Abu Dhabi power chiefs to propose 500 MW solar rooftop scheme

Energy regulators in the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Abu Dhabi, have announced that they will submit a proposal to develop a 500 MW solar rooftop scheme to the Emirate’s Executive Council early next year.

The proposal will outline ways in which Abu Dhabi residents can generate their own clean energy and sell excess power back to the grid, advising on a feed-in tariff scheme that will help support these ambitious plans.

In order to reach Abu Dhabi’s goal of generating 7% of its energy requirements from renewable sources by 2020, there is a growing understanding that the Emirate must do more to harness the power of its greatest natural resource – the sun.

Hence, members of Abu Dhabi’s Regulation and Supervision Bureau, which is an independent power and water regulator, will submit their proposal to Abu Dhabi’s Executive Council. Their proposal will include a recommendation on tariff pricing based on data gleaned from a two-year, 2.3 MW pilot study.

"We’re ready to recommend a solar rooftop plan," said the regulator’s director general, Nick Carter. "We have sufficient data to tell the government that if they want to go down the feed-in tariff route, this is the price they will have to pay."

Ever since cell and module oversupply pushed prices to record lows, nations in the Middle East region have had their collective heads turned by the potential of solar. These oil-rich and oil-dependent countries still need some serious convincing in order to wean themselves fully off fossil fuels, but the affordability of solar is certainly piquing interest.

"The cost of solar cells [currently at a global average of US$0.74/W] is not going to get any cheaper," added Carter, who also spoke about the difficulties faced by Spain and Germany’s FIT schemes. "We’ve been quite cautious in Abu Dhabi. We have been definitely not advocating any feed-in tariffs because we want to be absolutely certain that any scheme we do suggest does not put the government at a disadvantage in 10 years‘ time."

Whether now is the right time for the UAE remains to be seen, but appetite for solar across the Middle East region is increasing. Dubai has explored the possibility of introducing a feed-in tariff scheme for rooftop installations, while Saudi Arabia’s government has already installed solar panels on some of its official buildings.

The UAE, however, remains the market leader in the region (and the most power-hungry, with residents consuming three times as much electricity as the global average), according to the Ministry of Energy, which recently announced that the UAE will aim for 2.5 GW of renewable energy by 2030.