Power games: Qatar electricity demand growing ahead of 2022 World Cup

Experts explain Qatar’s power generation requirements

With Vision 2030 in place and the 2022 World Cup approaching, the Qatari government is working steadily towards creating a sustainable economy and advancing the standard of living of its people. Major infrastructure and stadium projects are underway, and large hospitality and residential developments are also mushrooming all over the nation, in a bid to ensure that all requirements to achieve this goal are successfully met.

As Qatar’s dreams are taking shape, one area being given a lot of attention is the power sector. According to data from UK analyst firm Wood Mackenzie, the country’s total power generation capacity has grown by 3.4GW since 2010, to 11GW at the moment. One reason for this increase in capacity is the rise in demand for electricity from the industrial and residential segments, says Johannes Wetzel, power analyst at Wood Mackenzie.

“The start-up of the Qatalum aluminium plant in 2010 and its ramp-up of production has been a significant driver of electricity demand growth in the industrial sector, while growth in the residential sector has been driven by a 27% increase in population from 2010 to 2015. As a result, air-conditioning loads have increased and have been a major factor for residential consumption.”

While the available generation capacity has been more than capable of meeting peak load requirements so far, what kind of an increase is expected, particularly in the run-up to the World Cup?

Wetzel says demand for electricity in Qatar is likely to reach at least 46TWh in 2022, compared to 36TWh in 2015, with most of this growth coming once again from new industrial and residential needs, and many major power projects are underway to support these future generation requirements.

One such development under construction at the moment is the Umm Al Houl independent water and power project (IWPP), previously known as the Facility D project. According to the GCC Power Market 2016 report by Ventures Onsite, this massive 2.5GW development 15km south of Doha has an estimated value of $3.1 billion. Construction began in Q3 2015 and is expected to be completed in Q3 2018.

Other large projects include the Qatar Power Transmission System Expansion – Phase 12 by Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation (KAHRAMAA), which came online in Q3 2015. This project has an estimated value of $1.7 billion and is expected to finish in Q4 2017.

Meanwhile, Phase 13 of the same project, which has an estimated value of $2 billion, is expected to start during Q3 this year, with completion targeted for the fourth quarter of 2018.

Renewable energy is another area expected to play a key role in the national energy mix in Qatar by 2022. Wetzel points out that Qatar has ambitious plans for growth in terms of renewable electricity supply, with the government aiming for 1.8GW of installed capacity in 2020 and 10GW in 2030. And with such favourable conditions along the country’s coastline, solar and wind energy generation will see plenty of opportunity.

“Many initiatives have been put in place at the moment by Qatari entities such as KAHRAMAA, QEWC, Qatar Petroleum and Qatar Foundation, to proliferate renewable energy in the nation. In fact, several solar projects are expected to come online over the next few years,” says Wetzel.

“While solar PV will definitely lead the growth in renewables, we believe that concentrated solar power (CSP) will soon enter the mix as well. We’re also expecting to see the introduction of wind power by 2020, albeit at a smaller scale than solar.

“Additionally, though there isn’t a formal support or subsidy mechanism for renewables in place at present, we expect the commercial structure for renewables to be based around tenders, competitive bidding and power purchase agreements at fixed rates, as is the case in the UAE.”

With such large projects underway, challenges are inevitable. Wetzel believes that the main issues that the power industry will face while trying to ramp up capacity are two-fold.

Firstly, he says that in order to ensure future investment in a low commodity price environment, the burden on public finances has to be eased. One way of guaranteeing the financial viability of this public utility, while lowering the subsidy burden, is by having higher retail electricity prices.

Additionally, different approaches to project financing need to be explored, to stimulate continued investment in the power sector without overstressing public finances. This can be done through public-private partnerships, which Qatar first embraced in 2015.

Secondly, he says that the government must also implement a framework for the development of renewable energy.

Concluding with his outlook on power generation in Qatar and the likely impact of macro-economic conditions on development, Wetzel says, “The current low commodity price environment is taking its toll on the Qatari economy, and measures such as last year’s electricity price hike and the decision to let gasoline prices fluctuate show the government’s intent to cut the subsidy bill. However, we do not expect any detrimental impact on the Qatari power supply situation from this situation.”

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