by Hana Namrouqa | Jun 10,2012

AMMAN — Consecutive governments have been missing out on huge socio-economic and environmental benefits by failing to tap Jordan’s promising renewable energy potential, Greenpeace activists said on Sunday.

Dressed in white overalls and carrying banners and mock barrels of nuclear waste, the activists urged the government to shift its investment in the “troubled” nuclear project to renewable energy as they held a sit-in on Wadi Saqra Street.

“The government needs to consider the different benefits of renewable energy in preventing environment pollution, safeguarding public health and most importantly ensuring Jordan’s energy sovereignty,” Greenpeace-Jordan coordinator, Safa Jayoussi, told The Jordan Times.

The Kingdom imports 98 per cent of its energy needs at a cost of 25 per cent of its gross domestic product annually, according to officials, who said that the national energy bill is expected to reach a record high of over JD4 billion this year.

Energy experts and environmental activists said that the government must explore alternative energy resources, such as wind and solar power, underscoring that Jordan has one of the highest annual daily averages of solar irradiance in the world, with 330 days of sunshine per year.

The Kingdom also has significant amounts of untapped wind energy, with wind speeds as high as 7.5 metres per second and up to 11.5 metres per second in hilly areas, according to experts.

Yet despite these advantages, renewable energy currently contributes less than 1 per cent of Jordan’s energy mix.

“Today’s event seeks to raise public awareness. Many people don’t know about the country’s plans to establish a nuclear reactor. Many are also ignorant of the hazards related to nuclear power,” Jayoussi said.

“Spiralling energy prices and over-reliance on foreign fuel imports are a threat to our economy and people. This must be met with immediate action to promote energy sovereignty through large-scale solar and wind generation,” she added.

Meanwhile, Omar Qubain, another Greenpeace activist, said that the group will continue demonstrating to remind the government that the public is still against the nuclear programme.

“Jordan cannot afford to bank on the losing bet of nuclear power generation, which, as Fukushima and Chernobyl demonstrate, are fundamentally unsafe,” Qubain underscored, referring to the infamous nuclear meltdowns in Japan and the former Soviet Union.

The Kingdom’s nuclear power programme, which calls for the establishment of a 1,000 megawatt nuclear reactor by the end of the next decade, entails the construction of up to four plants to produce over half the country’s electricity needs.

The country’s first nuclear power plant, to be built in Mafraq Governorate, is to be operated under a public-private partnership, a joint venture under which the government would own a 26-51 per cent equity share in the plant.