Mon, Nov 05, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Amman mosques, schools help cut emissions

Jordan imports close to 96 percent of its energy needs from its oil-rich neighbors, and its capital is among the world’s water-starved cities. A US$188m investment in solar and ambitious municipal carbon-cutting plans could change that

By Adela Suliman  /  Thomson Reuters Foundation, AMMAN

Illustration: Yusha

Poking above the bright pink bougainvillea that spills into the street, the lone minaret of the Ta’la al-Ali mosque towers over the Khalda neighborhood of Amman.

Aside from its colorful stained glass windows and ornate calligraphy, this mosque stands out for another reason: Its roof is covered with shining solar panels that make the building’s carbon emissions close to zero.

The structure is part of a wider effort by mosques — and many other buildings in the city — to capitalize on Jordan’s plentiful sunshine and shift towards renewable energy in a bid to achieve Amman’s goal of becoming a carbon-neutral city by 2050.

“Almost all the mosques here in Jordan now cover 100 percent of their energy needs” with renewable power, said Yazan Ismail, an energy auditor at ETA-max Energy and Environmental Solutions, a green consultancy in Jordan.

Amman is one of more than 70 cities worldwide that are aiming to become carbon neutral by 2050, meaning that they would produce no more climate-changing emissions than they can offset, such as by planting carbon-absorbing trees.

Each is going about achieving the goal in its own way, but because, according to the UN, cities account for about three-quarters of carbon dioxide emissions and consume more than two-thirds of the world’s energy, whether they succeed or fail will be crucial to whether the world’s climate goals are met.

In Amman, the push to make mosques greener — which began in 2014, with backing from the Jordanian Ministry of Religious Affairs — has been so successful that many are now selling excess energy back to the national grid, Ismail said.

For the Ta’la al-Ali mosque’s imam, who speaks to the faithful in his Friday sermons about protecting the climate, the decision to adopt clean energy coincides with wider religious values.

“The main reason for the use of solar energy is religious duty,” Ahmad al-Rawashdeh said.

Islam urges conservation of nature’s resources and “warns against extravagance,” he said.

However, the use of solar energy and power-saving LED lightbulbs is also helping the mosque financially, he added.

Amman, where temperatures already soar above 40°C in the summer, has clear incentives to try to hold the line on global warming. Yet renewables are far from the norm in most of the country.

Jordan still imports close to 96 percent of its energy, most of it polluting fossil fuels, from its Middle Eastern neighbors, World Bank data show.

Government officials said they are going to change that.

“We are committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030,” Jordanian Minister of Environment Nayef Hmeidi al-Fayez told reporters.

The country aims to generate 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2022, al-Fayez said.

He said he thinks the target will be met early, in part as solar panels go up on the city’s homes, businesses and government buildings.

Earlier this year the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) put in place US$188 million in financing to develop Jordan’s largest solar power plant for the state-owned National Electric Power Co.

The project is scheduled to go online in the first half of 2020 and will supply power to about 110,000 homes, while displacing 360,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, a statement from Masdar said.

On the other side of the city, the al-Hoffaz international academy — one of the first schools to go solar in Amman, in 2013 — now gets almost 95 percent of its energy from renewable sources, school assistant general manager Khaled al-Salaymah said.

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