Sunny outlook for emirates in drive for more solar energy

Solar panels are spread across Abu Dhabi rooftops and Dubai officials promise to announce a "big" solar plan. Cheaper solar technology is helping to drive their progress.

A rooftop photovolatic system at Yas Marina Circuit. Courtesy Enviromena
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Shiny blue panels are harvesting the sun's energy on Abu Dhabi's roofs, and Dubai is soon to unroll its own solar programme, officials

said yesterday.

The transition to clean energy will be hastened by falls in the price of solar-panel technology, already down by half from three years ago, say industry executives.

"The decline in the cost of solar energy over the past few years has made our solutions much more competitive in the power portfolio," said Sami Khoreibi, the founder of Enviromena, a UAE solar company that installed some of the roof panels.

"If you look at any of the other sources of energy, they're only going up in price."

Solar power has taken longer to find support among investors in the region because it is regarded as more expensive than conventional fuel..

But the falling price of solar technology, driven by competition from Chinese companies, is set to speed up its adoption.

UAE officials have set ambitious solar targets - 7 per cent in Abu Dhabi by 2020 and 5 per cent in Dubai by 2030. Yesterday Masdar, the Abu Dhabi Government's clean energy company, announced a milestone in reaching that goal: 2.3 megawatts of solar roof panels. A total of 500 megawatts of roof panels is planned for the capital by the end of the decade.

It "is clearly the first step toward a larger solar incentive programme", said Mr Khoreibi.

Dubai could install as much as 90 megawatts of solar power to reach its 1 per cent renewables target in the next nine years.

"We're monitoring the technology on solar and renewables," said Nejib Zaafrani, the chief executive of the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, the policymaking body. "As the technology evolves on improving the cost and improving the efficiency in terms of the value, then we will change [the target]".

Dubai is studying sites for potential solar installations would announce a "very big" solar project soon, said Saeed Al Tayer, the chief executive of the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority.

But solar companies and investors say they need a guarantee that solar power will fetch good prices.