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The Future of Renewable Energy in Jordan

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Solar panels in Jordan. Photo Flickr

Renewable energy is the future of Jordan, the hydrocarbon-poor country that imports nearly 96 per cent of its energy. In remarks to Fanack Chronicle in August 2015, experts said that the Kingdom could not only fully rely on clean energy but could also export solar power to cloudy Europe.

Jordan has around 330 days of sun per year, according to Ahmad Abu Saa, an official at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources. Munther al-Shara, president of the Economic and Social Council, said that solar radiation in Jafer, in the governorate of Maan around 270 kilometres south of the capital Amman, is the highest worldwide. Jordan can better utilize this natural advantage to produce solar power above its domestic needs and export the surplus to Europe, said the economist and former minister.

In June 2015, Jordan launched the Shams Maan Solar Photovoltaic Project, which officials say is the largest solar energy project in the Middle East. The $170 million facility, which will cover an area of 2 million square metres and is scheduled for completion in 2016, is expected to generate 160 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of energy per year, equivalent to 1 per cent of the Kingdom’s annual energy output. “Maan and Jafer can be the oil of Jordan,” said al-Shara.

According to Haydar al-Qamaz, the Energy Ministry’s spokesperson, renewable energy is gaining momentum in the Kingdom. He cited the state-owned National Electric Power Company‘s green corridor project as one of the ministry’s top priorities for this year. The multi-component venture aims to reinforce Jordan’s high-voltage electricity grid to enable the integration of more renewable energy and to improve reliability of supply, he said.

A number of entities are already embracing the trend, with embassies, factories, houses and some industrial facilities as well as schools and universities installing renewable energy systems. Solar panels will also be installed at the Kingdom’s 6,000 mosques, he added. Even the Royal Family is going green. In May, King Abdullah inaugurated a 5.6MW, solar-run power plant at the Royal Court, a move described by one expert as a message to the public and decision makers to go solar.

“It’s a smart move to lead by example. All ministries and governmental entities should follow the court’s lead. This also reflects another message the king is trying to convey: the importance of being environmentally responsible even if you have money,” said Ayah al-Fawaris, a regional business development engineer for Izzat Marji Group in Kuwait and the US Association of Energy Engineers’ 2014 Young Energy Professional of The Year.

On the future of renewable energy in Jordan, she said: “I see solar panels on every rooftop and wind turbines in the wide fields. Jordan is standing at a crossroads right now. It can push sustainable and green energy technologies, or it can push for other energy sources with big question marks and social rejection like nuclear.”

Jordan’s nuclear strategy, which sets out a pogramme for nuclear power to provide 30% of electricity by 2030 and entails the construction of up to four plants, faces public opposition due to concerns about safety and cost, the latter projected to reach $10 billion.

Jordan can produce all of its electricity from solar, but an energy mix rather than reliance on a single energy source is more secure, said al-Fawaris. “A mix of wind, geothermal, solar and maybe some shale oil is good. We can for sure export electricity to Europe, assuming that the region is politically stable. It makes more sense to generate the electricity in Jordan and export it to countries in Europe as we have almost double the solar irradiance they do.”

For example, the same solar photovoltaic system in Jordan will generate double the electricity it generates in Germany on an average day, she elaborated. In Germany, annual solar radiation amounts to approximately 1,000kWh per square metre, according to GermanSolar. In Jordan by comparison, solar irradiance reaches around 2,250kWh, al-Fawaris said.

By 2020, Jordan wants renewable energy to represent around 10 per cent of its energy mix. This ambition was first declared in 2007, but it took the government five years to formalize the necessary laws and regulations that would make it possible to connect a renewable energy system to the national grid. In recent months, Jordan has endorsed a number of renewable energy projects.

Al-Fawaris believes that decision makers could have done more in previous years to shift Jordan from importing and dependence to producing and independence. However, she added that the current momentum is a sign that nature is the most logical solution for Jordan.