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Imperative for Gulf states to invest in renewable energy
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 15 - 12 - 2010

JEDDAH: GCC countries should invest in renewable energy “to service the energy needs (of) generations to come in an environmentally conscious way,” Adrian K. Wood, head of Siemens' solar energy business in the Middle East, said Thursday (Dec. 9) at a round table in Dubai.
He said that though “oil and gas are viable, abundant and cost effective options at present (in the region) … these resources are finite and so it is important to look into technologies and solutions that are renewable and sustainable.” He added “measures need to be taken now to ensure that countries have the right solutions in place,” he added.
From a commercial perspective, if the oil and gas can be used for export or for higher profit-generating applications i.e. downstream refining or metals, renewable energy starts to look even more attractive, he pointed out.
Amid increasing energy as populations grows, Wood said it is imperative that sustainable solutions have to be implemented hand-in-hand with traditional solutions, in order to meet this demand. There is also political pressure to reduce fossil fuel use, due to the impact on the environment, he noted.
“Renewable energy needs commitment from governments to invest in these solutions and this is gradually starting to build momentum. We see the next few years being crucial to the development of renewable energy in the GCC,” he further said.
Moreover, Wood said “it is the time to start now as the market in the Middle East has the technology and is just waiting for contracts and tenders to be put in place to get things moving.”
He added governmental initiatives are taking place, such as Mubadala's Masdar City project and the Abu Dhabi Education Council's pledge to build environmentally friendly schools, so this builds confidence and draws attention to these issues. Wind and solar farms are also being considered for parts of the Middle East which have suitable conditions for these technologies.
On the issue of higher costs in producing renewable energy, Wood said “this depends upon country to country and application to application.”
Renewable energy costs, he explained, through wind power, are already very attractive and close to fossil fuels costs. This would mean minimal cost differences. For solar technologies, the difference is larger, he added.
However, every year the cost difference reduces. When grid parity is reached, or even slightly before this time, if one assumes a cost increase for oil and gas based energy generation in the future, then there will be no increase in cost for renewable energy, he pointed out. He further said it will take time for the cost of renewable energy technologies to come down, but the cost of oil and gas is rising, “so we feel the next 10 years will be significant in deciding this. If everything happens as predicted, we see there being parity of cost towards the end of the next decade.”
On the issue of reducing Co2 emission in the region with the application of renewable energy, Wood said power consumption worldwide will increase from today's 20,300 TWh to 33,000 TWh in 2030. And the markets for renewables will grow even faster in the years ahead.
“The share of renewables used for generating power worldwide, excluding hydro power, will grow from 3 percent to 17 percent in 2030. The key factors behind this rapidly growing market are climate change, the soaring global demand for electricity, and the scarcity of fossil fuels. Among the renewables, wind power and solar are the most important energy sources.”
Explaining further, Wood said the application of solar or wind as a renewable energy source varies from country to country in which particular source is more abundant. “For countries with no wind, then solar is attractive and will lead. Even within solar, there is often a clear recommendation as to whether CSP or PV is more suitable, depending upon the environment and project requirements. Wind has at the moment a better-cost position, in terms of Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE). However, it is not possible to categorically state which will lead.”
Asked to differentiate concentrated solar power from photovoltaic, Wood said both technologies are available for the utilization of solar energy. “Depending on the characteristics of insolation, various technologies can be utilized to generate electricity using this practically inexhaustible source of energy. Diffuse sunlight is more suitable for photovoltaic plants, which use solar cells to convert radiation energy (primarily solar energy) directly into electrical energy. Solar thermal power plants, also known as CSP plants, are the technology of choice for direct insolation,” he noted.
The principle of CSP is quite simple, he further said.
“Mirrors concentrate the incident solar radiation on receivers, where the bundled solar radiation heats a heat transfer medium circulating in the receivers. This is then routed through a heat exchanger, in which steam is raised to drive a steam turbine. Today, synthetic thermo oils are primarily used as the heat transfer fluid,” Wood pointed out.


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