New energies offer solution to 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.