Boosting the role of renewable energy in Kuwait
Kuwait started thinking about renewable energy in the mid-seventies after the first oil price boom when the price of oil touched $40-$47 per barrel. That’s when the world began to look for alternative forms of energy. However, oil prices then dropped which caused companies that were involved in renewables to go bankrupt . In 2000, people started thinking about going back to renewables due to many reasons. Oil prices reached $147 per barrel, which was way too costly. In addition, countries began to realize the consequences of climate change and began to look for greener solutions for their energy needs. Finally, there was the high concern of energy security issue .
Across the Middle East the potential of renewable energy remains largely undeveloped. Yet, the region has unlimited sunshine and great potential for the development of wind farms. Kuwait is wholly reliant on fossil fuels for energy generation. To diversify its energy mix, Kuwait targets to increase the share of renewable generation to 15% by 2030. As part of the plan, Kuwait had a target of producing 5% of its electricity from renewables by 2020 but little has happened so far. Today, less than 1% of electricity comes from renewables . The Shagaya renewable energy park forms part of this target, the park is being developed in three phases. The first phase includes 70 megawatts (MW) comprising 50 MW of Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), 10 MW photovoltaic (PV) and 10 MW wind power. The CSP was found to reduce more than 81,000 tons of CO2/year. In terms of the wind power, Kuwait is an excellent wind resource, particularly during the summer when the capacity factor exceeds 50% .
Figure 1. Monthly-averaged wind power capacity factor for the entire wind farm from September 2017 through August 2019, with the average capacity factor for the entire year (black dotted) .
Phase two, called Al Dibdibah solar plant project, with a capacity of 1500 MW was cancelled due to corona virus and its impact on the global oil and financial markets. The solar project was expected to operate in February 2021. However, the project may see second life, being transferred from the Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC), to the Ministry of Electricity and Water along with Kuwait Authority for Private Partnership (KAPP) . Finally, phase three of the Shagaya Park is expected to combine CSP, PV and wind projects.
With the decrease in renewable energy prices due to improved technology, this can be a game changer for power markets as it removes one of the biggest obstacles preventing renewables from dominating the energy mix. The cost of renewables has dropped by 82% for photovoltaic solar, by 47% for concentrated solar energy (CSP), by 39% for onshore wind and by 29% for wind offshore since 2010 and will continue to decrease . However, over the same period electricity demand in Kuwait has continued to grow. The installed capacity of electric power in Kuwait is nearly 19,500 MW and that the consumption has increased by almost half during the past 10 years. In addition, the demand for electricity in Kuwait will rise to 32,010 MW in the upcoming years because of the implementation of the 2035 development plan.
Furthermore, Kuwait is a major hydrocarbons producer and exporter, as such, its economy is characterized to be one of the highest levels of energy and carbon intensity in the world. In 2017, Kuwait CO2-equivalent emissions per capita were around 25 tons. This was more than 4 times higher than the global average, which in 2017 was 4.8 tons per person . As part of the Paris Agreement, Kuwait agreed to do its part on reducing global emissions by 0.09% . Due to this agreement, Kuwait plans to substitute natural gas for oil in the power generation sector to reduce emissions. But while Kuwait is a major oil exporter, it is a net importer of natural gas, due to the underdevelopment of its gas reserves. However, Kuwait aims to be the Middle East’s largest import terminal for natural gas. Due to that, Kuwait Integrated Petroleum Industries Co (KIPIC) is building a new liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal at Al-Zour in Kuwait to meet it's growing needs for clean fuel to generate electricity, as well as the needs of oil refineries and petrochemical industries. The plant will have the capacity of receiving 22 million tons of gas per year .
In conclusion, energy de-carbonization is vital to keep the rise in global temperatures and reduce emissions. This requires raising the share of renewables from 16% to 65% of the world’s primary energy supply by 2050 . With Kuwait’s vast solar and wind resources, the country will be able to produce energy at lower costs. For example, CSP can be used for enhanced oil recovery. In addition, water desalination, which Kuwait relies on heavily tends to consume a lot of energy, can be done using solar PV or CSP. Another utilization of solar energy is thermal collectors. Such collectors can be used for water heating for domestic use or industrial purposes and air conditioning. With lack of clear legislations and regulations about renewables and weak commitments towards its goals, Kuwait will stay behind and not achieve its goals. Lessons should be learned from the past experiences of the energy sector and leveraged to achieve success in other areas. Therefore, Kuwait must think about its future in the longer term.
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