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Kuwait playing catch-up with latest renewables strategy

Kuwait has 'good solar resources' as well as wind, and could reduce emissions with a better focus on renewables Pexels/Hoan Ngoc
Kuwait has 'good solar resources' as well as wind, and could reduce emissions with a better focus on renewables
  • 20-year strategy announced
  • Targeting 22GW of renewables
  • ‘Chronic problems’ exist

Kuwait still has a way to go on its energy transition, industry experts say, despite the announcement of a 20-year renewables strategy.

Salem Al-Hajraf, minister of electricity, water and renewable energy, said on March 7 that the country is targeting carbon neutrality by 2050.

“We … need an increase in solar energy, which is considered the cheapest type of energy….. If we do not reduce energy spending, it will put us back in danger and will affect the state budget,” Al-Hajraf said.

The Gulf state holds about 7 percent of global oil reserves and like its peers in the Gulf Cooperation Council is a major per capita emitter of greenhouse gases. But it aims to have an installed renewable energy capacity of around 22 gigawatts by 2030 to balance its oil production capacity of more than 3 million barrels per day.

At the beginning of the year the Kuwait Authority for Partnership Projects launched a tender to build a 1GW solar plant near Kuwait City.

Yet the country’s renewable energy capacity is expected to account for less than 10 percent of its total electricity production by the end of 2030 and analysts agree that the country is lagging behind.

Robin Mills, CEO of Qamar Energy, describes the announcement as a positive development, saying Al-Hajraf is a known advocate of renewables. But he says Kuwait’s problem has been in moving large projects forward, notably the Al-Shagaya solar development. 

“This is a pity, as Kuwait has not only good solar resources but also wind, and, as it uses large amounts of fuel oil and imported liquefied natural gas, renewables would save on air pollution and reduce costs substantially,” Mills says. 

Kuwait has the “money, incentives and resources” to catch up with its neighbours, he says, at least on the level of domestic use of renewables, but the country will need to “overcome its chronic problems of project delivery”.

Tadhg O’Donovan, chief scientist at Heriot-Watt University Dubai, agrees that governance challenges and a historical dependence on oil revenue have slowed Kuwait’s progress on renewables. 

However, unlike regional counterparts such as Saudi Aramco or Adnoc, Kuwait’s national oil companies have yet to embark on diversification or decarbonisation initiatives, he says. 

Analysts at BMI predict the solar power capacity of the wider Middle East and North Africa region is poised to grow “significantly”, increasing its share of global capacity from less than 1 percent in 2022 to 3 percent by 2033. 

BMI expects solar power in the region will increase by 99GW over the 10-year forecast period, an annual average growth of 21 percent.  

The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are likely to drive this growth, while both Oman and Algeria have issued tenders for solar projects this year with a total capacity of 780MW.

But Kuwait failed to make its list of the top 10 countries in the region in the value of renewable energy projects under execution, according to Statista, a data provider. Statista said that the value of renewable projects in Saudi Arabia exceeds $10 billion, followed by the UAE (almost $8 billion), Egypt ($6 billion) and Morocco ($3 billion). 

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