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Iraq plans push on solar and green hydrogen projects

Baghdad South power plant: Iraq generates 80% of its power using fossil fuels Reuters/Ali Haider
Baghdad South power plant: Iraq generates 80% of its power using fossil fuels
  • 12GW of solar power by 2030
  • 800 tonnes of green hydrogen
  • Has yet to set net zero target

Iraq is planning to build solar plants and its first green hydrogen project as part of a strategy to tackle power shortages and reduce its carbon footprint.

The country’s cabinet has approved a proposal to install 12 gigawatts (GW) of solar power by 2030, said a National Investment Commission representative, Rahim Al Jaafari.

Projects capable of generating 7.5GW have already been awarded, Jaafari told Iraq News Agency.

Earlier this month Hayan Abdel Ghani, Iraq’s oil minister, unveiled plans for a green hydrogen project for the South Refineries Company, including a 130MW solar energy plant.

It would provide Iraq with 800 tonnes of green hydrogen a year through solar-powered electrolysis.

Iraq, Opec’s second-largest crude oil producer after Saudi Arabia, aims to generate around 10GW of green power by 2025. This would amount to a third of its electricity mix.

France’s TotalEnergies and PowerChina signed deals last year to build two solar power plants with a capacity of 1GW and 750W respectively, in Babylon and Karbala.

Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, Masdar, has also been planning at least four solar plants in Iraq since 2022. The first phase would allow a capacity of 1GW. However, construction has not yet started.

Iraq, which has a population of 43 million, is sitting on 17 percent of the Middle East’s proven oil reserves and generates 80 percent of its power using fossil fuels.

The country is lagging behind its neighbours on renewable energy goals. Baghdad has not yet set a net zero target, while the UAE has adopted a deadline of 2050 and Saudi Arabia of 2060.

Iraq’s renewable projects face financial, regulatory and technological challenges, according to industry experts. In addition, the country’s infrastructure is old and damaged by years of war.

Ghani said the government had drafted a renewable energy law to address those challenges.

It would establish an administrative body with the power to write legislation to tackle the issues.

Iraq also plans to cut its methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

In addition, the government has put out the first tender to build a carbon conservation project to reduce gas flaring in Baghdad’s eastern field. Ghani said it would have a capacity of 12 million cubic feet.

Iraq’s Central Bank allocated $750 million in 2022 in almost zero-interest loans for individuals and private companies adopting solar power, to encourage green electricity projects.

The hydrogen rainbow

  • Green hydrogen is produced on a carbon-neutral basis through water electrolysis. 
  • Turquoise hydrogen is created when natural gas is broken down into hydrogen and solid carbon with the help of methane pyrolysis.
  • Blue hydrogen is generated from the steam reduction of natural gas. 
  • Grey hydrogen is obtained by steam reforming fossil fuels such as natural gas or coal. 
  • Sometimes other colours are ascribed to hydrogen, based on how it is produced. For red, pink and violet hydrogen, the electrolysers are driven by nuclear power. 
  • Yellow hydrogen is hydrogen produced from a mixture of renewable energies and fossil fuels. 
  • White hydrogen is a waste product of other chemical processes, while the use of coal as a fuel produces brown hydrogen.

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