned by solar panels

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.