Renewable energy is the most competitive form of power generation in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, according to a new report published today by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Abundant resources, together with strong enabling frameworks have led to solar PV prices of below three cents per kilowatt hour and dispatchable concentrated solar power (CSP) of 7.3 cents per kilowatt hour, which is less than some utilities in the region pay for natural gas.
IRENA’s new ‘Renewable Energy Market Analysis: GCC 2019’ launched during Abu Dhabi Sustainabilty Week, says achieving the stated 2030 targets can bring significant economic benefits to the region including the creation of more than 220,000 new jobs whilst saving over 354 million barrels of oil equivalent (MBOE) in regional power sectors. The targets could reduce the power sector’s carbon dioxide emissions by 136 million tonnes (22% reduction), while cutting water withdrawals in the power sector by 11.5 trillion litres (17% reduction) in 2020.
The findings come as GCC economies seek to diversify their economies against the backdrop of fast-growing domestic energy demand and a desire to safeguard hydrocarbon export revenues for the future.
“The GCC is among the most attractive regions in the world to develop large-scale solar and wind energy projects as a result of resource abundance and a favourable policy environment, a fact that is backed up by record low prices,” said IRENA Director-General, Adnan Z. Amin. “As a fossil-fuel exporting region, the GCC’s decisive move towards a renewable energy future is a signal to global investors and to the energy community that we are experiencing a step-change in global energy dynamics and a true energy transformation.”
H.E. Suhail Al Mazrouei, UAE Minister of Energy, added: “The UAE’s commitment to diversifying the energy mix is central to our long-term economic growth and sustainable development objectives. IRENA’s GCC analysis provides further evidence of the strong socio-economic case for renewable energy deployment, from job creation to emission reductions. As we look to add generation capacity to serve growing populations and expanding economies, renewables will increasingly serve as central pillar of low-carbon development.”
At the end of 2017, the region had some 146GW of installed power capacity, of which renewable energy accounted for 867MW. Around 68% this capacity was in the UAE. This represents a four-fold increase on capacity in 2014. Following the UAE are Saudi Arabia with 16% and Kuwait with nine per cent of regional capacity.
With renewable energy targets now in place across the region, the GCC is poised for a significant acceleration in renewables deployment as countries pursue national goals. Under current plans, the region will install a total of almost seven gigawatts (GW) new power generation capacity from renewable sources by the early 2020s.
Solar PV dominates the region’s renewables outlook, accounting for three-quarters of the regional project pipeline, CSP and wind account for ten percent and nine per cent respectively. Solar-assisted enhanced oil recovery in Oman is also expected to contribute about one gigawatt-thermal (GWth) in 2019.
Proactive policies are central to accelerating renewable energy deployment, per the report, suggesting that lessons can be drawn from the GCC countries where substantial inroads have been made thanks to firm government commitments and credible, time-bound targets with a clear focus on a supportive business environment for investments.