OBG talks to Qutaibah Abu Qura, Former Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources

Qutaibah Abu Qura, Former Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources

Interview: Qutaibah Abu Qura

What are the main challenges associated with renewable energy generation in Jordan?

QUTAIBAH ABU QURA: Renewables are about to capture a major portion of the global energy mix. In Jordan, our energy policies also foresee a growing role for renewables, especially given the surge in fossil fuel prices. Our strategy for the sector aims to install capacity of about 1800 MW from various renewable sources and boost the contribution of renewables to our energy mix from the current 1% to 10% by 2020.

However, renewable energy production costs are still relatively high. The government must formulate policies that send the right signals to investors. The private sector and civil society have major roles to play, but the appropriate policy framework must be in place.

The government passed the Renewable Energy and Efficiency Law in February 2010. Under this law, unsolicited or direct proposal submissions are allowed for the first time in Jordan, giving investors the opportunity to identify and develop renewable grid-connected electricity projects. Furthermore, Jordan has joined several global initiatives on renewable energy, including the Mediterranean Solar Plan (MSP).

What key lessons should nuclear energy regulators take away from the disaster in Japan in 2011?

ABU QURA: The Fukushima accident intensified political debates worldwide regarding the safety of nuclear power generation. Nonetheless, similar to many other countries, Jordan still views nuclear power as a key component of its overall energy strategy. Although it is critical to consider the lessons of Fukushima, our main nuclear objectives have not changed.

Regulations should be updated to reflect the data obtained during the events in Japan. We need to incorporate safety factors to estimate tsunami hazards for nuclear power plant sites, and leak tightness and water resistance must be assured. Moreover, safety guidelines should address appropriate siting criteria, accident mitigation strategies and emergency preparedness. Regulators must also recognise the importance of technological advancements and adhere to IAEA Safety Standards, which are regularly updated.

How do the kingdom’s oil shale reserves compare to those found in other countries?

ABU QURA: Oil shale is currently of interest because supplies of conventional crude are becoming more expensive. Many countries, including Jordan, are looking to their oil shale reserves to address this problem. Oil shale has the potential to contribute about 14% to the kingdom’s energy mix by 2020.

Jordan’s oil shale deposits are vast, and their geological characteristics favour large-scale extraction. So far, 18 major deposits have been identified. The five best-known reserves contain nearly 40bn tonnes – enough to meet the country’s oil needs for many years.

How can Jordan encourage greater foreign investment in domestic energy exploration?

ABU QURA: Jordan has long recognised the need for creating strong investment incentives. Business ventures in the domestic energy industry are governed by comprehensive laws. With a rapidly expanding local market, a strategic geographic location and a comprehensive legal framework featuring robust intellectual property protection, Jordan is widely regarded as a regional centre for energy investment.

What role can the government play in encouraging responsible energy consumption?

ABU QURA: Despite the rise in oil prices, energy consumption is increasing. Today, households account for more than 20% of national electricity consumption. In most households, air conditioning and refrigeration account for most electricity use. Our energy strategy aims to achieve 20% energy savings by 2020, by making households more aware of smart energy solutions, as well as implementing green building codes, and introducing energy labelling and certification schemes.

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Qutaibah Abu Qura

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The Report: Jordan 2012

Energy chapter from The Report: Jordan 2012

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