Sunny long-term outlook for solar power in the Gulf



There is an old Arab proverb that says, "All sunshine makes a desert." As summer approaches in the Gulf, we are reminded again of the irony of the local climate. The hot, dry, sunny weather that makes it challenging to sustain large cities in this region also holds the promise of limitless clean energy for the future. I wrote last week about the need for a radical change in Gulf energy efficiency. Even with improvements in efficiency, though, increased electricity and water supplies are needed for growing populations and a booming economy. New energy sources are a key part of the solution but the path to future energy is not as simple as it may appear.

It is increasingly apparent that a "business as usual" approach to Gulf electricity, based on oil and gas, is unsustainable, polluting and increasingly expensive. Nuclear power is potentially low-cost and large-scale but requires a huge effort in building technical and institutional capability, and allaying fears of nuclear weapons proliferation. With limited wind and negligible hydroelectric potential, renewable energy in the Gulf essentially means solar power. Government support has ensured that cloudy, northerly Germany, with sunshine hours on par with Alaska, has become the world's largest installer of solar panels. Meanwhile, despite great promise, solar power in the Middle East is minimal.

But progress is being made. Abu Dhabi has led the way with its Masdar initiative; Saudi Arabia plans solar-powered desalination; while Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iran and Iraq all have schemes at various stages. In addition to photovoltaic panels, which make electricity directly, Masdar is working on solar thermal power, which uses the sun's rays to heat a fluid to generate power. It is less flexible but potentially cheaper and of a larger scale.

As good as solar potential is in the region, it is not without problems. The gains from intense sunlight are partly offset by the lower efficiency of solar cells at high temperatures. Dust storms can cut output sharply. Solar power also suffers from a lack of scale. Abu Dhabi and Kuwait's plans to reach 7 per cent and 5 per cent renewable energy respectively by 2020 amount to less than a year's demand growth. New solar plants, enormous by world standards, will therefore delay a power crisis by no more than a year.

The main issue for renewable energy, though, is cost. Solar thermal electricity costs some 65 fils per kilowatt-hour (kwh), compared with official selling prices of 15 fils per kwh in Abu Dhabi, and Dubai tariffs ranging up to 33 fils for heavy consumers. Yet the situation is not so simple. Solar power can be competitive in the Gulf if used in the right way. Official prices are deceptively low due to subsidies.

When air-conditioners are running at midday in August, many UAE, Kuwaiti and Saudi power stations will be burning costly fuel oil, diesel and liquefied natural gas. If Gulf power prices varied by season and time, the true cost of electricity would be apparent. European solar power suffers because it is not matched to peak demand, on cold winter evenings. In the Gulf, though, maximum solar output coincides perfectly with the need. Any excess power could be used to make ice for cooling, or desalinated water, which can be easily stored.

Instead of generating electricity, direct use of the sun's rays to heat water is a simple, robust technology, which is used at the Burj Khalifa. Solar air-conditioning is developing and could be ideal for the region. So solar power has to be integrated into the Gulf energy system in an intelligent way. Building only large, centralised solar plants along the same model as the oil and gas-fired units of the past is not the best way.

Carefully targeted government support, combined with a reduction in subsidies for conventional energy, is needed to overcome cost disadvantages. Solar power should be fitted into demand patterns. Metering electricity use by time of day, and charging appropriately, is a first step. The large, state-owned utilities have to allow residents and businesses to generate their own power and possibly sell excess amounts back to the grid. Building standards should encourage the use of solar heating and cooling.

Finally, the Gulf countries need to co-operate on renewable energy. The sharing of technology and experience avoids re-inventing the wheel. As with Masdar, research should aim to generate intellectual capital as well as electricity. Too much of the oil windfall went overseas because Middle East societies were not able to develop their own skills and industries. Further development of the GCC grid, and links to neighbouring countries in the Levant, ensures that when a dust storm strikes Oman the country can buy from Qatar, and vice versa. For Middle East countries to fulfil ambitious plans of exporting solar power to Europe, they first need to show they can share it among themselves.

