New energies offer solution to Jordan

Friday 26/06/2015
A wind farm near Irbid province, north of Amman, Jordan.

Of all the economic chal­lenges facing Jordan, its energy predicament stands out as the most pressing issue it needs to handle to avoid fiscal woes spiral­ling out of control.
Jordan says it has lost $4 billion, partly due to an influx of refugees from Iraq and Syria and the fallout of the “Arab spring” uprisings that top­pled four Arab leaders in 2011. The biggest blow, however, was dried up oil supplies from Iraq and gas from Egypt at preferential prices.
Jordan lacks the oil and gas wealth of neighbouring petroleum-produc­ing Gulf nations and imports 97% of its oil and gas, accounting for almost 20% of its gross domestic product (GDP).
That figure forced the government to reconsider policies to include re­newable energy in the form of solar and wind power to offset a rising budget deficit.
A national energy strategy was in­troduced to spur renewable energy use from the current 2% to 20% by 2020. The strategy envisages spend­ing $18 billion, which would mostly come from financing by the Euro­pean Union and the United States — to increase Jordan’s reliance on domestic energy resources to 40% by 2020.
Jordan is blessed with more than 330 sunny days a year. Daily aver­age solar irradiance on a horizontal surface ranges from 5-7 kilowatts per square metre, one of the highest figures in the world.
With these factors in mind, the kingdom’s launching of construc­tion on the Middle East’s largest so­lar-run power plant is allowing Jor­dan to become a hub for renewable energy projects in the region.
The building of the $170 million Shams Ma’an solar plant, with a gen­eration capacity of 52.5 megawatts (MW), is part of a plan for renewable energy projects with a total capacity of 500MW, Haydar Qammaz, Jordan Ministry of Energy and Mineral Re­sources spokesman, said. The plant, which will produce about 160 giga­watt (GW) hours per year, was devel­oped by a consortium of Diamond Generating Europe Ltd., a subsidi­ary of the Mitsubishi Corporation; Nebras Power Q.S.C., a subsidiary of the Qatar Electricity & Water Com­pany; and the Kawar Group. It is ex­pected to start generating power in September 2016.
“Early next year, agreements for several solar and wind energy pro­jects will be signed. The government is heavily focusing on the renewable energy sector, which has a great po­tential,” Qammaz said.
At the end of 2020, Jordan is ex­pected to have renewable energy projects with a capacity of 1,800MW connected to the grid, according to Qammaz, who added: “We are on the right track in becoming a leader in the region in renewable energy.”
“We need to see more projects in the near future. We can do more in this regard,” said Maher Matalka, chairman of the Board of EDAMA, a Jordanian Business Association, which seeks innovative solutions for energy and water independence.
“I am optimistic and hopeful that we will see several renewable en­ergy projects soon in Jordan, which was the first in the region to have renewable energy-tailored legisla­tion.”
With Jordan’s sunny days and wind speeds of 7.5-11.5 metres per second in hilly areas, the country is working on upgrading its national energy strategy to increase the share of renewable energy, said Ghaleb Maabreh, secretary-general of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Re­sources.
The strategy, which seeks to re­duce energy-related imports from 97% to about 60% in five years, en­tails increasing the share of renew­able energy to 10% by 2020.
“Specialised teams are revising the strategy at present. We believe there is more room for renewable energy projects, and the upgraded strategy will entail a higher share of these projects to the overall mix,” said Maabreh, stressing that the ex­pansion of the grid’s capacity is cru­cial for the expansion in implement­ing such projects.
Jordan cancelled a round of ten­ders seeking bids by international and local companies to build renew­able energy projects with a total capacity of 800MW due to grid con­straints. Amman said the move was taken after it did not receive grants pledged by Gulf countries in 2014 for grid expansion.
Transmission capacity in the country stands at 3,200MW. Jor­dan has announced plans to add 1,800MW of renewable energy ca­pacity by 2020.
A new tender is expected to be of­fered soon after China’s Hanergy pledged more than $310 million to Jordan during May’s World Econom­ic Forum. Hanergy announced plans to build solar and wind projects in Jordan with a capacity of 1GW at a cost of $1.5 billion.
“We want Jordan to go more solar, said Ahmad Kofahi, head of the Jor­dan Environment Society.
“This is a green, clean source of technology,” said Kofahi, noting that technologies to generate power from renewables are advancing and leading to lower energy costs.
“Even businesses, households, small entities and embassies are opting for renewable energy, which greatly reduces the burden on the energy bill,” he concluded.