New environmental policy for Oman’s energy sector

MUSCAT, JULY 8 – Oman’s authorities are formulating a new National Environmental Policy for the Energy Sector (NEPES) aimed at ensuring that the nation’s landmark transition to renewable and alternative energy sources is in harmony with the country’s environmental safeguards.
Overseeing the delivery of a comprehensive and efficacious policy framework is the Implementation Support & Follow-up Unit (ISFU), a task force operating under the auspices of the Diwan of Royal Court. ISFU’s mandate is to ensure the timely implementation of a large portfolio of initiatives proposed by Tanfeedh, Sharakah and other programmes to help advance Oman’s economic diversification efforts.
Over the past year, Oman’s apex agency for the procurement of new power generation and water desalination capacity — Oman Power and Water Procurement Company (OPWP) — has announced plans for large-scale solar photovoltaic based, as well as wind-based, electricity generation capacity to be developed at key locations around the country. Also envisioned is the Sultanate’s first clean coal based power plant in Duqm and an equally innovative Waste-to-Energy scheme in Barka.
While environmental standards governing the utilisation of natural gas, coal and crude are already in place, they are somewhat lacking when it comes to resources such as pet coke, diesel and renewables, according to an ISFU report on the initiative.
Many of these alternative fuels have been given the green-light for consideration as substitutes to valuable natural gas in the government’s newly approved Fuel Diversification Policy.
After all, a diversity of energy sources is seen as a strong enabler of growth of the manufacturing sector, says ISFU. “Many manufacturing projects and plans are energy intensive and require alternative and viable sources of energy. Deliberations in this sector include determining what variety of energy sources the Sultanate should pursue and rationalising their contribution to the country’s total energy production. Government policies and legislation related to energy production and their market value are also included in the focus of the proposed initiatives,” it has stressed.
Significantly, experts behind the drafting of the National Environmental Policy for the Energy Sector (NEPES) have identified “four focus areas where clear criteria are needed for environmental policy standards”. These comprise the Environment (air, water and waste), Pollutants (nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, among others), Health (severe and chronic breathing difficulties), and Externality Costs (waste disposal, healthcare, and so on).
Helping support the drafting and formulation of the National Environmental Policy for the Energy Sector (NEPES) are a number of government ministries and public sector bodies that have a stake in promoting the broader uptake of renewables and alternative fuel resources in place of natural gas as a primary fuel resource. Notable are the Public Authority of Electricity and Water (PAEW), Ministry of Regional Municipalities & Water Resources; Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Oil and Gas, and Oman Power and Water Procurement Company (OPWP).
Already, some headway has been reported by the Implementation Support & Follow-up Unit (ISFU) in the formulation of a National Environmental Policy for the Energy Sector (NEPES). Around 70 per cent of the milestones in the delivery of the policy have been met, according to ISFU.
“This included the preparatory assessment phase of the project which included preliminary engagement with stakeholders, identification of data requirement as well as conducting a baseline assessment of the current situation,” the task force stated in its report. “The target is to implement the policy by the end of 2018, which is largely dependent on the execution of the different phases of the project,” it added.

Conrad Prabhu