By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – An environment expert on Sunday urged the Ministry of Environment to launch a grass-roots initiative that encourages Jordanians to benefit from Jordan’s abundant solar power.

President of the Energy Conservation and Sustainable Environment Society Ayoub Abu Dayyeh proposed that the ministry support install solar panels for households to reduce Jordan’s fat energy bill.

“The ministry should encourage people to install solar panels on their rooftops from its environment protection fund…” Abu Dayyeh said during a lecture at the Ministry of Environment held on the occasion of World Environment Day.

Abu Dayyeh also suggested that the ministry float a tender for purchasing solar panels, installing them on households’ rooftops and charging an extra JD1-JD2 to every household’s monthly electricity bill for paying back the cost of solar panels.

“Such an initiative is implemented in many countries around the world, such as Turkey and Cyprus. In Jordan, household dependence on solar power is marginal, as only 13 per cent of houses in Jordan rely on solar panels,” Abu Dayyeh told attendants.

Currently the penetration of solar water heaters in the residential sector stands at 14-15 per cent, while the national energy strategy calls for the rate to reach 50 per cent by 2020. Such a move would save the equivalent of 350,000 tonnes of oil, according to experts in the energy sector.

The strategy seeks to reach a point where renewable energy accounts for 10 per cent of the Kingdom’s energy mix by 2020, namely 1,200 megawatts (MW) of wind power and 600MW of solar energy.

Renewable energy is seen as essential to reducing the Kingdom’s reliance on energy imports, which accounts for 96 per cent of the energy consumed in the country and costs around one-fifth of its gross domestic product.

“Jordan can be a model not only for the region but also the whole world in exploiting renewable energy, such as wind and solar power,” the environment and sustainable energy expert underscored.

Abu Dayyeh said simple measures, such as installing solar panels for households, help turn Jordan’s houses green and environment friendly.

Renewable energy currently contributes less than 1 per cent of Jordan’s energy mix, according to experts, who indicate that the Kingdom has significant amounts of untapped wind and solar energy, with wind speeds as high as 7.5 metres per second, up to 11.5 metres per second in hilly areas, and direct solar radiation equalling 5.5 kilowatt hours per square metre per day.

In terms of power generation, there is potential to construct a 200MW wind farm around Irbid and Ajloun, a 200-250MW plant in Tafileh and Karak, a 200MW facility in Jerash and northern Amman, while one in Wadi Musa and the Naqab areas could produce up to 300MW, according to experts in the energy sector.