BIG GOALS

Kuwait 2018 | ENERGY & INDUSTRY | FOCUS: GREEN ECONOMY

With plans to power 15% of the oil sector with renewables by 2020 and 15% of the country's total energy needs with renewables by 2030, Kuwait is rushing toward a renewable future at breakneck speed.

Debates about the inevitability of peak oil have long been a favorite pastime of analysts and other armchair protagonists warmed by the wood-fires of the West; yet while their lifestyles would no doubt suffer, their livelihoods would not disappear overnight with the complete disappearance of oil. Not so in countries like Kuwait, OPEC's fifth-largest producer of black gold. In contrast to Gramsci's line that “the old is dying and the new cannot be born," the carbon-heavy economies of the Gulf are not passively waiting around for peak oil to come and go and be left in the lurch. In step with neighboring Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Kuwait has unveiled a hugely ambitious development plan called New Kuwait 2035, designed to diversify its economy away from oil, making it both more sustainable and environmentally friendly in the process. These are a few of the projects already completed or underway.
With the stated aim of producing 15% of its total energy needs from renewable sources by 2030 and 15% of the energy needed to produce oil by 2020, the opening of the country's first-ever solar plant at the Umm Gudair oilfield in October 2016 was an historic milestone. A USD99 million investment, Sidrah 500, as its known, will supply 10MW of energy, half of which will go to the public electricity network and half to the state-run Kuwait Oil Company. Though far from the country's daily estimated consumption of 30,000MW of energy by 2030, it was an enormous step in the right direction and built well upon a deal from 2015 between the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research and Spain's TSK to build a 50MW solar thermal energy plant, another sustainable first for the country.
Yet the biggest news was the tendering in September 2017 for far and away the country's largest solar project to date, the USD1.2 billion Dibdibah solar-power plant that should break ground in the first quarter of 2018 and will produce 1GW of energy and half the country's renewable energy. A 32-sqkm site in the country's northwest, it is slated to be finished by 2020 and save the country 5.2 million barrels of oil and 1.3 million tons of emissions per year to produce the equivalent energy.
Given that the oil industry is the largest consumer of energy in the country, the country's target of powering 15% of it with renewables by 2020 will also have to target the refineries themselves. Thus a key component of the country's New Kuwait 2035 plan is the Environmental Fuel Project, a huge undertaking to upgrade the country's two existing refineries at Ahmadi and Abdullah ports to 800,000 barrels of clean fuel per day. Expected to cost a whopping USD15.5 billion and be completed by October 2018, the project will have eventual returns of some USD50 million a month, a 11.5% net for the local and international investors that are backing it and a huge boon to the country's production of clean fuels.

Then there is the Al-Shegaya Renewal Energy Complex, another sprawling project that is part of New Kuwait 2035 and be the country's most versatile source of renewables upon expected completion in 2022. To contain one 50MW solar power station, one 10MW photovoltaic solar power station, one 10MW wind power station, a new electricity grid, and 35km of aero-dynamic lines, the renewable energy park is one of the country's most ambitious projects to date. Last but not least of the 2035 projects will be the renewable-friendly renovation of the enormous solid waste treatment plant at Kabad, a site that already helps treat 50% of the country's solid waste each year. The project will not only vastly reduce current water use, but also build a new factory to turn solid waste into electric power. A PPP project estimated to cost USD763 million, it is slated to be finished by the end of 2018.