Jordan’s need to reduce dependence on oil and gas imports drove the government to draft the 2007 National Energy Strategy (NES), which presents a road map for energy development through to 2020. It seeks to boost reliance on domestic sources from 4 to 40 per cent by then.

In short, it recommended the development of domestic shale, renewable energy and nuclear power. The targets are ambitious and it remains to be seen how much Jordan can achieve. In electricity generation, the NES stipulated 7 per cent for renewable energy by 2015 and rising to 10 per cent by 2020. Later, nuclear energy would add its contribution too.

To support the NES, Jordan passed the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Law, aiming “to streamline investment procedures and paves the way for citizens to sell electricity back to the national grid”. The investment required to achieve the aims is estimated at $14 billion to 18 billion overall. In renewables, the estimates are from $1.4 billion to $2.1 billion, in oil that would be $3.4 billion, in gas $2.4 billion and in electricity $4.8 billion to $5.8 billion, according to a Brussels Invest and Export report dated August 2015.

In 2014 Jordan had 10-MW of renewable energy capacity. But there were 15 projects in progress to raise installed renewable capacity to 500-MW.

In 2011 the government asked investors to show “expression of interest” to build 1,800-MW wind, 600-MW solar and 30-50-MW waste and biomass fuelled power plants. The conditions regarding technologies and plant sizes were set by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources and investors were to submit a competitive feed in tariffs. At least 2,000-MW of wind and solar are therefore expected to be operational by 2020.

Small-scale installations for houses, mosques and hospitals are also on the rise, and their total capacity now stands at 30-MW at present.

The intensity of solar radiation in Jordan ranges between 5- and 7-kWh per square meter, which is excellent for capturing solar energy and one of the highest in the world.

Small photovoltaic (PV) systems in rural and remote villages are already used for lighting, water pumping and other services. Similarly, about 15 per cent of all households are equipped with solar water heating systems. The NES plans for 30 per cent of all households to be so equipped by 2020.

The NES planned to install 300- to 600-MW of concentrated solar power (CSP), PV and hybrid systems by 2020. The first CSP demonstration project is likely to be for water desalination in Aqaba, where the highest solar intensity is.

Shams Ma’an is a 52.2-MW PV plant signed with a build-operate and maintain company on a 20 year power purchase agreement at 14.8 cents per kilowatt-hour. The $150 million plant is expected to be completed this year. Later tenders found much better tariffs of 6-7 cents per kilowatt-hour, close to the world’s lowest at 5.89 cents per kilowatt-hour in the UAE solar park.

Jordan, being responsible for supplying electric power to the West Bank, is encouraging the Palestinian Authority on the installation of 5-MW systems and adopting a net metering system, which allows consumers to produce 100 per cent of their domestic power and sell the surplus to government networks.

The wind survey indicates encouraging speeds of about 7.5 meters per second and in some regions more than 11 meters per second. Current projects are modest, but encouraging. The Ibrahimyah and Hofa plants north of Amman consist of 4x0.08-MW and 5x0.225-MW turbines respectively.

The Tafila Wind Farm is a 117-MW located 180-kilometres southwest of Amman. This is a joint venture between InfraMed, Masdar, and EP Global Energy. It is expected to cost $285 million, with $221 million worth of loans granted from various financing organisations including the Opec Fund.

All in all, the government wishes to see wind power moving fast to probably reach 1,200-MW by 2020. But Jordan’s ambitions do not end here and plans are in place to construct two 1,000-MW nuclear reactors by 2023 and 2025.

Pending the final site selection, Russia approved a draft deal to build the two reactors at an estimated cost of $10 billion.

The Koreans were contracted in 2009 for a 5-MW research reactor at the Jordan University of Science and Technology. The facility has been in operation to train scientists and engineers engaged in nuclear research.

While sceptics about Jordan’s nuclear ambitions are many, the country is encouraged by the availability of at least 35,000 tons of uranium ore deposits in addition to quantities that can be recovered from processing phosphate rock. Studies for building facilities for uranium mining and recovery are underway and the country could soon be a uranium exporter.

There is so much to be done to realise these ambitious targets and the key is perhaps the resolution of finding the necessary financial resources. Good luck to Jordan.

The writer is former head of the Energy Studies Department at the Opec Secretariat in Vienna.