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Kuwait to resurrect renewable energy mega-project

Kuwait solar power reneweable energy plans Pexels/Hoan Ngọc
Kuwait plans for the Al-Shagaya plant to generate 2,000MW of solar and wind power
  • Aiming for 15% renewable energy by 2030
  • Currently just 0.1%
  • Al-Shagayah to generate 2,000MW

Kuwait is ramping up plans for its much delayed first utility-scale solar and wind powered project, as the Gulf state lags behind its neighbours in its renewable energy ambitions.

Kuwait set a target in 2012 for renewable energy to comprise 15 percent of its total energy mix by 2030. 

Government data shows that renewables accounted for only 0.1 percent of the country’s total primary energy consumption in 2021, with natural gas making up 65 percent, petroleum 34 percent and coal the remaining 0.9 percent.

Much hope of achieving the target has been pinned on Al-Shagaya, a utility-scale project which claims to generate 2,000MW of power by 2030.

Launched in 2019, the first phase was to consist of a 50MW concentrated solar power plant, a 10MW photovoltaic plant and a 10MW wind farm, but the project has been mired in repeated legislative delays. 

“So not much has been done in the last few years,” Dr. Hassan Qasem, CEO of Alternative Energy Projects in Kuwait, said in a webinar hosted by the Middle East Solar Industry Association on Wednesday.

“Nevertheless, the commitment from the government to move ahead with developing renewables and solar is serious.”

Kuwait’s Ministry of Electricity and Water & Renewable Energy signed an agreement with a technical adviser last year to develop all four phases of the Al-Shagaya plant.

The ministry has now carried out all the feasibility studies to move the project forward and is looking to engage with potential developers, according to Gannam al Ajmi, a ministry representative.

“We’re now doing the RFQ [request for quotation] for phase one of the project. It will be in the market, I hope, after two months, or three months maximum,” al Ajmi said. 

“And we’ve already started doing the RFP [request for proposal] for phase one.” 

Solar power

Al Ajmi said that his ministry has also firmed up the planned scope of the other three phases of Al-Shagaya, which will involve four developers in total. 

Phase two will comprise a 200MW concentrated solar power plant with capacity for five hours of storage. Phase three includes a 1,500MW photovoltaic plant, while phase four adds a 1,700 MW photovoltaic plant. 

Kuwait plans to use Al-Shagaya’s solar power to replace some of the oil-fired electricity it generates – the country currently operates eight oil and gas-fired power stations.

According to al Ajmi, electricity demand reached a peak load of almost 16GW with an installed capacity of over 20GW in 2021 and is rising at around 4-5 percent each year.

“We need clean energy to be in our grids. We need to reduce the emissions,” he said.

The International Energy Agency last week published a detailed update to its net zero roadmap of 2021 in which it noted that Kuwait has not set a target by which it plans to achieve climate neutrality. Qatar is the only other Gulf state not to have set a target.

Other GCC states have been accelerating the development of their solar industries over the past few years. 

Saudi Arabia expects solar to generate 40GW of its energy by 2030, equivalent to 68 percent of its renewables’ capacity. This marks a 12.7GW increase from its current levels. In November last year, it signed an agreement to build the world’s largest single-site solar-power plant, the 2.6GW Al Shuaibah solar plant. 

The UAE’s Emirates Water and Electricity Company in September started the tendering process for the 1.5GW greenfield Khazna solar PV IPP in Abu Dhabi. 

The new solar project will help to support Ewec’s plan to increase its total solar power generation capacity to 7.3GW by 2030.

Abu Dhabi aims to meet 60 percent of its total power demand from renewable and clean energy sources by 2035.

Dubai Electricity and Water Authority and Masdar in September also signed an agreement to build and operate the 1,800MW sixth phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park.

It will increase total production capacity to 4,660MW and will become operational in stages starting from the fourth quarter of 2024.