Jordan is powering a major shift to clean energy

AMMAN: Five years of rapid growth has placed Jordan at the forefront of renewables in the region, but now the sector is stalling as it waits for the country’s energy infrastructure to catch up.
Plans are in place for up to 2,000 megawatts (MW) in wind and solar projects by the end of the decade, but with the grid at capacity, the next wave of developments is on hold.
“There is big demand from investors to build renewable plants, but unfortunately the grid limitation doesn’t allow it,” said Walid Shahin, director of the National Energy Research Center in Jordan.
“The sector has grown very fast, particularly in the past two years, but now things are slowing down a bit because of this limitation.”
A new Green Corridor project, due to begin operation in 2018, will transfer power generated in south Jordan to electricity consumption centers in the central and northern regions.
In January, Jordan’s state electricity provider, the National Electric Power Co. (NEPCO), signed an agreement to implement the first two phases of the project with a Saudi company at a cost of 19 million Jordanian dinars (about $27 million).
It is one of several schemes aimed at accommodating renewable energy as the Jordanian government looks to shift reliance away from traditional sources and move toward energy independence.
A new National Green Growth Plan launched in May earmarked renewable energy as a key sector in driving sustainable growth and reigniting the country’s stagnated economy. The plan builds on ambitious targets outlined in the National Energy Strategy to scale-up renewables to 10 percent of the total energy mix by 2020.
“The renewable energy sector is booming in Jordan,” said Rasmi Hamzeh, executive director at Jordan Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Fund (JREEEF), which has earmarked almost 50 million dinars for projects up to 2018.
“We are building the capacity of the sector, investing in those areas that are taking subsidies from the government and supporting the shift to clean energy sources.”
The Jordanian government spends around 200 million dinars a year on energy subsidies, he added, accounting for a substantial portion of the country’s crippling national debt.
Jordan relies on importing around 97 percent of its energy needs from resource-rich neighbors, but regional conflicts have shut down many of these former supply routes.
In 2014, debt accrued by NEPCO exceeded 4.5 billion dinars after the government was forced to pay independent power producers to fill the gap when cheap Egyptian gas supplies were disrupted.
With the increase in oil prices pushing up the price of fuel on the international market, the Jordanian government is turning to renewables to meet the demands of a growing population.
“So far Jordan has done more than any Arab country in renewable energy integration, but we’re still learning,” said Shukri Halaby, COO at Mustakbal, a Jordanian company that specializes in providing solar power systems.
“Jordan has a small grid and while there are complaints from developers, there is really too much demand for renewables; they can’t open the tap to everybody.”
Some 1,400 companies are currently operating in Jordan’s renewable energy sector, with more opening up all the time. “Competition has become very aggressive, with a big increase in demand for renewables since 2012,” said Merissa Crook, business development manager at FB Group, a Jordanian engineering company specializing in renewable energy systems.
Rising electricity rates in recent years helped fuel this trend as Jordanians sought more cost- and energy-efficient solutions. The passing of the 2012 Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Law paved the way, laying out a legal framework to facilitate investment and drive growth in the sector.
According to Walid Shahin: “This was the starting point for the revolution in renewable energy in Jordan. Before this, you couldn’t invest (in the sector) or have your own photovoltaic in your house or business.”
Since then, solar panels have become a familiar sight, appearing on the roofs of schools, mosques, government buildings and private homes across the country.
Universities, too, have been quick to harness the advantages of solar power. FB Group is currently completing work on a 2.1MW project at the German Jordanian University (GJU).
Designed to cover the total electricity consumption of the university, the 2.3 million dinar project is expected to provide return on investment in less than two and a half years, saving around 1 million dinars in annual electricity bills.
Solar panels have been placed on the roofs of the car park and university buildings to soak up the rays from an average 330 days of sunlight a year in Jordan, which has one of the highest rates of solar irradiance in the world.
This visibility of the panels is also helping to raise awareness surrounding solar power in the area, said project manager Saad Zidam. “There’s a lot of interest from the local community. Students, parents, visitors, staff — everybody is asking how it works,” he said.
For students at the GJU, the project has made green technology a reality. Diala Al-Yabrudi, a fourth-year student of engineering and renewable energy, said seeing such a large-scale project underway at a public university has shown students what is achievable.
“When I came here we were only studying theoretically, but now even the students not taking this subject are getting familiar with the idea of energy conservation. We feel proud to be in a university that is using the latest technologies to be environmentally friendly,” she said.
FB Group completed a similar project at the Hashemite University last year, installing a 5MW-capacity system at a cost of 6 million dinars. A much larger project at Al Hussein Bin Talal University, which planned to install a 50MW system, had to be curtailed after the government set a 20MW cap on public university projects, citing lack of grid space.
Despite this, Zidam says Jordan is still setting the pace when it comes to creating an enabling environment for renewable energy in the region.
“As far as regulations go, Jordan has the least amount of obstacles compared to neighboring countries like Egypt and Iraq.
“Countries like the UAE may have better grids, but they usually utilize international firms while we have built up a lot of local expertise.”

