Middle East: only 101 MW wind energy installed at end of 2009

As a region, the Middle East – classified by the IEA as Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates and Yemen – is rich in oil and gas. Yet the economies of the various countries reflect the fact that these reserves are unevenly distributed – members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar) are generally most affluent.

While those countries are major exporters of oil, others are importers, often at a very high cost compared to their overall GDP. Increased prosperity in much of the region means that the demand for power has been growing rapidly for industrial and consumer needs, with extra loads for cooling and desalination. Some of the wealthiest countries in the Middle East region are among the world’s most carbon intense economies.

Given the overall aridity of the region, it may be surprising that hydro power is well developed in countries such as Iran, with some 7,500 MW of installed capacity generating just over 18 TWh per year and Syria with 1,500 MW, producing 4 TWh per year. Iraq has 2,225 MW of installed hydro capacity but current production is only about 500 GWh/year. Most other power production in the region is based on natural gas.

A number of governments in the Middle East have developed national plans for renewable energy. The latest Energy [R]evolution Scenario2 anticipates that, given political support and well-designed policy instruments, by 2050, 95% of the electricity produced in the Middle East could come from renewable energy sources – mainly wind, solar thermal energy or Concentrating Solar Power and photovoltaics.

The installed capacity of these renewable energy technologies will grow from the current 10 GW to 556 GW in 2050, meeting 83% of the region’s demand for heating and cooling, says the report.

As regards wind power, the region had 101 MW installed at end of 2009. While less evenly distributed than solar, the region’s wind resource is excellent in some areas, as several of the governments are now recognizing. Iran and Oman have good wind regimes, as do Syria and Jordan.

Iran is the only country in the region with any large scale wind turbines installations. The country currently has two wind farms: the Manjil wind farm in Giland province, and the Binalook wind farm in Khorasan Razavi province, which have an installed capacity of 91 MW. There are plans for expanding wind energy capacity to reach 400 MW in the coming years.

Studies have shown that overall, Iran has a potential for wind power development of around 15 GW. Iran offers tax and investment credits to support renewables development. In addition, Iran is home to the region’s only wind turbines manufacturer, Saba Niroo.

Jordan currently generates 1.5% of its electric power from renewable sources. Its policy is to achieve 7% of its primary energy demand from renewables by 2015, and 10% by 2020.

In January 2010 the government passed a new Renewable Energy Law, which requires the National Electric Power Company (NEPCO) to purchase all electricity produced by independent and small-scale renewable plants at full retail price (net metering). The government is reportedly considering introducing an incentive system to promote investment in wind power, which could include a feed-in tariff.

Jordan’s best wind resources are in Aqaba and the Jordan Valley, and the government intends to build 600 MW of wind by 2015 and a further 600-1,000 MW by 2020. In summer 2010 negotiations for Jordan’s first wind farm were under way again (having stalled earlier) – this is to be a 30-40 MW wind power plant in Kamshah.

Syria’s target is for renewable energy to make up 4.3% of primary energy demand by 2011, and it has two wind farms (100 MW and 30 MW) in planning, with two locations being opened up for investment by Syrian and foreign companies.

A new plan for Syrian energy, entitled ‘Masterplan for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energies’ (MEERE), is being drawn up together with the Germany’s GTZ (Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit – German Technical Cooperation) and expected to be released later this year.

Meanwhile an interim MEERE report from January 2010 confirmed that Syria has good potential for wind energy development, and indicated that a possible 2030 target could be 1,000-1,500 MW.

Oman is a small country with only 2.6 million inhabitants, and considerable reserves of natural gas and crude oil, and a total installed power generation capacity of around 3.5 GW. To meet increasing demand, this is forecast to grow by 2.8 GW by 2014.

Natural gas and oil exports account for around half of Oman’s GDP, and preserving its reserves is the key incentive for the government to look at developing the country’s renewable energy resources. A recent study commissioned by the government found an excellent potential for solar energy deployment and considerable wind power potential.
Wind energy could be developed mainly in the southern part of Oman and in the mountains north of Salalah. Interestingly, the measured wind speeds were highest in summer months, when electricity demand in Oman is at its peak.

The GWEO scenarios For Middle East

Considering the significant potential for wind power in some Middle Eastern countries, the GWEO scenarios for the region are by far more optimistic than the IEA’s Reference scenario. This forecasts that the region’s total installed wind capacity, which stood at 101 MW by the end of 2009, will grow to around 2.5 GW by 2020 and 6 GW by 2030.

Under the Moderate scenario, which takes into account current and anticipated government targets and a growing interest in reaping the benefits wind power can bring to the region, the Middle East’s installed wind capacity would grow to 2.5 GW by 2020 and 24.8 GW by 2030. In the Advanced scenario, this would grow even further, to reach 10.5 GW by 2020 and 34.2 GW by 2030.

The electricity generated through wind power in these scenarios would enable some of the Middle Eastern countries to improve their energy independence and help those rich in fossil fuel resources to realise considerable fuel savings.

By 2020, between 6 (Moderate scenario) and 26 T Wh (Advanced scenario) could be produced every year, and this would increase to 61-84 T Wh by 2030. Accordingly, CO2 emission savings would be between 3.6 and 15.5 million tons per year by 2020, and as much as 36.5 and 50 million tons by 2030.