Qatar has signed an agreement with French energy giant Total and Japan’s Marubeni to build a solar power plant capable of producing 800 megawatts, a tenth of country’s peak energy demand, according to the country’s energy minister.
The Al Kharsaah plant near the capital Doha comes at a cost of 1.7 billion riyals ($467m) and is expected to be complete by 2022 when the country hosts the FIFA World Cup.
“Today is the commencement of the project itself and we expected by the first quarter of 2021 to have half of the [plant’s] capacity up and running,” Energy Minister Saad al-Kaabi told a news briefing on Sunday.
“It will generate about eight times the size of the solar energy Qatar had pledged to build, helping the organisation of a carbon-neutral event,” al-Kaabi continued, referring to the 2022 tournament.
Qatar’s Siraj Energy, a joint venture owned by Qatar Petroleum (QP) and Qatar Electricity and Water Company (QEWC), will hold a 60 percent stake in the solar plant. The remaining 40 percent will be owned by both Marubeni and Total.
Marubeni will take 51 percent of the minority stake, while Total will have 49 percent.
Patrick Pouyanne, Total’s chief executive, said the solar plant, once complete, will be the largest ever built by the French conglomerate.
Gulf states, heavily dependent on oil and gas, have invested tens of billions of dollars in clean energy projects, mainly in solar and nuclear.
But critics say many such projects are slow to get off the drawing board.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) said last week its first nuclear power plant would start operating within months after repeated delays to meet safety and regulatory conditions.
The UAE will have the first operational nuclear reactor in the Arab world.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s top crude oil exporter, has said it plans to build up to 16 nuclear reactors, but the projects have yet to materialise.
Critics say the addiction to oil is hard to kick, particularly when supplies remain abundant and the high costs of investment in infrastructure needed to switch to renewables.