A tender for the first phase of an ambitious plan to install solar PV systems on the rooftops of residential buildings in the Sultanate is likely to be floated by the middle of this year, high level officials of the Authority for Electricity Regulation Oman (AER) announced here yesterday.
The initiative — dubbed Sahim — will see between 1,000-5,000 buildings fitted out with solar PV systems on their rooftops as part of an intensifying national push towards renewables, said Hilal al Ghaithi, Deputy Director of Customer Affairs & Project manager of Sahim.
“This year, the Authority is looking to put in place unified regulations for the Sahim initiative, aimed at attracting national investment funds to finance the installation of these solar PV systems atop residential buildings in the Sultanate,” Al Ghaithi said.
“On behalf of the customers, various developers will also be involved in the design, installation and maintenance of the systems, while the Authority will be working to monitor the output, quality and reliability of the systems in order to sustain their utility over the lifetime of the project.”
Speaking at a press conference convened by the regulator to announce its 2018 Forward Work Programme, the official said the Authority will seek to build on what it has achieved since the unveiling of the Sahim initiative in mid-2017.
“Since then, we have developed new regulations, technical and connection guidelines, as well as a unified connection process for all distribution and supply companies in the country. The Authority has also developed incentive schemes for customers to install solar systems on their rooftops, produce and consume electricity, and export any surplus output into the grid. Customers will be compensated for any surplus export.”
Al Ghaithi also revealed that Muscat Municipality has completed the formulation of guidelines for rooftop installations in the capital region — a move he described as “good news” for the renewables development effort.
“We are also working with the relevant government authorities, including Muscat Municipality, Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources, and the Suhar and Dhofar municipalities, to ensure that unified requirements are in place,” he said.
Significantly, the Sahim initiative has generated heartening interest from all consumer segments —residential, commercial, industrial and even government, according to the official. The motivation, in part, stems from the introduction of Cost Reflective Tariffs (CRT) for large consumers which no longer benefit from government subsidy on electricity.
“This year, we are concentrating on residential customers, because of the heavy subsidy that the government continues to bear on electricity consumption. Subsidy totalled around RO 510 million in 2017, which includes RO 370 million for residential customers. Sohar PV will not only contribute to lower bills based on gas-powered electricity, but will also reduce the consumption of natural gas as a fuel,” Al Ghaithi stated.