Solar panels, depending on the developer, can make up between 25 and 40 per cent of total project costs. Jason Reed / Reuters
Solar panels, depending on the developer, can make up between 25 and 40 per cent of total project costs. Jason Reed / Reuters

Abu Dhabi plant to produce region’s cheapest electricity from solar

Abu Dhabi has achieved a rec­ord low cost for electricity generated by solar power in a deal with an Asian consortium to build the world’s largest single-site solar facility in the emirate.

The Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Company (Adwec), the procurement arm of the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority (Adwea), signed a 25-year power purchase agreement with Japan’s Marubeni and the Chinese firm Jinko Solar for a 1.17 gigawatt solar power plant in Sweihan, according to a statement released by Marubeni.

The new plant, about 100 kilometres south-east of the capital, will have the capacity to power about 200,000 homes. It will be built, owned and operated by a special-purpose company, with Marubeni and Jinko each taking a 20 per cent stake and Adwea holding the remaining 60 per cent.

Six bids were submitted in September for a “minimum net power capacity of 350 megawatts together with associated infrastructure and facilities”. Marubeni and Jinko submitted a record-low bid for 1.17GW at a weighted 2.42 US cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), The National has learnt. Adwea declined to comment.

However, once the Sweihan plant begins producing electricity, expected by April 2019, the actual price that Adwea will pay for the power generated during the peak months from June to September will be 1.6 times higher than that.

A Jinko Solar spokesman told The National that it believed that the 2.42 cent price level was the new normal for the solar industry.

The Adwec-cited non-weighted bid price at 2.94 cents for the Sweihan plant is 1.67 per cent lower than Dubai’s 800MW third phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar complex.

“The cost of solar energy still has room to [drop],” said the Jinko spokesman.

The cost of electricity from solar depends on numerous factors including the type of land, photovoltaic (PV) panel prices and the cost of financing.

Solar panels, depending on the developer, can make up between 25 and 40 per cent of total project costs. And prices have fallen by 80 per cent since 2009, according to the Abu Dhabi-based International Renewable Energy Agency.

Jenny Chase, a solar analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), said that there was 10 to 15 per cent more supply than the amount that was needed in the market. According to BNEF, prices of the two main types of panels, mono and multi, had dropped between 10 and 12 per cent in the four months to December.

The variables driving down the cost of solar power are important to the UAE and wider region. Demand for electricity will grow by 7 per cent annually in the Middle East North Africa region, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Abu Dhabi’s peak electricity generation, or the maximum power needed during the height of summer in August, passed 10GW for the first time five years ago. Only Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have peak electricity generations that are greater, according to Adwea.

As the need for electricity grows alongside projected growth in economies and population, solar energy has become the cheapest form of new power generation.

BNEF estimates that the price of generating power from a combined cycle natural gas plant in the Middle East is at least 3 cents per kWh, assuming a gas price of US$2 per million British thermal units (Mmbtu). The Sweihan plant represents, based on these calculations with adjustments for inflation, a 2 to 19 per cent decreasecompared to building a new gas plant.

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How The Debt Panel's advice helped readers in 2019

December 11: 'My husband died, so what happens to the Dh240,000 he owes in the UAE?'

JL, a housewife from India, wrote to us about her husband, who died earlier this month. He left behind an outstanding loan of Dh240,000 and she was hoping to pay it off with an insurance policy he had taken out. She also wanted to recover some of her husband’s end-of-service liabilities to help support her and her son.

“I have no words to thank you for helping me out,” she wrote to The Debt Panel after receiving the panellists' comments. “The advice has given me an idea of the present status of the loan and how to take it up further. I will draft a letter and send it to the email ID on the bank’s website along with the death certificate. I hope and pray to find a way out of this.”

November 26:  ‘I owe Dh100,000 because my employer has not paid me for a year’

SL, a financial services employee from India, left the UAE in June after quitting his job because his employer had not paid him since November 2018. He owes Dh103,800 on four debts and was told by the panellists he may be able to use the insolvency law to solve his issue. 

SL thanked the panellists for their efforts. "Indeed, I have some clarity on the consequence of the case and the next steps to take regarding my situation," he says. "Hopefully, I will be able to provide a positive testimony soon."

October 15: 'I lost my job and left the UAE owing Dh71,000. Can I return?'

MS, an energy sector employee from South Africa, left the UAE in August after losing his Dh12,000 job. He was struggling to meet the repayments while securing a new position in the UAE and feared he would be detained if he returned. He has now secured a new job and will return to the Emirates this month.

“The insolvency law is indeed a relief to hear,” he says. "I will not apply for insolvency at this stage. I have been able to pay something towards my loan and credit card. As it stands, I only have a one-month deficit, which I will be able to recover by the end of December." 

Profile of Whizkey

Date founded: 04 November 2017

Founders: Abdulaziz AlBlooshi and Harsh Hirani

Based: Dubai, UAE

Number of employees: 10+

Sector: AI, software

Cashflow: Dh2.5 Million+ 

Funding stage: Series A

The specs

Engine: 4-cylinder 2.0L TSI
Transmission: Dual clutch 7-speed
Power: 320HP / 235kW
Torque: 400Nm
Price: from $49,709
On sale: now


Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

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Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

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Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

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Source: Emirates





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35 - South Africa v England at Cape Town, April 1899

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36 - India v Australia at Adelaide, Dec. 2020

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42 - New Zealand v Australia in Wellington, March 1946

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Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices


Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

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Director: Berkun Oya
Starring: Aslihan Gürbüz, Fatih Artman, Cihat Suvarioglu
Rating: 4/5

The specs

Engine: 2.3-litre 4cyl turbo
Power: 299hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 420Nm at 2,750rpm
Transmission: 10-speed auto
Fuel consumption: 12.4L/100km
On sale: Now
Price: From Dh157,395 (XLS); Dh199,395 (Limited)