The award of the contract for the world-record tariff for Dubai’s first concentrated solar power (CSP) project with storage could signal a seminal moment in the region’s shift towards renewable energy.
The UAE is leading the Gulf’s drive to turn talk about clean energy into action, and progress has been swift. Dubai and Abu Dhabi have both achieved world-record tariffs for utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) plants in the past couple of years, and the 7.3 $cents a kilowatt hour ($c/kWh) tariff achieved for the $3.8bn fourth phase of Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid (MBR) solar park has now set a world record for unsubsidised CSP solar production. More importantly, it represents the first time that utility-scale solar with storage has converged with natural gas-fired power plants. It is estimated that, including gas import costs, the total cost of producing power from gas-fired power plants in Dubai is somewhere in the 8 $c/kWh region.
While much of the push for solar energy across the region has been driven by the dramatic fall in costs for PV solar systems in recent years, the peaking nature of PV has meant it can only be used in tandem with conventional fossil-fuelled plants due to its inability to produce 24-hour power. CSP is able to circumvent this by enabling the storage of energy generated during sunlight hours to be dispatched at night.
While CSP now provides a cost-efficient method of storing renewable energy, the drive for 24-hour dispatchable clean energy will be boosted in the coming years with storage for PV solar. Earlier this year, Jordan’s Ministry of Energy & Mineral Resources (MEMR) invited developers to submit bids for battery storage solutions for PV solar and wind projects under the third round of its direct proposal renewable energy programme.
Progress with developing PV storage solutions is now progressing at a much faster rate than previously predicted. While many in the region’s energy sector had predicted battery storage would not be cost-efficient until the 2020s, Jordan’s decision to allow bids with battery storage for its next renewables rounds shows that the next milestone for the region’s energy sector is closer than many had predicted.