In the short-term, solar power's promise should not be exaggerated. It does not fit easily into the current Gulf model of centralised, subsidised electricity. Eventually, though, sunshine can not only power industries and buildings, but also turn the desert green. Robin M Mills is a Dubai-based energy economist and author of The Myth of the Oil Crisis

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

SPEC SHEET: SAMSUNG GALAXY S24 ULTRA

Display: 6.8" quad-HD+ dynamic Amoled 2X, 3120 x 1440, 505ppi, HDR10+, 120Hz

Processor: 4nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, 64-bit octa-core

Memory: 12GB RAM

Storage: 256/512GB / 1TB

Platform: Android 14, One UI 6.1

Main camera: quad 200MP wide f/1.7 + 50MP periscope telephoto f/3.4 with 5x optical/10x optical quality zoom + 10MP telephoto 2.4 with 3x optical zoom + 12MP ultra-wide f/2.2; 100x Space Zoom; auto HDR, expert RAW

Video: 8K@24/30fps, 4K@30/60/120fps, full-HD@30/60/240fps, full-HD super slo-mo@960fps

Front camera: 12MP f/2.2

Battery: 5000mAh, fast wireless charging 2.0, Wireless PowerShare

Connectivity: 5G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.3, NFC

I/O: USB-C; built-in Galaxy S Pen

Durability: IP68, up to 1.5m of freshwater up to 30 minutes; dust-resistant

SIM: Nano + nano / nano + eSIM / dual eSIM (varies in different markets)

Colours: Titanium black, titanium grey, titanium violet, titanium yellow

In the box: Galaxy S24 Ultra, USB-C-to-C cable

Price: Dh5,099 for 256GB, Dh5,599 for 512GB, Dh6,599 for 1TB

Herc's Adventures

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Console: PlayStation 1 & 5, Sega Saturn
Rating: 4/5

Results

2pm: Maiden (TB) Dh60,000 (Dirt) 1,200m, Winner: Mouheeb, Tom Marquand (jockey), Nicholas Bachalard (trainer)

2.30pm: Handicap (TB) Dh68,000 (D) 1,200m, Winner: Honourable Justice, Royston Ffrench, Salem bin Ghadayer

3pm: Handicap (TB) Dh84,000 (D) 1,200m, Winner: Dahawi, Antonio Fresu, Musabah Al Muhairi

3.30pm: Conditions (TB) Dh100,000 (D) 1,200m, Winner: Dark Silver, Fernando Jara, Ahmad bin Harmash

4pm: Maiden (TB) Dh60,000 (D) 1,600m, Winner: Dark Of Night. Antonio Fresu, Al Muhairi.

4.30pm: Handicap (TB) Dh68,000 (D) 1,600m, Winner: Habah, Pat Dobbs, Doug Watson

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

The specs: Taycan Turbo GT

Engine: Dual synchronous electric motors
Power: 1,108hp
Torque: 1,340Nm
Transmission: Single-speed automatic (front axle); two-speed transmission (rear axle)
Touring range: 488-560km
Price: From Dh928,400
On sale: Orders open

Champions League Last 16

Red Bull Salzburg (AUT) v Bayern Munich (GER)

Sporting Lisbon (POR) v Manchester City (ENG)

Benfica (POR) v Ajax (NED)

Chelsea (ENG) v Lille (FRA)

Atletico Madrid (ESP) v Manchester United (ENG)

Villarreal (ESP) v Juventus (ITA)

Inter Milan (ITA) v Liverpool (ENG)

Paris Saint-Germain v Real Madrid (ESP)

Result

UAE (S. Tagliabue 90+1') 1-2 Uzbekistan (Shokhruz Norkhonov 48', 86')

In numbers

1,000 tonnes of waste collected daily:

