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Low GCC electricity rates kills solar water tech

No incentives for end users to switch to energy saving water heating

Solar powered water heaters are been held back by low energy rates in the GCC (Getty Images)
Solar powered water heaters are been held back by low energy rates in the GCC (Getty Images)

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The cost of electricity in the GCC is holding back the uptake of solar powered water heating systems in the region, the area manager of Ariston Thermo Middle East told MEP Middle East.

As electricity rates in the Middle East are among the lowest in the world, there are no incentives for end users to install energy saving water heating technology, Emanuele Stano said.

The reason the technology has taken off in Europe is because the technology is being subsidised by the governments there, he added.

“Here in the Middle East, people are still not massive users of solar thermal technology. This is normal as it will take time to introduce the technology. The cost of electricity is still extremely low here in the region. If you put down numbers, it’s still not economically convenient to install a solar system rather than an electrical storage water heater,” he added.

However, there has been some progress in the market, with projects being taken up on a limited scale.

Stano said that the company has been working on a number of smaller projects, such as residences in Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. There has also been a greater groundswell of interest, so much so that he has had to hire additional staff to provide full time technical consultation for customers.

Given these encouraging signs, he called on the region’s governments to show greater awareness of the issue and encourage their citizens to take up the technology.

“These are political issues, here in the Middle East, when the head of the state decides to make things green, it will become mandatory and everybody will go for it. The issue is that they’ve started something like awarding LEED points, where using solar thermal can help get points, but it hasn’t been made mandatory.”

Additionally, he said that there needed to be greater commitment form contractors to renewable energy technology, as it would greatly benefit the cause.

“When making a new building, solar requires bigger initial investment and longer payback periods in the future. Normally the contractor is the one investing the money, but he will not be the one getting the profit from the solar thermal system,” Stano said.

“So he’ll have to invest more in the beginning for the benefit of the end user, which will be another person. This will make it even more difficult to make things happen."

"It will be better if a private owner built a building so that he could make his own calculations and install, from the beginning, a solar system that will cost him less in the future,” he concluded.

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