(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Experts on Tuesday urged policy makers to stop prescribing temporary remedies for Jordan's energy crisis, saying it is time to implement long-term strategies.
Describing the government's plans to raise electricity tariffs next month as a temporary solution to address financial losses by the state-owned electricity company due to a halt in natural gas supplies from Egypt, the experts, interviewed by The Jordan Times, called on decision makers to speed up the implementation of renewable energy projects and to develop policies targeting consumer behaviour.
Former finance and energy minister Suleiman Hafez explained that currently, the government has no option but to increase electricity prices to reduce, not cover, increasing financial losses resulting from selling the service at below-market prices, adding that the government also wants to stop losses in the sector accumulated over the past years.
"The losses are like a snowball that is getting larger every day," he said, adding that it is the government's responsibility to judge whether the timing of the decision is right.
Hafez expressed hope that raising the tariffs would push consumers to ration their electricity consumption (see related story).
The electricity sector incurred losses of over JD1 billion last year due to disruptions to the gas supply from Egypt, caused by repeated attacks on the Arab Gas Pipeline in the Sinai, and is expected to lose JD1.5 billion this year if the situation continues, according to officials.
The 2007 energy strategy seeks to boost domestic energy resources from the current 2 per cent to 40 per cent by 2020, depending on oil shale and renewable energy resources.
Analyst Zayyan Zawaneh, a former adviser at the International Monetary Fund, the finance ministry and the Central Bank of Jordan, doubted the strategy would achieve its goals if decision makers remain reluctant to implement solar and wind energy schemes.
There are no tangible signs that successive governments have been working to make solar and wind projects cover part of the Kingdom's needs, according to Zawaneh.
"Out of 365 days a year, Jordan enjoys over 300 days of sunshine," he said, pointing out that European countries are working toward solar technology providing nearly one-third of their energy needs by 2050, despite much cloudier weather.
In addition to clean energy projects, Zawaneh said Jordan has to diversify its fuel import sources, mentioning Qatar and Iraq as major potential suppliers of natural gas.
Economist Wasef Azar, also a former industry and trade minister, stressed that renewable energy is the best remedy for the Kingdom's energy woes, criticising policy makers and legislators for "ignoring" the energy sector for years.
It is time to explore natural resources in the country, he added, calling for developing power plants based on solar and wind energy instead of the controversial nuclear programme.
However, Hafez was optimistic that Jordan's near future in the energy field would be more promising.
There are several schemes on the pipeline to use abundant solar sources in the south of the Kingdom in addition to oil shale and natural gas in the east, he remarked, adding that such projects, expected to materialise within three to five years, may provide the country with 50 per cent of its needs.
In the meantime, Hafez suggested that the government should start immediately building a terminal in the port city of Aqaba for storing gas imports, saying establishing the terminal would take around two years.
A recent study prepared by experts at the economic policy development forum launched by the Talal Abu Ghazaleh Organisation, called on decision makers to consider immediately renting a ship as a temporary solution until the proposed storage stations were ready.
The report, which indicated that Jordan imported 96 per cent of its energy needs last year at a cost of JD3.7 billion or around 18 per cent of the gross domestic product, also called on authorities to take concrete steps towards building wind and solar power plants.
The experts also said consumers were partly to blame, however, for the energy dilemma in Jordan.
Azar pointed out that Jordanians' consumption of fuel and power is greater than their economy can support.
For example, Azar said, many households leave their lights on all day, while motorists drive long distances for fun, calling on households to use energy saving devices.
"These small details should count for consumers, who can save 10 to 15 per cent of the wasted energy," the expert said, citing a lack of proper public transportation as the main cause of the rising number of cars in the country.
Hafez agreed with Azar, saying consumers should know their capabilities and be more responsible.
"Some people consume beyond their capabilities to show off," the former official said, saying that the number of inefficient large-engine motor vehicles in Jordan may be greater than in oil-rich countries.
In order to curb the rising trend of large-engine cars, he suggested that authorities increase registration and licensing fees on such vehicles.
Hafez, also the former chief of the Jordan Electricity Regulatory Commission, proposed that policy makers can reward industrial and business establishments that ration their power use and do not consume power during peak hours.
The experts also suggested the removal of taxes and customs duties on energy-efficient devices, in addition to expanding the use of solar heaters, adopting green building codes and reducing electricity rates for industrial establishments that consume less energy.