Renewable energy on rise in resource-poor Jordan

Jordan is fast becoming a regional hub of solar development. (AFP)
Updated 28 September 2018

Renewable energy on rise in resource-poor Jordan

  • Jordan imports nearly 98 percent of its energy needs
  • Each year, it pays more than $4.5 billion on oil imports alone

AMMAN: Set atop a mosque in the south of Jordan’s capital, dozens of shimmering solar panels reflect a growing trend in the resource-poor desert kingdom as it tries combat its heavy reliance on imported energy.
Standing in front of the Hamdan Al-Qara mosque, Sheikh Adnan Yahya says that before installing the panels he used to pay up to 13,000 dinars ($18,350, 15,500 euros) a year for electricity.
“The bill has now dropped to almost zero,” says the imam.
With panels popping up on the rooftops of homes, schools, hotels and factories across Jordan, the growing popularity of solar power is easy to spot.
The dishes and other desert-based solar fields are part of the kingdom’s drive to steer the country away from foreign energy and toward renewable options available domestically.
Jordan imports nearly 98 percent of its energy needs, and has long relied on gas, heavy fuel oil and diesel to run its power plants.
Each year, it pays more than $4.5 billion on oil imports alone, according to official data.
Public debt exceeds more than $40 billion in Jordan, rocked this summer by rare anti-austerity protests.
But a government plan to make clean energy 20 percent of the country’s overall power consumption by 2020 has seen alternative energy projects skyrocket in recent years.
At the beginning of this year, a set of 140 panels were affixed to the top of Sheikh Yahya’s mosque at a cost of $45,000 — generating nearly 44 kilowatts of energy.
The installation powers the 1,500-person capacity place of prayer, its 50 air conditioners, 35 fans, 120 lamps, 32 cameras and sound system.
“In the past, worshippers would complain about the heat in the summer and ask us to turn up the air conditioners. But now they tell us: ‘Turn it down, we’re freezing!’” the white-bearded sheikh says with a broad smile.
The Hamdan Al-Qara is one of 380 mosques and churches across Jordan that have been supplied with solar-power systems in the past five years, according to the energy ministry.
Last year, solar plants were opened at the Syrian refugee camps of Zaatari and Azraq, providing tens of thousands of people with free and clean electricity.
In Maan province, the kingdom’s largest which stretches from the south of the capital west to the border with Saudi Arabia, 11 renewable energy projects have been launched since 2012.
They include the Shams Maan solar plant.
Managed by a consortium of companies including Jordan’s Kawar investment group, Qatar’s Nebras Power and Japan’s Mitsubishi, the $170 million project generates 52.5 megawatts of electricity — one percent of the country’s electricity production.
“Solar energy will help Jordan save on the price of fuel purchased from abroad in hard currency and help it to be self-reliant in power generation,” said Hanna Zaghloul, Kawar’s chief executive.
“Jordan is eligible for such vital projects and the results are very encouraging. Solar energy is available 320 days a year and provides hundreds of jobs,” he said.
With 640,000 panels set up across a two-square-kilometer area, Shams Maan is the largest project of its kind in Jordan, added Zaghloul.
“God gave us the sun and the wind, which is a local energy, the more we use it, the more we become dependent on ourselves,” says Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Hala Zawati.
According to her, Jordan is “witnessing a rapid qualitative leap in the field of renewable energy.”
Before 2012 there were no renewable energy options, laws or regulations in the kingdom.
But today, wind and solar power contribute “seven percent of the electricity consumed in Jordan,” she said.
And as it becomes more prevalent, the cost of renewable energy production has dropped too.
“Today, a kilowatt of solar energy costs about four cents, which is less than half the cost of oil derivatives, and this is steadily decreasing,” said Zawati.
The former minister of state for economic affairs, Yusuf Mansur, says Jordan “must take advantage of this clean, cheap and widely available energy.”
Current projects “contribute to efforts to balance the budget and will lead the state toward more energy independence,” he said.

Egypt banks step up anti-virus efforts

Updated 26 November 2020

Egypt banks step up anti-virus efforts

  • asures recommended by the Federation of Egyptian Banks also include a ban on face-to-face meetings.

CAIRO: Up to half of bank employees in Egypt will be encouraged to work from home under guidelines to counter a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Measures recommended by the Federation of Egyptian Banks (FEB) also include a ban on face-to-face meetings.

In a letter to banks, the FEB said its guidelines were aimed at ensuring sustainable operations “in the current circumstances.”

Banks will continue to operate from 8.30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the public and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for employees.

Previous guidelines were issued by the FEB on March 30 and April 5.

The federation's latest plan includes a follow-up on alternative workplaces to allow departments to continue working in cases of forced interruption.

The plan also issues strict instructions on wearing face masks in the workplace and while using the bank’s buses.

Employees also have been urged to follow precautionary measures while using public or private transport, and to avoid crowded places.

The FEB banned face-to-face meetings, replacing these with video conference meetings, and also underlined instructions to sanitize all surfaces using alcohol-based sanitizers, to regularly sanitize all workplaces at weekends, to provide sanitizers in areas that host employees and clients, and to regularly sanitize all main elevators.

Office boys and janitors have been instructed to wear face masks and to use paper cups instead of glass or metal ones.

The FEB said it will continue to post awareness videos and statements on combating the coronavirus.

It has urged banks to use e-payments, to continue banning delivery persons from entering the workplace, to continue halting the delivery of daily newspapers and magazines, and to continue temperature testing by security officials at workplace entrances.