Going solar in Oman could slash your bills in half next year
December 24, 2017 | 9:52 PM
by Syed Haitham Hasan/[email protected]
While enjoying cheaper electricity, users installing solar panels in their houses can sell excess power to the national grid

Muscat: Residents can save up to 42 per cent on their electricity bills if they opt for rooftop solar panels, according to bosses at the country’s energy regulator.

A solar panel scheme will next year target residential customers with the promise of subsidised installations and huge savings on current energy bills. Residents who opt to install panels will be able to sell excess power back to the national grid, all the while enjoying cheaper electricity.

Owners of apartment blocks and villas are expected to take advantage of the new deal in power so that tenants benefit too.

Oman wants to generate more of its energy from renewable sources by 2025 – and the government hopes solar and wind power can help achieve this.

There was also a warning that the current subsidy scheme for electricity was “unsustainable” and would have to be addressed in the near future. Business customers are already losing their subsidised electricity.

The solar rooftop scheme was launched earlier this year to allow residents to install panels on the roofs of their houses while being connected to the power grid.

Excess electricity generated by these PV cells could be fed back into the national supply system and residents would be paid as suppliers, according to the Authority for Electricity Regulation.

Higher installation costs blocked widespread adoption of solar PVs by residents, especially when the national subsidy was taken into account, but in the second phase of the scheme, to be launched next year, installation costs are to be offset by national investment funds.

“By early next year we will begin promoting the second phase of the Sahim initiative that is the residential PV programme,” Hilal Al Ghaithy, Programme Manager of Renewables at the Authority for Electricity Regulation, said.

“Residents will have to invest only three to five years of the savings that they will eventually make by installing solar panels under this initiative. Electricity generated from the panels will be sold to customers for rates lower than conventional prices,” said Al Ghaithy.

“Our study carried out in June this year comprising 85,000 houses, which is 10 per cent of the total houses, showed that if we install 3KW capacity on these houses, residents can achieve savings up to 42 per cent on their electricity bills and government can save up to 2 billion cubic metres of natural gas.” According to targets set by the national renewable energy strategy, Oman will achieve a minimum of 10 per cent of its total power consumption through renewable energy by 2025, and a large part of this is expected to be in the form of rooftop installations,” he added

The measures come as the electricity subsidy bill climbed above half a billion Omani rials last year, which Al Ghaithy describes as unsustainable. Oman subsidises 70 per cent of power production costs to residential customers who make up 73 per cent of total consumption while paying only 10 baisas per unit consumed. Subsidies for business consumers have been systematically lifted since the beginning of this year.

According to officials, AER is considering restructuring tariffs for residential customers and studies are currently underway on the implementation process as under the current subsidy system, consumers have little incentive to adopt solar power. “The first phase of Sahim worked as a catalyst for rooftop installations. We checked if this initiative had benefits to the national economy and residents personally. The answer was a big yes but with current tariffs there is little to no incentive. Therefore, we are working with innovative ideas to overcome tariff issues, among other things. We are pleased with the interest shown by customers for the Sahim initiative and are preparing to launch its second phase,” Qais Al Zakwani, Executive Director of AER said.

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