Researchers at Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) have suggested that major oil-producing countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region could profit from taking advantage of their renewable energy resources.
According to the study, a fully renewable electricity system could be roughly 50-60% cheaper than other emission-free energy options for the MENA region. For example, the study estimates the cost of “new nuclear” power to be around 110 Euros per megawatt hour (E/MWh); and CCS for fossil fuel generation at around 120E/MWh. By contrast, the study predicts the cost of fully renewable energy electricity to be around 40-60 E/MWh, based on financial and technical assumptions looking forward to 2030.
The cost of wind and solar electricity would reduce further to 37-55 E/MWh if different energy resources were connected with a super grid allowing the transmission of high volumes of electricity across longer distances. For Iran, the cost could be 40-45 E/MWh, and the report suggests that the transition of the current fossil-based electricity system towards a fully renewable electricity system would be able to cover all electricity needs in the decades to come.
According to LUT, transforming the electricity system fully to renewables for Iran would require 49 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaics, 77 GW of wind power and 21 GW of hydropower. Most of the hydropower already exists, but the solar and wind capacities would require new investments. The report adds that wind power could be installed in many parts of the country (and solar systems in all regions of Iran) at a viable cost . Further, the report adds that both technologies could be “easily” added to the existing energy infrastructure, which is mainly based on flexible fossil natural gas fired power plants plus hydropower.
The authors also discuss a renewable oil refining scenario in which fossil fuels are replaced by synthetically produced fuels using carbon dioxide, water and electricity. If this power-to-fuel technology were used, a 100% renewable system could still use carbon fuels and chemicals for aviation, materials and medicine. These are the most difficult sectors to decarbonise because batteries are too heavy for powering airplanes and carbon is needed in plastics and various chemicals such as solvents and medicine.
The results were published at the 11th International Energy Conference held in Tehran, Iran, and presented during COP22 in Marrakech to official representatives of the MENA region.