What’s behind the Qatari enthusiasm for solar power?

Every now and then here at Solar Quotes HQ we like to tear ourselves away from the short sighted solar power policies of our elected representatives and gaze at overseas solar energy trends. Are other countries’ solar sectors hamstrung by suffering cutback after cutback in solar feed-in tariffs? Do they have the equivalent of our conservative regimes cutting back on renewables almost as soon as they gets their bums on the seats in their respective state parliaments?

Well yes probably, the powerful fossil fuel lobby isn’t just a feature of Australian politics, however one country where you’d expect not to find developments in solar power is the oil-rich Qatar.

But here’s a strange quote from a recent press conference in Doha, Qatar given by the highly-connected Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, a former energy minister who is chairman of Qatar Electricity & Water Co. (QEWS).

“We are one of the biggest believers in solar,” he said. “We have some technology problems. I am a big believer that technology will solve it.”

“Biggest believers in solar”. Now there’s a change in thinking from one of the region’s most powerful players in the oil market.

In fact it’s all a little odd really. Unless you are one of the increasing number of subscribers to the theory that peak oil production has been and gone and we are now facing rapidly declining oil stocks. Perhaps Middle East oil heavyweights such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia have seen the writing on the wall and are now investing heavily in the energy of the future: solar and wind and other renewables.

So the theory goes anyway.

There is another, equally relevant, scenario though. That is that Doha, the capital of Qatar, is to host the latest round of UN climate change talks later this month (this despite Qatar having the highest greenhouse gas output per capita in the world). The middle Eastern kingdom appears to be making no effort to reduce carbon emissions, according to a Sydney Morning Herald article but for some unfathomable reason the mandarins at the UN have given it the nod for the climate gabfest.

It’s a bit like holding up our very own Question Time to kiddies as an example of manners, morals and politeness to your fellow human beings.

A cynic would say that the recent pro-solar energy announcements of major projects, which have mysteriously stalled due to the preponderance of desert dust (I kid you not), may be so the Qataris have something to point at when entertaining the world at the climate talks.

Indeed Doha has a special place in diplomatic history as the kind of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” of worthy causes (according to the Guardian), a place where high level international talks on meaningful subjects such as trade benefits for poorer countries tend to just carry on for years. Apparently the discussions eventually drift into the desert sands with stricken negotiators riding off sobbing in their wake.

Supporters of a breakthrough in reducing harmful carbon emissions and those that want to see a renewable energy-based future are concerned that this year’s talkfest will also fade into nothing more than an agreement to keep talking at a future date.

Is Qatar’s solar power fair dinkum or a renewable energy fig leaf? Have your say here or over at our Facebook Page.


  1. Karl Duncan says

    Hi Rich, I did think your post was thought provoking, however the thoughts came up with, negatives. I see that they are trying to improve their lot right across the region, this is great………But unless they are able to unite the whole of Islam and share the wealth, then they are doomed to failure.

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