Petra | Jun 27, 2013 | 23:23 Updated: Jun 27, 2013 | 23:24

AMMAN — Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour on Thursday stressed the importance of speeding up renewable energy projects to reduce the Kingdom’s energy bill, which poses a heavy burden on the state budget.

During a meeting with Energy Ministry officials, the premier was briefed on the challenges facing the sector and the ministry’s plans to increase reliance on local energy resources, including oil shale, gas, uranium and renewable energy.

Energy Minister Malek Kabariti, said the Kingdom imports 97 per cent of its energy needs, noting that the ministry’s plan seeks to increase reliance on local energy resources to constitute 7 per cent by 2015 and 10 per cent by 2020.

The country’s energy bill has been increasing in light of growing demand, reaching around JD4.6 billion last year. It is expected to reach around JD5 billion by the end of this year.

In 2012, the Egyptian gas contribution to producing electric power dropped to 14.2 per cent from 86.5 per cent in 2009, the minister said, pointing out that this increased the cost of producing electricity, especially because of further reliance on heavy fuel.

Referring to the projected Basra-Aqaba pipeline, Kabariti said Iraqi officials are currently soliciting qualified companies in order to float the pipeline tender within the coming months.

During his visit to the ministry, the premier also met with members of the Electricity Regulatory Commission (ERC), who briefed him on their goals, mainly boosting investments in the sector, ensuring the provision of quality services and looking after consumers’ interests.

ERC President Mohammad Hamed said the main challenge is the increasing demand for electricity, coupled with insufficient supplies of Egyptian gas for power generation.

Also on Thursday, Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications Mohammad Momani said the government’s decision to adjust electricity prices is part of its national responsibility.

During a meeting with Jordan News Agency, Petra, staff, Momani, who is also the government’s spokesperson, said the decision safeguards the country’s higher interests.

Highlighting the financial burdens that are weighing heavily on the state budget and the growing accumulative debts of the National Electric Power Company, he said the government has launched a series of meetings with members of different political groups and community entities to clarify its imminent decision to raise electricity prices gradually.

Momani added that all economic decisions are also aimed at increasing investors’ and donors’ confidence in the country’s economic programme.