Interview: Ibrahim Saif
To what extent is the Green Corridor project a priority for the administration?
IBRAHIM SAIF: It is a high priority and we are very much on course. We have already secured funding from a European Investment Bank-led consortium for €170m. We have already done the pre-qualification, the tendering process has started and, in the end, the project will be implemented in phases. As a result, the work will enhance grid capacity inside Jordan by about 700 MW, which will be transmitted from the south into consumption centres like Amman and allow more renewable energy projects to be connected to the grid.
Given that profit margins have decreased and competition has increased, how viable do you consider Jordan’s renewables segment to be?
SAIF: The renewable energy sector is an open market and we have offered equal opportunities for investors in this regard. Technology is changing rapidly in terms of generation, technique and durability, and as such prices are changing. It is not a matter of administrative decision-making. From the government side, when we need to expand or launch a renewable project we do it by open tender. Round II marks an example of how we will conduct our policies in the sector for the future. Moving forward, whenever we have a another round, we will add a storage system requirement into the tender because this is where technology is taking us. In the end, the market will regulate itself.
In what way is the kingdom seeking to leverage the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed with Saudi Arabia to enhance energy security?
SAIF: It is good that we are establishing this relation with Saudi Arabia and it is a tool that will facilitate further investment in Jordan. Within the MoU, energy has been featured as one of the most important sectors in which we can cooperate. We suggested a number of specific projects, such as the expansion of the refinery, a pipeline from the south of Jordan to the main consumption areas in the country and grid connectivity between both kingdoms and the other GCC countries. These are projects that are profitable, with benefits for both sides, and that we are ready to take on.
In light of lower oil prices and energy import prices, to what extent has policy changed in terms of diversifying the country’s energy resources?
SAIF: Our policy is already changing in that regard. We have shifted the way we generate electricity by using natural gas since 2015. About 85% of our energy is currently produced with liquefied natural gas instead of heavy fuels. In addition, the work being done in renewable resources is another element that demonstrates the efforts being made to diversify the kingdom’s energy mix. Moreover, we are still waiting on the results of the studies done with shale oil resources and what can be done from that angle. An Estonian and Chinese consortium already has a direct-burning project in the pipeline which is expected to generate approximately 500 MW. Nuclear energy represents another branch of our diversification strategy. So despite lower oil prices, we will continue diversifying our mode of production and expanding out energy resources and security.
What efforts have been made to improve access to local or international funding and private sector investment for energy projects?
SAIF: Most of our projects are conducted by the private sector. That they are executed by the private sector shows that we are an attractive country for investing in energy development and that our policy framework, regulatory environment and incentives are working. We are committed to continuing to update it. We are also interested in building industries around the mineral resources that can be found in the country. In those cases, investors should be able to find projects with higher value-added.
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