Muscat: Homeowners could soon power their properties using the sun through the Sultanate’s Authority for Electricity Regulation’s (AER’s) ‘Sahim’ scheme, a new renewable energy initiative.
Minister of Commerce and Industry, Dr. Ali bin Masoud Al Sunaidy, sponsored the inauguration ceremony. He said this initiative allows individuals and institutions to produce electricity for use and surplus sale to electricity distribution companies at the cost price of electricity. He also pointed out that the percentage of energy production in the Sultanate (electricity) using gas amounts to 96 per cent of the energy.
Darwish bin Ismail Al Balushi, Minister responsible for Financial Affairs said the renewable energy initiative “Sahim” will provide renewable and alternative electricity through solar panels.
“Sahim is an initiative of tremendous national significance,” said Qais Saud Al Zakwani, executive director of the Authority. “It will help us reduce our dependence on traditional sources of energy, such as diesel and gas, allowing us to direct these valuable resources to other projects that will benefit the long-term sustainability of the Sultanate.”
“This is also of great value for residents and commercial organisations, because this will help them in becoming self-sustaining,” said Al Zakwani. “In addition, it’s good for Oman’s Tanfeedh plans, because we are opening the manufacturing and installation of solar cells in Oman to small and medium enterprises, which will help them grow as well.”
Currently, all of Oman’s electricity is generated from non-renewable sources of energy. Some 96 per cent of it comes from natural gas, and a further 4 per cent is sourced from diesel.
The project enables homeowners, who wish to install photovoltaic cells in their homes, to approach AER, which will then direct them towards companies that will outfit their homes with these cells. Although owners of houses will be expected to pay for the installation of these cells themselves, they can expect to benefit from them in the long-run.
“We conducted a study of the cost of photovoltaic cells globally, and found that the cost ranges from about OMR385 per kilowatt in China, to nearly OMR1,100 in the United States,” said Hilal Al Ghaithy, the initiative’s project manager. “In Oman, we expect the cost of installation of these cells to be above OMR600, but not as high as the cost of cells in the United States.”
“The cost of installation of these cells has gone down over time, in countries that have adopted them, because initially, there weren’t many businesses who wanted to invest in them, but as demand for them grew, more companies joined in and that increased the competition and reduced prices,” he added. “We expect the same to happen in Oman as well, so the prices will go down. To support the safe and efficient implementation of the panels, we have developed a strong regulatory framework that covers all aspects of their use, including the connection of the panels to local electricity networks.”
In addition to weaning homes in the nation off electricity generated from fossil fuels, another advantage of the Sahim initiative is that any surplus energy that is produced by these cells can be sold back to the government, meaning homeowners could realise a profit.
“Right now, it will cost about 50 baiza to generate one unit from these cells,” said Al Ghaithy. “The customers will be bearing this cost, but any extra power will be automatically fed back into the power grid. The homeowners, who generate this extra power, will be compensated, but this depends on the time at which this power is sent to the grid, because our tariffs vary from hour to hour, depending on the power consumption at that time. This varies from 12 baiza per kilowatt hour in winter, to 67 baiza in peak summer, so the amount of profit a customer would generate would depend on him.”
There are other long-term advantages for the installation of these cells. A recent paper published by AER indicated that residents in Oman could recoup up to OMR7,200 in energy savings over the next 25 years by switching from fossil fuels to solar energy.
As the number of homes, which use solar energy increase, demand for fossil-fuel based power will also drop, saving the Sultanate about OMR500 million, which would’ve otherwise been allocated towards generating power from gas and diesel, while Oman’s carbon emissions will also be expected to decrease by up to 10 million tonnes over the same time period.