This article was written for the Al Jarida newspaper and published on Saturday 23 December 2016.
This article took a full page to discuss the economics of solar energy in Kuwait.
It is published here:
Al Jarida Article 23 Dec 2016 (Go to page 10)
Kuwait’s Green Future – Sunshine and Sunflowers
I saw Tesla the other day in Kuwait. That’s the electric car championed by Elon Musk and his team. It was a P85D – an all wheel drive machine with two electric motors with a combined power equivalent to 762HP.
I parked next to it.
Electric cars in Kuwait? Who would have thought in a land of cheap, cheap oil, that electric cars could exist here.
Well, because energy from the sun is now cheap, cheap, cheaper!
Take a look at this chart:
Source: EIA, CIA, World Bank, Bernstein analysis
(Henry Hub is compressed natural gas, Brent is crude oil, LNG is liquefied natural gas)
Look at the gray line. That’s the falling cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) energy. It was in 2012 that the cost of producing energy directly from the sun became less costly than producing it from coal, natural gas or oil.
That was four years ago!
Considering that capital moves in cycles of seven years, we are fast approaching the time when new investment will consider PV power generation before other, more expensive options options.
In fact, in many parts of the world, this is already the case: Portugal and Germany are two examples where this year (2016) there was so much energy being produced by renewables (wind and PV) that the large gas and coal fired installations – which cannot shut down without significant startup costs – were paying customers to take away the energy they produce so they could maintain their minimum ramp down production rates.
Kuwait is one of the luckiest countries in the world – an abundance of oil has produced one of the highest standards of living anywhere and income per capita is amongst the highest in the world, with Luxembourg, Singapore and Qatar. The second most bountiful gift is now coming to the fore: the Sun. Many, many days of full, unclouded sun means Kuwait as a nation can produce enough energy equivalent to 1 quarter of the world’s energy demands. One quarter? How is that possible.
Let’s show you how:
The area of Kuwait is 17,820 square kilometers.
17,820 km2 means 3,564 Gigawatts of energy can be captured on a sunny day across the entire country of Kuwait – capturing only 20% of what falls on Kuwait on one of the many sunny days here.
Compare that to the entire world demand for energy: only a mere 12,000 GigaWatts – or 4 times more than what could be produced from Kuwait.
Suspend your sense of practically for this scenario for a moment. It’s the relative size that is important. Scale is what matters.
Kuwait has the potential to provide 25% of the world’s energy demand – from the sun alone.
(Note: World energy consumption 9,301 MToe = 67B boe = 12 TW https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_energy_consumption)
World energy contribution from oil, Kuwait’s contribution to world energy demand is only 1.5%, from 3,000,000 barrels per day.
So energy from the sun landing in Kuwait alone is 17 times more prolific as an energy source and hence far more beneficial for Kuwait than oil.
Let’s bring this into personal perspective. That Tesla car I saw. The shaded car park for that Tesla car – fitted with low profile, efficient “BIPV” – Built In Photovoltaic – panels can produce 2,500 watts-peak of energy during the day. (170 watts per square meter x 2.5 meters x 6 meters). Over an 8 hour day that would be 20,000 Watt hours. Over a year, 7.4 megawatt hours. One barrel of oil holds about 1.7 megawatt hours of energy. Hence our BIPV solar car park would produce the equivalent of 4.3 barrels of oil, or 680 litres of oil in one year. We know that from this crude oil we can extract only 300 litres of gasoline but we’ll discount this for this thought experiment, and convert it all into motion – we are talking about liquid energy. That means 6,800 km of driving at 10km per litre.
But an oil driven car is not an efficient converter of oil energy into motion energy.
An electric car is.
The Tesla consumes 237.5 watt-hours* of energy per kilometer (from Tesla).
That means the energy from the BIPV solar car park will drive the Tesla 31,000 km – 4.5 times further than the oil driven car.
Remember that each year in Kuwait the average car travels 20,000 km. So our BIPV solar car park can drive the oil driven car for about one third more than its total requirement each year. For the electric car – more than 1.5 times the national driving average. That means a net excess of energy production. That’s a lot of hassle free driving and a direct reduction in additional power generation requirements for the country – on a per car basis.
Combined with efficient energy production, additional charging stations, you can see that very quickly the cost of driving will go very close to zero. Indeed, if there was a feed in tariff (FIT) – with the BIPV solar car park’s extra energy going into the power grid for general consumption, then owning an electric car could generate income.
Now let’s talk about buildings. There’s a lot in Kuwait, in the sun all day long and a great demand for energy requirements because of the high cooling requirements.
Buildings are also attractive for solar production using “BIPV” – Built In Photovoltaic. Imagine that you can’t even tell that a glass wall or feature elevation is really a power generator!
Companies such as Polysolar and BiPVco (both British companies, with BiPVco being a joint venture with Tata steel and Swansea University), are both producing elegant, stylish and effective means of drawing energy from the sun built directly into a building. For Polysolar the glass facade of a building can now collect energy from the sun. And curved surfaces are no problem for ultra lightweight and flexible panels from BiPVco.
Upto a third of a building’s energy requirements can be obtained from “BIPV” – Built In Photovoltaic. Building with energy efficient materials and using smart energy building controls, this can easily reach more than 50% from the sun, from BIPV – barely perceptible as being anymore than part of the elegant and advanced design of a modern building.
The future of photovoltaic is bright for the world, and especially in Kuwait: The Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah IV Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah GCB, gave a speech 9 November 2016 at the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Marrakech, also known as COP 22, emphasizing the small nation’s commitment towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and focus on voluntary renewable energy generation. Kuwait is targeting 15% renewable energy generation by 2030, representing an investment of USD 100 billion over the next 14 years.
The future is electric.
Coauthors Mr Jeremiah Josey and Mr Arash Gazi with contribution by Mr Ra’ad Al Nemah.
- Mr Josey is Director of Oil, Gas and Energy at Abdulkareem Al Mutawa & Sons w.l.l. He can be reached at Jeremiah.Josey@AAAandSons.com.
- Mr Gazi is Director of Renewable Energies at Abdulkareem Al Mutawa & Sons w.l.l. He can be reached at Arash.Gazi@AAAandSons.com.
- Mr Al Nemah, formerly of the Kuwait Oil Company, is now consulting to the oil sector and can be reached at RaadAlnemah@gmail.com.
Mr. Jeremiah Emanuel Josey is an Australian who has been living in the Middle East for 8 years. Expert in the finance and energy markets, he is the Chairman of Swiss based Meci Group, a business and investment consultancy that operates across the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia and the Director of Oil, Gas and Energy for AAA and Sons, a boutique investment and joint venture partnering company.