Analysis: Jordan closes in on first utility-scale project

JORDAN The 117MW Tafilah wind power project, western Jordan, is in the final stages of financial close, having secured a loan of $221 million from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in partnership with various European and regional financial institutions.

It will be the first utility-scale wind installation, and the biggest privately owned, in the region.

Given the problems in the Middle East, it is perhaps surprising to see such a large project moving forward, albeit one under development for a number of years. Explaining the project's progress, Steve Sawyer, secretary general of the Global Wind Energy Council, said: "The short answer is that there is clear political will in the country which has no oil and relatively little political unrest at present, and good relations with international financing partners."

Jordan imports 97% of its energy needs and is facing rapid growth in demand. In recent years it has been establishing policies in support of renewable energy, with a target of 10% of renewables in the power mix by 2020. Out of this, wind will contribute around 1.2GW, compared with just 1.45MW today.

Jordan's renewable energy law, which reached the statute books in 2012, led to the introduction of a feed-in tariff, currently capped at JOD 0.085/kWh (EUR 0.088) for wind. Renewables facilities are exempt from customs duty and sales tax, and benefit from a statutory guarantee of access to the grid, while the state also pays for the interconnection. Jordan "is quite far ahead from a legislative point of view", notes Silvia Macri, a regional specialist at global wind consultants IHS Emerging Energy Research.

Another significant driver is the fact that, at a cost of JOD 0.085/kWh, wind is competitive with conventional sources. Indeed, generation from the Tafilah plant is expected to cost up to 25% less than thermal power, according to the IFC.

The project is being developed by the Jordan Wind Power Company (JWPC), a special-purpose vehicle owned by Euro-Mediterranean fund InfraMed (50%), Abu Dhabi-based clean-tech investor Masdar (31%) and Cyprus-based developer EP Global Energy (19%), which specialises in emerging markets. JWPC will also build, own and operate the plant, while Vestas is widely tipped as the turbine supplier. Commercial operation is scheduled for 2015.

Jordan has also launched a programme to attract other private-sector investors, calling for expressions of interest (EOI) to build, own and operate plant of 50-100MW. A second round, focusing on wind and solar in the north and east of the country, took place earlier this year, with a deadline of 2 November; the first round, for the southern region, did not yield any wind power projects. It is not yet known how many EOIs the ministry received in round two, although it should announce its selection within six months.

A decision is also expected soon on which company will be awarded the contract to engineer, procure and construct a 65-75MW project near the southern city of Maan.