AMMAN: Five years of rapid growth has placed Jordan at the forefront of renewables in the region, but now the sector is stalling as it waits for the country’s energy infrastructure to catch up.
Plans are in place for up to 2,000 megawatts (MW) in wind and solar projects by the end of the decade, but with the grid at capacity, the next wave of developments is on hold.
“There is big demand from investors to build renewable plants, but unfortunately the grid limitation doesn’t allow it,” said Walid Shahin, director of the National Energy Research Center in Jordan.
“The sector has grown very fast, particularly in the past two years, but now things are slowing down a bit because of this limitation.”
A new Green Corridor project, due to begin operation in 2018, will transfer power generated in south Jordan to electricity consumption centers in the central and northern regions.
In January, Jordan’s state electricity provider, the National Electric Power Co. (NEPCO), signed an agreement to implement the first two phases of the project with a Saudi company at a cost of 19 million Jordanian dinars (about $27 million).
It is one of several schemes aimed at accommodating renewable energy as the Jordanian government looks to shift reliance away from traditional sources and move toward energy independence.
A new National Green Growth Plan launched in May earmarked renewable energy as a key sector in driving sustainable growth and reigniting the country’s stagnated economy. The plan builds on ambitious targets outlined in the National Energy Strategy to scale-up renewables to 10 percent of the total energy mix by 2020.
“The renewable energy sector is booming in Jordan,” said Rasmi Hamzeh, executive director at Jordan Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Fund (JREEEF), which has earmarked almost 50 million dinars for projects up to 2018.
“We are building the capacity of the sector, investing in those areas that are taking subsidies from the government and supporting the shift to clean energy sources.”
The Jordanian government spends around 200 million dinars a year on energy subsidies, he added, accounting for a substantial portion of the country’s crippling national debt.
Jordan relies on importing around 97 percent of its energy needs from resource-rich neighbors, but regional conflicts have shut down many of these former supply routes.
In 2014, debt accrued by NEPCO exceeded 4.5 billion dinars after the government was forced to pay independent power producers to fill the gap when cheap Egyptian gas supplies were disrupted.
With the increase in oil prices pushing up the price of fuel on the international market, the Jordanian government is turning to renewables to meet the demands of a growing population.
“So far Jordan has done more than any Arab country in renewable energy integration, but we’re still learning,” said Shukri Halaby, COO at Mustakbal, a Jordanian company that specializes in providing solar power systems.
“Jordan has a small grid and while there are complaints from developers, there is really too much demand for renewables; they can’t open the tap to everybody.”
Some 1,400 companies are currently operating in Jordan’s renewable energy sector, with more opening up all the time. “Competition has become very aggressive, with a big increase in demand for renewables since 2012,” said Merissa Crook, business development manager at FB Group, a Jordanian engineering company specializing in renewable energy systems.
Rising electricity rates in recent years helped fuel this trend as Jordanians sought more cost- and energy-efficient solutions. The passing of the 2012 Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Law paved the way, laying out a legal framework to facilitate investment and drive growth in the sector.
According to Walid Shahin: “This was the starting point for the revolution in renewable energy in Jordan. Before this, you couldn’t invest (in the sector) or have your own photovoltaic in your house or business.”
Since then, solar panels have become a familiar sight, appearing on the roofs of schools, mosques, government buildings and private homes across the country.
Universities, too, have been quick to harness the advantages of solar power. FB Group is currently completing work on a 2.1MW project at the German Jordanian University (GJU).
Designed to cover the total electricity consumption of the university, the 2.3 million dinar project is expected to provide return on investment in less than two and a half years, saving around 1 million dinars in annual electricity bills.
Solar panels have been placed on the roofs of the car park and university buildings to soak up the rays from an average 330 days of sunlight a year in Jordan, which has one of the highest rates of solar irradiance in the world.
This visibility of the panels is also helping to raise awareness surrounding solar power in the area, said project manager Saad Zidam. “There’s a lot of interest from the local community. Students, parents, visitors, staff — everybody is asking how it works,” he said.
For students at the GJU, the project has made green technology a reality. Diala Al-Yabrudi, a fourth-year student of engineering and renewable energy, said seeing such a large-scale project underway at a public university has shown students what is achievable.
“When I came here we were only studying theoretically, but now even the students not taking this subject are getting familiar with the idea of energy conservation. We feel proud to be in a university that is using the latest technologies to be environmentally friendly,” she said.
FB Group completed a similar project at the Hashemite University last year, installing a 5MW-capacity system at a cost of 6 million dinars. A much larger project at Al Hussein Bin Talal University, which planned to install a 50MW system, had to be curtailed after the government set a 20MW cap on public university projects, citing lack of grid space.
Despite this, Zidam says Jordan is still setting the pace when it comes to creating an enabling environment for renewable energy in the region.
“As far as regulations go, Jordan has the least amount of obstacles compared to neighboring countries like Egypt and Iraq.
“Countries like the UAE may have better grids, but they usually utilize international firms while we have built up a lot of local expertise.”

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