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Qatar targets solar revolution, but pace remains slow

New solar deal with Kazakhstan could be solar boost to Qatar, but industry is still “embryonic” say analysts

(Pic: Energy solar development centre)

(Pic: Energy solar development centre)

By Sophie Yeo

Qatar has bought enough solar technology from Kazakhstan to make it a world leader in renewable energy, the company signing the deal claims.

Kazatomprom, a state-owned nuclear holding company, has agreed to provide the Qatar Solar Energy (QSE) company with the raw materials needed to make solar panels for the next ten years.

Salim Abbassi, CEO of CSE, said that the partnership “provides a powerful foundation from which QSE will further expand its production capacity to 2.5 GW,” adding that it has the potential to make them one of the biggest producers of solar power in the world.

Qatar currently has the largest rate of emissions per capita in the world, with its electricity based 100% on fossil fuels.

Officially, the country has a target to generate 20% of its energy consumption by 2024, and an installed renewable energy capacity of 1,800 MW by 2020.

Embyronic

But analysts remain concerned about the industry’s slow pace in achieving its targets, and have expressed doubt over the viability of the 2.5GW promise, noting that little headway had so far been made and that progress had so far mainly existed in the form of feasibility studies rather than construction on the ground.

“There’s still massive risk in them getting to this,” said Finlay Colville, Vice-President at market research firm NPD Solarbuzz.

“There’s really no evidence that this is going to happen and the time scale it’s going to happen in, but if they were to get 2.5GW of capacity in the next couple of years, it would make them one of the biggest suppliers outside of China.”

Its year-round sun and large financial resources mean Qatar is well placed to develop its solar industry, but despite this it is still in an “embryonic” phase, said Colville.

“They’ve had really grand plans for quite some time, but the whole implementation has been really slow,” he said.

“They’re got a long term vision of having lots of solar, but the time line to actually get things up and running has been a lot longer than a lot of the western world had hoped for.”

There is also some debate over how far its motivations for its solar push are in the name of going green. Using renewable energy domestically means there is more oil and gas to export to the more lucrative international market.

Despite this, Qatar’s solar industry is due a unique boost, thanks to its successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup.

With international pressure to ensure the event is low carbon, football could be one factor in whether Qatar reaches its solar energy targets within the next decade.

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