The Middle East needs to set up a centre of excellence on solar, say regional experts

The Middle East needs to set up a centre of excellence on solar, say regional experts
Published: 13 March 2019 - 9:55 a.m.
By: Baset Asaba

A panel of experts has called for the urgent set up of a regional centre of excellence to help fast track the adoption of solar energy.

The proposed centre would also address the salient challenges delaying the switch to solar energy, such as lack of awareness and insufficient funding.

The experts made the observation yesterday during the first Utilities Middle East roundtable on solar rooftop held at the ITP Media Office headquarters in Dubai Media City.

“The current uptake in the region is largely driven by existing utilities. While we see tremendous progress, there is room for a second force in the form of a centre of excellence on solar that will supplement existing efforts and help to address some of the structural barriers hindering uptake,” said Dr. Eng Waddah Ghanem Al Hashmi, senior director, sustainability, operational and business excellence at the Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC).

Al Hashimi said that as the industry continues to quickly evolve, such a centre would track new industry and market trends in the form of research and propose new business strategies according to prevailing market circumstances.

Last October, ENOC Group announced that it had converted its Lubricants and Grease Manufacturing plant (DLPP) located in Jebel Ali, to fully operate on solar energy. ENOC has previously indicated that all future service stations will be powered by solar energy as part of its role in supporting Dubai's energy transition.

The roundtable discussion, moderated by Utilities Middle East editor, Baset Asaba, attracted experts from various organisations including ABB, Dubai Carbon, Etihad ESCO and ENOC.

The experts also called for a framework of collaboration between financial institutions, solar suppliers and Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) on how to augment the bankability of solar rooftop projects.

“This collaboration will help to close some of the existing financing gaps and also boost market confidence,” said Ivano Iannelli, CEO of Dubai Carbon.

Mario Farina, solar projects director at Etihad ESCO said that the company had completed the retrofitting of 554 villas in Hatta where 7,756 pv solar panels were installed on their rooftops.

“The efforts of Shams Dubai are yielding positive results as more people start appreciating the benefits of rooftop solar. We have also seen the price dropping by nearly half, we hope this will encourage further adoption,” said Farina.

Michal Pavlicek, area sales manager (Global) at ABB said that the evolution of technology and the integration of smart inverters such as ABB’s PVI, Trio and PRO 33 inverters is a game changer within the solar rooftop space, and that this is set to add more value to consumers of net metering schemes such as Shams Dubai.

Details of the full roundtable discussion will be featured the April issue of Utilities Middle East magazine.

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