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House panel demands scrapping nuclear project, citing ‘waste of public funds’

'Renewable energy projects had no tangible benefits so far'

By JT - May 22,2019 - Last updated at May 22,2019

AMMAN — Head of the Lower House’s Energy and Mineral Resources Committee Haytham Ziadin on Tuesday called for the termination of all activities pertaining to the nuclear energy project to limit the squandering of public funds. 

Ziadin cited the high cost of the project, which could amount to JD10 billion, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported. 

In 2015, Jordan signed an agreement with Russia’s Rosaton for building a $10 billion nuclear power plant with a total capacity of 2,000 megawatts (MW), which was scrapped in 2018 and replaced with a plan for small modular nuclear reactors.

In a meeting between the panel and the Jordan Transparency Centre to tackle the results of a report prepared by the centre, in cooperation with a number of experts in the field of energy, which addressed the problems facing the sector and ways to solve it, Ziadin said that it is “unacceptable” for the future of the energy sector to be tied to a “single buyer”, alluding to the National Electric Power Company (NEPCO).

He stressed the importance of inclusivity when it comes to resolving the issues facing the sector, pointing out that a national committee has been formed to tackle the energy sector’s challenges and create a roadmap for its trajectory.

The expert team highlighted in the report that the cost of renewable energy could not be lowered without the review and renegotiation of pertaining contracts, according to Petra. 

They pointed to a number of issues with integrating renewable energy into the grid, which include market value, energy loss and electrical transmission lines, also shedding light on the grid’s finite capacity for renewable energy projects, the increase of which will result in high storage costs.

“We must not limit solutions to the energy crisis in Jordan to renewable energy, because it can only constitute 8 per cent of the Kingdom’s energy mix at best,” the experts stated.

They added that electrical energy generated by renewable energy sources is unstable and difficult to control, as it affects the stability of the grid’s voltage and frequency, in addition to posing a burden on the electrical energy control centre by making it more difficult to adjust the electrical energy generated by traditional stations so that it may integrate with the electric load. 

However, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Hala Zawati said on Tuesday that renewable sources currently contribute some 11 per cent of Jordan’s power mix, expecting the rate to reach 20 per cent by 2021 (see story on page3).

Ziadin stressed during the meeting the need for renewable energy projects to bear a positive impact on local communities and citizens, noting that “so far, they have not had any tangible benefits”. 

He added that the key issue within the energy sector is consumption capacity and the “unjust” agreements that have been signed, which will not have a positive impact. 

He said that electric companies also bear the responsibility of lowering the cost of electricity for citizens, who have no hand in cases of illegal conveyance, which have amounted to around 22,000 cases.

Earlier this year, The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources decided to freeze renewable energy tenders until NEPCO conducts a comprehensive study that shows the capacity of the grid to absorb the output of these projects.

The ministry acknowledged in a statement in January that the national grid has experienced “technical challenges” related to its capacity to cope with the increasing production of power via unconventional sources. 

An expert and former investor in the field, Jamal Tahat, told The Jordan Times at the time that the halt might be very necessary to allow upgrading the grid, because individual and corporate producers of renewable energy have had their applications to connect to the grid turned down for the same technical reasons cited in the ministry’s statement.

Energy experts attending Tuesday’s meeting pointed out that electricity generation capacity of the Kingdom’s system is around 4,200MW from traditional stations and 1,200MW from renewable sources of energy. 

In addition to ceasing all activities related to the nuclear energy project due to its futility, the report in question produced a number of other recommendations to reform the energy sector, including cancelling the clause pertaining to the price difference in petrol for factories, in addition to postponing the process of calculating the peak tariff for factories’ electric bills for a year, and renewing it only if necessary.

Furthermore, the report recommended that energy provision to factories be reduced during nighttime, as well as issuing a map of locations in the Kingdom with grid capacity that can absorb additional renewable energy projects. 

The study also suggested the termination of electrical energy storage projects due to their high cost and the fall of their value globally.

It recommended the automation of systems controlling the electric load and reducing energy losses due to both technical and non-technical reasons by increasing the efficiency of energy generation, transmission and distribution, according to the Petra. 

It also called for a reassessment of electricity export strategies to guarantee lower bills for citizens. 

The experts affirmed that the energy sector is Jordan’s “greatest economic challenge”, as it drains around $5 billion annually, adding that the end goal is to reduce expenditure for citizens and enhance the productivity of the industry sector as a key pillar of support for the national economy and the Treasury. 

They pointed that the aforementioned sector constitutes 24 per cent of the national gross domestic product and hosts 20 per cent of the Kingdom’s workforce, in addition to $9 billion in hard currency and 90 per cent of total exports. 

As such, “it is imperative to provide energy at reasonable prices to support this sector and create additional job opportunities”, they added.

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