  • 800 tonnes converted into alternative fuel
  • 150 tonnes to landfill
  • 50 tonnes sold as scrap metal

800 tonnes of RDF replaces 500 tonnes of coal

Two conveyor lines treat more than 350,000 tonnes of waste per year

25 staff on site

 

THE SPECS

Range Rover Sport Autobiography Dynamic

Engine: 5.0-litre supercharged V8

Transmission: six-speed manual

Power: 518bhp

Torque: 625Nm

Speed: 0-100kmh 5.3 seconds

Price: Dh633,435

On sale: now

COMPANY PROFILE

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

Iftar programme at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding

Established in 1998, the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding was created with a vision to teach residents about the traditions and customs of the UAE. Its motto is ‘open doors, open minds’. All year-round, visitors can sign up for a traditional Emirati breakfast, lunch or dinner meal, as well as a range of walking tours, including ones to sites such as the Jumeirah Mosque or Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood.

Every year during Ramadan, an iftar programme is rolled out. This allows guests to break their fast with the centre’s presenters, visit a nearby mosque and observe their guides while they pray. These events last for about two hours and are open to the public, or can be booked for a private event.

Until the end of Ramadan, the iftar events take place from 7pm until 9pm, from Saturday to Thursday. Advanced booking is required.

For more details, email openminds@cultures.ae or visit www.cultures.ae

 

Russia's Muslim Heartlands

Dominic Rubin, Oxford

SPECS

Toyota land Cruiser 2020 5.7L VXR

Engine: 5.7-litre V8

Transmission: eight-speed automatic

Power: 362hp

Torque: 530Nm

Price: Dh329,000 (base model 4.0L EXR Dh215,900)

Sweet Tooth

Creator: Jim Mickle
Starring: Christian Convery, Nonso Anozie, Adeel Akhtar, Stefania LaVie Owen
Rating: 2.5/5

THE SPECS

Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder

Transmission: Constant Variable (CVT)

Power: 141bhp 

Torque: 250Nm 

Price: Dh64,500

On sale: Now

UAE rugby in numbers

5 - Year sponsorship deal between Hesco and Jebel Ali Dragons

700 - Dubai Hurricanes had more than 700 playing members last season between their mini and youth, men's and women's teams

Dh600,000 - Dubai Exiles' budget for pitch and court hire next season, for their rugby, netball and cricket teams

Dh1.8m - Dubai Hurricanes' overall budget for next season

Dh2.8m - Dubai Exiles’ overall budget for next season

The five pillars of Islam

1. Fasting

2. Prayer

3. Hajj

4. Shahada

5. Zakat 

Need to know

The flights: Flydubai flies from Dubai to Kilimanjaro airport via Dar es Salaam from Dh1,619 return including taxes. The trip takes 8 hours. 

The trek: Make sure that whatever tour company you select to climb Kilimanjaro, that it is a reputable one. The way to climb successfully would be with experienced guides and porters, from a company committed to quality, safety and an ethical approach to the mountain and its staff. Sonia Nazareth booked a VIP package through Safari Africa. The tour works out to $4,775 (Dh17,538) per person, based on a 4-person booking scheme, for 9 nights on the mountain (including one night before and after the trek at Arusha). The price includes all meals, a head guide, an assistant guide for every 2 trekkers, porters to carry the luggage, a cook and kitchen staff, a dining and mess tent, a sleeping tent set up for 2 persons, a chemical toilet and park entrance fees. The tiny ration of heated water provided for our bath in our makeshift private bathroom stall was the greatest luxury. A standard package, also based on a 4-person booking, works out to $3,050 (Dh11,202) per person.

When to go: You can climb Kili at any time of year, but the best months to ascend  are  January-February and September-October.  Also good are July and August, if you’re tolerant of the colder weather that winter brings.

Do not underestimate the importance of kit. Even if you’re travelling at a relatively pleasant time, be geared up for the cold and the rain.