Solar power picking up pace

Experts have welcomed a new Dubai resolution that they say will greatly encourage solar energy use in the emirate.

The use of solar power could be greatly encouraged by a resolution passed by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed. Silvia Razgova / The National
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DUBAI // Experts have welcomed a new ruling that will allow residents to install solar panels on the roofs of their homes and businesses and sell the energy generated back to the emirate’s power grid.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai and chairman of the Executive Council, passed the resolution on solar energy distribution in Dubai on Monday, which is hoped to greatly encourage the use of solar power across the emirate and the region.

The move will provide a “stable and reliable” framework with the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) that allows residents and businesses to “securely and reliably” generate solar power that can be fed into the electricity grid, said Vahid Fotuhi, president of the Middle East Solar Industry Association.

“I think this programme, in particular, incentivises large energy consumers – which is business owners, warehouse owners – to make use of their rooftop space and to install solar panels, which would then generate electricity and offset their consumption of electricity from the grid,” said Mr Fotuhi.

This gives businesses the option to utilise solar power as it becomes “commercially attractive”, he said.

Dubai generates 95 per cent of its electricity through burning gas, so the new scheme would help reduce the emirate’s reliance on fossil fuels, said Mr Fotuhi.

“I think this is the beginning of a very exciting chapter, not just for Dubai, but for the entire Middle East and North Africa,” he said.

The ruling sets out conditions for users, who must bear all solar-power connectivity costs, obtain necessary approvals and licences, and comply with metering requirements set by Dewa.

Other conditions include electricity bills never going negative and the fact that users cannot sell more to Dewa than they are using.

The ability to sell extra electricity back to Dubai, likely at the same price it is bought – 44.5 fils per kilowatt hour – is a “dramatic step”, said Daniel Zywietz, vice chairman of the Clean Energy Business Council.

“This is the democratisation, if you want, of solar power,” said Mr Zywietz. “There is a lot more participation by the public in the energy sector.”

The move allows companies to simply decide whether to install solar panels rather than having to go through a tender process, he said.

“I would imagine, number one, that this will stimulate the roll out of solar power in Dubai itself,” Mr Zywietz said.

A similar programme in Jordan has also stimulated solar power use, but this would be the first such scheme in the Arabian Gulf, he said, and could cause an “explosion” of solar power in Dubai that other countries could follow.

The Dubai programme will significantly help the environment, diversify the emirate’s energy sources and set a “great example for the region”, said Mr Zywietz.

“Let’s hope that more follow this example.”

The decision constitutes a “step forward on the path of sustainability” and encourages consumers to take advantage of the programme, towards the rational use of energy resources for a clean environment,” said Saeed Al Tayer, chief executive of Dewa.

The authority has in recent years implemented various measures to cope with increasing demand for power.