x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Sunnier time forecast for solar power but outlook still cloudy for UAE

Solar will become cost-competitive in some countries within five years, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has said, but experts say the Emirates could take longer.

Solar will become cost-competitive with conventional power generation in some countries within five years, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says.

But the technology will remain uncompetitive in the UAE as cheap natural gas and subsidised electricity undermines the business case for deploying solar, experts say.

Decreasing prices for solar photovoltaic (PV) panels will make them a viable alternative in countries where conditions for weather and climate conditions are optimal, and electricity is sold at a high price, such as the US and Italy.

Prices for PV panels have dropped by about half as the price of silicon, a material used in the panels, has fallen dramatically over the past three years.

This trend is likely to continue with strong growth in panel production, helped by China's ambitious renewable energy targets of building a capacity of 20 gigawatt by 2020. The IEA estimates that for every doubling of global capacity, the price of PVs will drop by 19 per cent.

Cheaper solar power will be important in increasing the share of renewables, a development the IEA believes needs to be speeded up if power generation is not to be locked into carbon-intensive technologies over the next 25 years.

"Deployment still needs to be stepped up immensely. Without an urgent and radical change in policy direction, the world will be locked into an insecure, inefficient and high-carbon system," said Maria van der Hoeven, the executive director at the IEA.

Instead, the share of renewables in the global energy mix has to quadruple to 47 per cent of total capacity by 2035, the IEA said.

In the UAE, solar power will not achieve price parity with fossil fuel in the near future, unless seasonal shortages mean the natural gas is bought as liquefied natural gas (LNG) at international prices, said Vahid Fotuhi, the chairman of the Emirates Solar Industry Association.

"Overall, solar is not yet comparable in cost, but during the peak load it can become competitive," he said.

fneuhof@thenational.ae

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