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It's a long road ahead to low carbon energy

The region has big solar plans, but little has happened on the ground.

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Big plans, but still not many of these things on the ground.
Big plans, but still not many of these things on the ground.

In the same month that the International Renewable Energy Agency issued another call for humanity to embrace renewables, we heard some potentially encouraging news about the region’s plans to embrace solar power.

Putting aside the question of how environmentally unfriendly the solar panel manufacturing process may or may not be, these announcements seem like great news. Saudi Arabia will apparently spend US $109 billion on solar power by 2030. Jordan is making a big push into solar and spades are very close to being placed in the ground at sites chosen for solar farms. Dubai already has a location, a working solar facility and has hired a consultant to draw up a framework for the tendering of a new 100MW plant at the existing Mohammed bin Rashid Solar Park.

This is all good news and shows a region thinking in a forward and visionary way. But look on the ground and you’ll see that there are still very few solar projects actually working and underway.

Saudi Arabia’s target of 40GW of solar capacity by 2030 is still just an idea. No tenders have been issued and no projects are underway. At the moment, it’s unclear how much longer it will be until work starts on building these farms.

Before construction can start, the question of how these plants will be owned and operated needs to be settled. Will utilities continue to own and operate the assets or will they opt for the IPP or BOOT model? Should they choose the latter, there will have to be difficult negotiations about the price the utilities pay to buy the power from the plants' owners.

Then there is that term ‘grid stability’. Before utility grids can start to absorb unpredictable streams of power from solar farms, grids needs to be strengthened, stabilised and smartened up.

What this all goes to show is that the road to low carbon power will be long and unpredictable. Utilities Middle East will be there, following events and reporting on the region’s emerging renewables market with enthusiasm. 

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