by Basel Burgan | Jul 19, 2012 | 22:57

Previous Jordanian governments formed committees of specialists to come up with the Jordanian Energy Strategy (JES). The strategy became a reality in 2004, and then was updated in 2007.

The JES worked out an energy mix for Jordan’s energy independence, giving 6 per cent for nuclear energy and 10 per cent for renewable energy, with the idea that the total energy mix becomes a reality in 2020.

Jordanian environmentalists did not believe then that the nuclear part of the mix would ever become a reality. Then, in 2008, they were astonished to see the fast formation of the Jordanian Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) based on its law that was very quickly approved by the 15th Parliament.

In 2009, JAEC declared its intention to build five nuclear power plants. The first two NPPs were aimed to be built and get operational in 2020, with a capacity of 2200MW (the final three plants were to be operational in 2030). By this, the JAEC is aiming to generate 44 per cent of Jordan’s energy mix in 2020 (and 55 per cent in 2030).

This was calculated by considering that peak load electricity consumption was 2,700MW in the winter of 2011-2012, and is expected to reach 5,000MW in 2020, at an average of 7 per cent annual growth.

This vision is contradictory to JES, which had allocated only 6 per cent to nuclear energy!

In the meantime, and during the same year, the Renewable Energy Law was released, but it was approved by the 16th Parliament and became a reality only four years later. Environmentalists could not understand why it took the law four years to come to light, while the nuclear energy law made it in very few months. It seems that some did not want it to come to life.

In May 2012, the Jordanian Electricity Regulatory Commission announced regulations for the feed-in tariff of renewable energy, which was a total surprise for many Jordanians involved in this field. The released feed-in tariff was JD0.130/Kw per hour for solar sources and as low as JD0.085/Kw per hour for windmill sources.

At a time Jordanian governments complain daily about the current cost of electricity, at JD0.19/Kw per hour from burning heavy fuel, this renewable energy feed-in tariff was a surprise.

Even with the return of the Egyptian gas at the new selling rates to Jordan (as $6/PTU [per thermal unit] instead of the old price of $2.2/PTU), the lowest cost of burning fossil fuel will not be less than JD0.120/Kw per hour. Environmentalists ask what right the government has to enforce a low feed-in tariff for renewable energy at a time the whole world grants renewable energy a much higher tariff than fossil.

In France, solar feed-in tariff is as high as JD0.500/Kw per hour sold by households with a guarantee of purchase for 20 years, and JD0.440/Kw per hour from industrial and commercial buildings.

In Germany, households sell at JD0.240/Kw per hour. Japan is currently discussing $0.50 for wind. In Denmark, anyone who buys shares in windmill cooperatives, gets tax exemptions ( Why would Jordan’s renewable energy carry the lowest tariff in the world?

Even stranger was the fact that the feed-in tariff released by ERC set a limit for installations in households. The ERC instructions indicated a maximum installation of 25 per cent of the average annual consumption. Any more installation is not allowed and becomes illegal. By this, households or commercial and industrial units would not be interested to install renewable energy-generating equipment on their premises.

This leaves companies that burn fossil fuel as with a high share of energy production in Jordan. And pollution keeps escalating and inducing global warming, the effects of which we in Jordan, are also feeling.

For the record, renewable energy projects (solar or wind) could be built and become operational in a very short time. Even mega renewable energy stations could be feeding the electricity network in 12 months. This is what governments keep ignoring when they speak of nuclear power for electricity.

NPPs need six to eight years in industrial countries, while in a country like Jordan, building one might need double the time. Yet, we need to solve Jordan’s energy crises today, and not in 2025.

Renewable energy can help do so. A concentrated solar power (CSP) station could be built over 100 square km in Maan area, south of Jordan, and can produce 2,000 megawatts. If CSPs efficiency is 30 per cent, then only 300 km2 can light up Jordan and no less than 30,000 Jordanian jobs.

The Renewable Energy Law of Jordan is a step in the right direction. What we need to see is a more motivating mix of incentives, and stable and motivating feed in tariff prices for renewable energy that will entice companies and even private citizens to invest in solar and wind generation.

If Jordan were to embrace renewable energy at the corporate and household levels, the idea of limits to the maximum share of renewable energy contribution to the total energy mix must also be reconsidered.

We should keep in mind that the more Jordan resorts to renewable energy sources for electricity, the more the government will get financial rewards from the global fund focused on reducing carbon footprint.

Moreover, doing so is a moral duty that we owe to Mother Earth.

The writer is president of the Jordanian Friends of Environment. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.