The advantages of being part of an international initiative to locate and map renewable energy resources is being keenly debated within government and academic circles in the Sultanate, according to officials familiar with the deliberations. The Global Renewable Energy Atlas, unveiled at a key GCC workshop on clean energy last month, is described as a groundbreaking initiative spearheaded by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to promote the establishment of a collaborative database for solar and wind resources.
A high-level from the Sultanate comprising renewable energy policymakers, scientists and meteorological experts attended the workshop in Abu Dhabi early last month. Represented at the forum were officials from the Public Authority for Electricity and Water (PAEW), The Research Council, Sultan Qaboos University, and Meteorological Office-Civil Aviation. According to officials, IRENA’s decision to unveil the Global Renewable Energy Atlas project in the Gulf was an acknowledgement of the region’s ambitious efforts to embrace clean energy resources despite an abundance of conventional energy resources.
All six Gulf states have outlined concrete plans for tapping renewables to ease their dependence on hydrocarbons for power generation. Oman, for example, is studying plans for the implementation of a 200 megawatts Concentrated Solar Power plant, having already initiated a number of pilot solar, wind energy and solar/wind hybrid ventures at key locations around the country. Kuwait and the UAE are also pursuing similar clean energy ventures, although on a more modest scale.
Longer term, GCC states have ambitious goals to make renewables part of their energy mix. Saudi Arabia has announced a target of 41 gigawatts of solar capacity by the year 2030, while Bahrain and Kuwait envision a 5 per cent contribution by solar energy to their national electricity demand. Qatar is targeting around 3,500 MW of solar-based generation capacity by 2030, while the Sultanate aims to source 10 per cent of its energy needs from renewables by 2030.
According to the Abu Dhabi headquartered IRENA, an intergovernmental organisation dedicated to renewable energy development, the Global Atlas will serve as a valuable, one-of-a-kind resource for policy-makers and public authorities, investors, and developers, academics and the interested public. “Investors and developers will look to the Global Atlas for an overview of market potentials, site selection, and aggregated information and resource data for the development of new markets.
Since the Global Atlas will be a trusted data source, developed by leading scientific institutes, a high level of confidence in its output can help investors raise money for more detailed assessments by commercial service providers,” says IRENA. In addition to support from IRENA and UNEP, the Atlas project is expected to attract the participation of research institutes and private companies from around the world, as well as the backing of IRENA’s 155-plus member states.
Conrad Prabhu, http://main.omanobserver.om