Muscat: Oman is on the right path of phasing out electricity subsidies, but needs to create a culture of energy saving as it aims to harness 10 per cent of its energy requirements from alternate sources by 2025.
“Electricity subsidies in Oman are a gift to all its residents for contributing to the building of the nation. However, these subsidies have also made conventional sources of producing power more attractive for residents to continue with. I am not against the subsidies, but there has to be a more aggressive plan to promote renewable energy and I believe we are on the right path after electricity subsidy for large users was removed by the government, thereby pushing them to adopt renewable sources of energy,” Dr. Ahmed Al Busaidi, head of Renewable Energy Research at The Research Council (TRC), said.
Scaling down use of electricity through simple methods, such as switching off air conditioners or conserving water can be crucial to a sustainable energy future for the Sultanate, he said.
“We are working with local communities for developing energy efficient practices with simple methods, such as cleaning AC filters, reducing the thermostat and using natural lighting and cooling techniques to lessen dependency on electricity from the grid. This is important because if less energy is required, renewables can be enough or do well to deliver a major part of the demand. We need to create this culture,” he explained.
TRC is currently working with 30 schools in the Sultanate to help them understand the concept of energy savings and reduce consumption as it tackles with a dearth of awareness amongst the general population in this regard.
“We are training school going students and their teachers on the benefits of these things in terms of the economy and health factors. The point is that we have to start from younger people so that they can create the right future once they have found the right direction to move in. We want more awareness among the residents. It may be simple things, but it should be that energy savings and sustainability must be embedded in minds of people,” Dr. Al Busaidi added.
Although armed with cheaper operational costs and near zero emission, alternate sources of producing energy requires exceptionally high initial investment and produces lesser power, even with such astronomical funds.
According to data from the National Centre of Statistical Information (NCSI), 46 per cent of the electricity utilised in 2016 was classified as household consumption. This added to nearly 14,000 Gwh of electricity, which represents more than a 120 per cent rise from 2011.
Studies show that Oman is one of the countries with the maximum solar irradiance in the world, which is the measure of the amount of sun rays received per unit area. However, apart from renewable energy power plant projects in the interior parts of Oman by the Rural Area Electricity Company (RAECO), there are few large scale alternate energy projects in the country.
The Authority for Electricity regulation launched Sahim, Oman’s first renewable energy initiative, earlier this year through which residents will be able to generate power by installing rooftop solar panels, while being connected to the grid. The initiative also offers consumers to feed extra the energy produced back to the grid that would be compensated for, depending on the tariff during the time of day.
Meanwhile, the cost of production of electricity using solar energy dropped by 78 per cent from $3.25 to $0.72 per unit worldwide during the period of 2006 to 2014, but estimates show that they remain just below $2 per watt in Oman. Latest studies from Moody’s show that solar PV costs have dipped by 20 per cent since late 2016.