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Dec 31 2012

Gulf funds to support solar, wind projects in south

By Taylor Luck AMMAN -- Jordan is set to receive $300 million from the Gulf states to boost investment in renewable energy, officials say, as Amman looks to solar and wind power as potential solutions to the country's chronic energy woes.

According to Minister of Energy and Transportation Alaa Batayneh, some $300 million of a $5 billion grant from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has been earmarked for a series of solar and wind energy projects in southern Jordan expected to produce over 125 megawatts (MW) of electricity.

In a recent interview with The Jordan Times, Batayneh said the money, set to be secured by the ministry next year, would fund some 50-75MW of solar power and 75-100MW of wind power projects in Maan and Aqaba governorates.

The GCC aid, decided at a meeting of the Gulf states last December, includes $1.25 billion each from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar, and will support development projects in the Kingdom over a period of five years.

The $300 million is the latest in a string of international assistance agreements for clean energy in Jordan, including a $112 million loan Jordan secured from the World Bank in July to support the establishment of a 100MW concentrated solar power plant.

"These funds will help Jordan develop its one true energy solution: solar and wind," Batayneh told The Jordan Times in a recent interview.

As part of its efforts to boost renewable energy's contribution to the Kingdom's energy mix from 1 to 10 per cent by the end of the decade, the ministry has embarked on advanced talks with 29 local and international companies to implement over 1,000MW in solar and wind energy projects.

Amman is currently working with the short-listed firms to set prices for electricity produced by the small- to medium-scale projects, which average around 50MW per initiative, in order to seal final agreements by the first quarter of 2013.

"After years of failing to look ahead, we don't want to lose any more time," Batayneh said. "We want to finalise these agreements and boost investment in the sector."

Amman's renewed push for renewable energy comes after several years of setbacks and delays that have cast doubt over the country's ability to meet the national energy strategy's goal of producing 1,200MW of solar and wind energy by 2020.

With this year's passage of the Renewable Energy Law and key regulations easing investment in solar and wind power, energy officials say they are confident Jordan can meet the benchmark, which, according to experts, requires some $1 billion in investment.

The drive for renewables comes as Jordan looks to ease its dependence on heavy oil imports, which due to rising international prices are set to push the national energy bill to a record JD4 billion by the end of the year.

Jordan currently imports 97 per cent of its energy needs at a cost of nearly one-fourth its gross domestic product.

© Jordan Times 2012


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