Ewec close to signing power purchase agreement for 1.5 gigawatt Abu Dhabi solar plant

The Al Ajban project, expected to become operational in 2026 or earlier, will be able to power about 160,000 homes

Emirates Water and Electricity Company is seeking to boost solar power production capacity to meet increasing power demand. Photo: Ewec
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Emirates Water and Electricity Company (Ewec) is close to signing a power purchase agreement (PPA) for a 1.5 gigawatt solar plant in Abu Dhabi, which will be able to power about 160,000 homes in the UAE once operational, the utility’s chief executive said on Wednesday.

Ewec is in the “final stages” of signing a PPA and receiving regulatory approvals, Othman Al Ali said in an interview with The National, adding that an announcement would be made soon.

Last year, Ewec received proposals from Saudi Arabia’s Acwa Power, EDF Renewables, Marubeni Corporation, and a consortium consisting of Jinko Power and Jera to develop the Al Ajban solar plant.

The project, which is expected to become operational in 2026 or earlier, is expected to reduce the emirate’s carbon dioxide emissions by up to 2.4 million metric tonnes per year.

Mr Al Ali also said that the 1.5 gigawatt Khazna solar project, which is also expected to generate electricity for about 160,000 homes, will become operational by 2026 or 2027.

Last year, Abu Dhabi inaugurated the two gigawatt Al Dhafra solar power plant, one of the world's largest solar projects.

The project was developed by Abu Dhabi National Energy Company, better known as Taqa, in partnership with clean energy company Masdar, EDF Renewables and China's JinkoPower.

Ewec procures the electricity supplied by the plant.

In a separate report on Wednesday, Ewec recommended the development of a further 1.5 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2027 to meet growing electricity demand in Abu Dhabi.

There should be an additional installation of 2.2 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity in 2027 and a further 800 megawatts in 2028, the company said in its Statement of Future Capacity report.

Ewec, which will end gas procurements in 2049, said that 5.1 gigawatts of gas capacity would be required, mainly as a “transitional fuel” to support the integration of renewable energy projects in the power system.

Natural gas would meet the requirements for security of supply, grid resilience, and system reliability, Mr Al Ali said.

“The investment in the new capacities is also an efficiency drive, so we would need to be very efficient with our gas so that we reduce the emissions.

“We are building a system that collectively would achieve lower emissions per kilowatt hour compared to the one that we have today,” he added.

Mega solar power plant is inaugurated in Abu Dhabi

Mega solar power plant is inaugurated in Abu Dhabi

The UAE had a total electricity generation capacity of 35 gigawatts in 2021, out of which gas-fired power plants accounted for more than 88 per cent of the power production, according to the International Energy Agency.

The UAE Energy Strategy 2050 aims to achieve an energy mix comprising renewable, nuclear and clean energy sources.

This includes sourcing 44 per cent from clean energy, 38 per cent from gas, 12 per cent from clean coal, and 6 per cent from nuclear energy.

Last year, the country revised its energy strategy to include new objectives such as the tripling of renewable energy capacity to 14 gigawatts by 2030 and raising the share of clean energy in the total energy mix to 30 per cent by 2031.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi aims to reduce emissions by 30 million tonnes by 2027, from 135 million tonnes in 2016.

“We are approaching a tipping point where storage plus solar has the potential to replace gas-fired generation at night,” said Bruce Smith, executive director, strategy and planning at Ewec.

“At the moment, there is no practicable alternative to gas as a generation medium,” he told The National on Wednesday.

Updated: February 22, 2024, 4:36 PM