x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Solar power workshop shines light on Abu Dhabi

Forty participants from 27 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Pacific gathered in Abu Dhabi yesterday for a high-level solar power workshop.

Delegates from the international community are gathered in Abu Dhabi for a high-level solar power workshop organised by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (Nedo) of Japan and the International Renewable Energy Agency. The Shams solar plant, shown here, is the Middle East' largest renewable energy project. Photo courtesy of IRENA.
Delegates from the international community are gathered in Abu Dhabi for a high-level solar power workshop organised by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (Nedo) of Japan and the International Renewable Energy Agency. The Shams solar plant, shown here, is the Middle East' largest renewable energy project. Photo courtesy of IRENA.

Forty people from 27 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Pacific gathered in Abu Dhabi yesterday for a high-level solar power workshop.

The training programme was organised jointly by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (Nedo) of Japan and the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), which is headquartered in the capital.

Until October 11 a mix of ministry representatives and private business and utility company employees will receive intensive training in planning, engineering, constructing, operating and maintaining solar photovoltaic projects. The workshop will then continue in Tokyo and Osaka in Japan.

Many of them come from countries in the region including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq and Sudan. There is also a UAE representative, Mohammed Al Shehhi, a project engineer at Abu Dhabi clean energy firm, Masdar.

In many of the participating developing countries, renewable technologies have the potential to bring electricity to rural population who often lack access to power, said Frank Wouters, deputy director-general of Irena.

Mr Wouters said that in many countries there was still a lack of awareness about the benefits of renewable energy, as well as a lack of technical expertise.

“Capacity or the lack thereof is one of the major barriers for something new like renewable energy,” he said.

Mr Wouters gave an example of the solar conference that the world’s first clean energy body organised in Ghana last year. On the whole, there was a big gap in how government and private sector representatives viewed solar power. Governments tended to be more concerned about the reliability of solar technology.

“In terms of the technological risk perception, the government sector was less informed than the private sector,” said Mr Wouters. “In this sense, there is a clear gap we can overcome by providing more information.”

The field is developing rapidly with many innovations coming online and prices falling significantly year-on-year. Costs of photovoltaics have fallen on average 60 per cent in the past two years, said Mr Wouters, making the technology “able to compete with diesel-generated electricity almost anywhere on the planet”.

The workshop is based on an agreement to promote renewable energy deployment signed by Nedo and Irena in 2012. The pair aim to build technical and practical knowledge in developing countries with solar energy potential.

Irena is also organising an initiative targeting developing countries with geothermal resources. It connects experts in such countries to counterparts in other countries that are already leaders in the field.

“Iceland and New Zealand have offered similar programmes to this one,” said Mr Wouters, explaining that discussions were still under way on plans to provide training and scholarships to representatives of developing countries.

Formally established in 2011, Irena is the first global intergovernmental organisation to have its headquarters in the Middle East. It has 118 members, in addition to more than 40 countries applying for membership or engaging with the organisation.

vtodorova@thenational.ae