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Kuwait’s Renewable Energy Program inches forward

Kuwait, till recently, was a completely oil-dependent country. Oil exports accounted for around 40 per cent of its income, while all of its energy generation were met from oil and gas plants. According to International Renewable Energy Agency, Kuwait’s renewable energy (RE) share in 2019 was still zero percent while real production of RE actually halved in 2019 when compared to 2014.

Acting on the demand to switch to a greener economy, Kuwait envisioned a broad roadmap to meet 15 per cent of its energy needs from renewable energy by 2030. According to International Energy Agency, Kuwait’s energy demand will triple by 2030 and diversification of energy to green energy will reduce the country’s vulnerability to the fuel sector. Since then, the country has initiated a variety of steps to inculcate RE projects in its infrastructure planning.

The result was the Shagaya RE Park located barely 100 kilometres from Kuwait City which is enroute to becoming one of the largest Photo-voltaic Power plant in the world. Shagaya Power plant demonstrated 10 Mega Watts of PV Solar generation including solar thermal and 10 MW of wind energy generation by 2017 which was the first phase of the project before the project’s inauguration in 2019. In the second phase, the park will install a 1500-MW PV Solar Plant in the middle of the desert. But the project timelines have run into problems following issues in the installation of the plant and Kuwait’s decision to enable private investment at the project. How the project succeeds is important to set the precedent for the future.

In 2021, Kuwait formed a task force under the Ministry of Electricity, Water and Renewable Energy in addition to the Housing welfare minister and Urban development minister to study and approve RE projects for each Housing welfare project distinctly. They would approve the subcontractor for the solar energy in each of the public housing projects in addition to supervision and reviewing their implementation. In addition, the task force would probe other RE systems for implementation in the Housing Welfare projects. The plan is to mount PV cells on the roofs of apartment buildings, car sheds, etc.

Among other projects, in 2021, it was reported that the Electricity and water ministry had included 16 RE projects under its plans. Under his highness Sheikh Al-Ahmad’s vision, Kuwait is working to build 4.5-5 GW of energy generation from renewable projects by 2030. Shagaya Park when completed will represent a third of this target. Other targets include PV cells on car canopies and ground water tanks with a target of 4.6 MW and 10 MW respectively.

Frankly, Kuwait’s RE development is in the nascent stage of development. Apart from optimism, the country has a very long way to go before creating an ecosystem to promote sustainable energy. But the need for the same is definitely felt by the policy-makers. This year, birds dropped dead from the sky as Kuwait city’s temperature soared above 53 degrees Celsius. Asphalt roads melted and sea creatures near the shore floated dead too. The extreme heat in Kuwait merits a shift to green energy to check climate change. Kuwait’s intended a target of 7.4 percent cut in emissions by 2035 may fall short of limits to curtail any devastating climate change effects.

The good news is that Kuwait is blessed with the solar insolation, one of the highest in the world. The wind Energy potential of the country is also a good opportunity to exploit. Kuwait will need to accelerate its RE targets to meet global expectations faster. Even the drastic climate of the country warrants serious steps to keep climate change in check.

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