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Kuwait on path to realize renewable energy vision
September 16, 2017, 2:56 pm
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Solar energy is used domestically.

Ever since the discovery of oil beneath its harsh desert environment in the late 1930s, hydrocarbons have fueled much of Kuwait’s modern growth and development. Now, the same desert, with its abundant solar and wind potential above ground, looks set to power Kuwait’s ambitious plans to generate at least 15 percent of its energy mix from renewable energy sources by 2030.

Work on tapping Kuwait’s plentiful solar and wind energy potential began in the 1980s with test ventures by the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR). However, renewable energy projects came into the limelight only in 2010 when His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al-Jaber announced a vision to generate 15 percent of the country’s demand for electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

Based on an oil price of US$45 per barrel, the vision could see the country save over KD800 million a year by generating power from renewable sources rather than from fossil fuels. Sourcing energy from renewables not only has the potential to cut costs on utilities production and increase the amount of oil available for revenue-generating export, it could also reduce the country’s phenomenal high carbon footprint by reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.

A hot, arid climate, low electricity tariffs, growing population and increasing affluence have all come together to spur unbridled energy consumption in Kuwait. The country has one of the highest per capita energy consumption rates in the world, with domestic demand for electricity more than doubling between 2003 and 2013. According to Kuwait’s minister of electricity and water, unless rationalized, rampant electricity demand could rise from the 12,500MW to reach 30,000MW by 2030.

The government’s KD30 billion renewable energy initiative aims to partner with local and international partners to generate 4500MW of renewable energy (15% of its total energy needs) by 2030, from a combination of wind, photovoltaic and concentrated solar power.

In support of this national strategy, the state-owned Kuwait Oil Company inaugurated its first-ever solar power plant at the Umm Gudair oil field in October 2016.

Named Sidrah 500, the KD30 million project, will produce 10 megawatts of electricity, half of which will be supplied to the national electricity grid. The other half of the production will be used by KOC to operate some of its oil-field utilities. Speaking at the launch of the solar power plant, the CEO of KOC Jamal Ja’afar said, “We hope that by 2020 we can make 20 percent of the electricity which will be needed to run KOC from alternative energy.” 

As part of the renewable energy vision, the Ministry of Electricity and Water (MEW), Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC) and Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR), have teamed up to develop the Al-Shagaya Renewable energy Complex, 100km west of Kuwait City, near the country’s border with Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

The first phase with a 60 MW solar power, divided into a 50MW thermal solar plant and 10MW photovoltaic plant, became operational in 2017. The second and third phases at Al-Shaqaya will see energy production of 930MW and 1,000MW respectively from a mix of wind and solar resources.

"The total output of clean energy from the Complex amounts to 23 million kw/h in the first six months, which is equivalent to the power produced from 40,000 barrels of oil worth KD 600,000. This also opens up new horizons for private investors in the coming phases,“ said the Chairman of the Complex, Dr. Salem Al-Hajraf. "Tapping into clean energy also saved the environment from 15,000 tons of carbon dioxide that could be emitted from fossil fuel in this period,” he added.

With a total population of 4.4 million people, Kuwait consumes 350,000 barrels of oil per day, valued at over KD5 million, to generate electricity and desalinate seawater. The Undersecretary of the Ministry of Electricity and Water Eng. Mohammad Bushehri projected that by 2035 the country’s population would grow to 5.5 million and consequently, by then, the domestic demand for oil is expected to reach around one million bpd by 2035, when the country's population will grew to 5.5 million. He noted that the total power generating capacity of the country at present amounted to 16,700 megawatts, while the peak electrical load this summer hit 13,800 megawatts. The future is in renewable energy, said the undersecretary.

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