News / Middle East

Yemen Explores Alternative Energy

Vehicles drive past a high-voltage power line tower on a highway south of the Yemeni capital Sana'a February 26, 2010.
Vehicles drive past a high-voltage power line tower on a highway south of the Yemeni capital Sana'a February 26, 2010.
The Republic of Yemen - unlike its oil-rich neighbors on the Arabian Peninsula -- has been forced to explore alternative forms of energy to offset low crude oil production.

But while desperate government officials in the capital, Sana’a scramble to revive an economy shattered by last year’s anti-government uprisings, renewable energy investments remain on the back burner.
 
In the face of the uprisings, the Yemeni government and international actors froze millions of dollars earmarked for alternative energy projects and in many cases redirected the funds to what they considered more urgent priorities.

One such project, a 60 megawatt wind farm in Al Mokha city, had been stalled since Yemen’s political upheavals began, but is “now moving,” according to Wael Zakout, country manager of Yemen’s World Bank office.

Click to EnlargeClick to Enlarge
x
Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge
Located along Yemen’s southern Red Sea coast, the proposed site overlooks the Bab Al Mandeb Strait, a waterway through which more than three million barrels of crude oil shipments sail daily. Currently, Yemen produces about 1,000 megawatts of electricity nationwide -- about a third of consumer demand.  The shortfall is a major cause of chronic power outages that can last for hours, days or even weeks in the more remote parts of the country.

The inconsistent power supply is double edged.
 
“If there was no cutoff, [people] would not buy solar,” says Abdulmajeed al-Wahbani, who sells solar power equipment.
 
The increased sale of solar systems, however, is overshadowed by the fact that the power outages severely limit Yemen’s industrial productivity and economic growth, especially in rural areas.
 
Not surprisingly, as the frequency of the power outages has increased in recent years, so have efforts to address the problem.

Using renewable energy sources could help alleviate the country’s power woes, or theoretically eliminate them, according to Ministry of Electricity figures, which estimate that nearly 35,000 megawatts of wind power and over 18,000 megawatts of solar power eventually could be produced in Yemen.

Pilot projects

On the outskirts of Sana’a, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is developing an experimental greenhouse program that combines solar power with state-of-the-art agricultural techniques to help farmers achieve as much as a 10-fold increase in their crop yields.

The first model greenhouse opened in August and has proven popular, in large part because of its integrated approach. USAID partnered with a local farmers association, which trains members and connects them with equipment vendors. The goal, they say, is to see the ideas and technology gain momentum and eventually spread from farmer to farmer.

“When farmers see the benefits from other farmers, this is a message bigger than [ours],” says Mohmmed Muharram, the agriculture officer at USAID’s implementing partner, Community Livelihoods Project.
 
So far, more than 400 farmers have visited the site, and there were plans to build 12 more in six governorates around Yemen. Yet whether those plans will go ahead is unclear. Muharram says he has been told the program is currently funded only through June of 2013.

Similar community development models have been successful in Iraq, Jordan and Morocco.

Another promising enterprise, which also has been idle for about a year, is called The Rural Energy Access project. It was approved by the World Bank in 2009 and is designed in part to provide solar power to homes in remote areas.

“The off-grid [portion of the] program is expected to provide electricity supply to 18,000 additional rural households, including 3,000 in the fringe areas of the 12 governorates, and 15,000 in the off-grid areas,” says Zakout. “Due to the political crisis in the last couple of years, the implementation was delayed," he added, “but with the relative calm in the country in recent months, the Bank has reopened its program and implementation of this project will start soon.”

Obstacles

Despite the need and interest in such programs, little has changed on the ground.
No participant in the USAID program has purchased a solar system yet, and only four wealthy farmers have installed the latest irrigation technology. That could be because it costs the equivalent of $15,000 for the greenhouse, irrigation system and solar units. The average Yemeni farmer would need funding from either international donors or the government in Sana'a.

And according to Abdulaziz Daer, a general manager at Dome Trading, an energy sector service provider, there is another significant obstacle to renewable energy growth -- the lack of a legal framework for investment. He sees public-private partnerships as a necessary component of Yemen’s power generation plans, but says private companies are reluctant to invest on the commercial scale because there are no legal protections or purchase guarantees from the government.

“The government has to subsidize renewable energy," he concludes.

Adel Abdulghani, the general director of planning and information at the Ministry of Electricity, says that there is a tendency for the ministry to “[address] the problem when it comes." In regard to subsidies on conventional power generation, Abdulghani says that the government has plans to gradually reduce support for conventional power generation, but in the short-term, "you cannot stop subsidizing and take that money for renewable energy; that is practicably impossible."

Governmental and aid groups aside, renewable energy in Yemen faces a host of other challenges, including an unstable security situation, an inadequate power transmission system, low public awareness and the absence of financing mechanisms to help with the high start-up costs.

The U.S. ambassador in Sana’a, Gerald Feierstein, however, says Yemen could be well placed to “leapfrog over other countries” in the region when it comes to renewal energy production. Feierstein recently led a delegation of Yemeni businessmen to the United States to meet with, among others, officials of renewable energy companies. He says Yemen’s relative lack of development in the power sector may, in the long term, actually be of help to those interested in investing in renewable energy in the country.

You May Like

Video Protests Continue in Ferguson, Spread to Other US Cities

Missouri officials say deployment of more than 2,000 National Guard soldiers helps curb second night of rampant arson and looting in Midwestern town More

Video Ebola, Crackdown on Illegals Hit Business in Guangzhou

Chinese city has largest community of Africans in Asia More

Video Legendary Lebanese Actress, Singer Sabah Dies at 87

Music and film diva, affectionately called 'Sabbouha' by millions of her fans, performed at Carnegie Hall in New York, Royal Albert Hall in London, Olympia in Paris, Sydney Opera House in Sydney More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid