Qatar Solar Technologies lays foundation for MENA’s solar strategy
QSTech consortium with SolarWorld and Centrotherm leads the way for the Middle East's photovoltaic solar industry
Climate change and renewable energy are high on the international agenda. The Middle East – the core of the planet’s sunbelt – is already engaging with this energy transformation, diversifying into solar. Helping meet this demand is Qatar Solar Technologies; at its helm, chairman and CEO Dr Khalid K Al Hajri. He talks about the expectations of the solar industry – contributing 26 percent of the world’s energy – and how Qatar Solar Technologies’ partnerships with Centrotherm and Solar World will help the company build 6.5 GW worth of photovoltaic solar facilities.
World Finance: Climate change and renewable energy are high on the international agenda. The Middle East– the core of the planet’s sunbelt– is already engaging with this energy transformation, diversifying into solar. Helping meet this demand is Qatar Solar Technologies. Its Chairman and CEO Dr Khalid K Al Hajri joins me now.
Dr Al Hajri, what is the future of the solar energy industry?
Dr Khalid K Al Hajri: There is a projection that by 2040, 60 percent of the world’s energy needs will be met by renewable sources. 26 percent of that will be from solar.
The price of the solar industry is coming down. In fact, the price today, if you compare it per megawatt used by cars, it’s around $122/MW using solar, and $118/MW with gas. So you can see the gap is coming down.
Last year, 2015, was the first time when investment in renewables and in solar went up, while investment in oil and gas came down. So that’s how solar will help overcome some of these challenges of climate change.
Qatar Solar Technologies will be laying the foundation for the solar industry development across the MENA region.
World Finance: You’ve made significant investments in the photovoltaic businesses Centrotherm and Solar World. How does that position QSTech across the photovoltaic value chain?
Dr Khalid K Al Hajri: One of our visions is to be a globally leading integrated company. Getting involved in Solar World, which is the major producer of panels in Europe and the US; and also Centrotherm, which is a general combined technology provider with 95 percent of the polysilicon marketshare worldwide, and in semiconductors they have 45 percent of the market.
So with the three of us working together on research and development, benefiting from each of ours’ experience, know-how and knowledge: that also will be a huge force through the use of Qatar’s Science and Technology Park, and the Qatar Foundation.
We think this will bring about a lot of improvements in the solar industry across the globe. And mainly we’ll start in the MENA region.
World Finance: You’ve been building your own polysilicon production plant – the first of its kind in the Middle East – tell me about that.
Dr Khalid K Al Hajri: We have 1.2 million square metres. One of our visions is to be a globally integrated leading organisation in the solar industry. And that land will accumulate around 6.5 GW facilities, from polysilicon up to panel production.
We’re adopting a fairly strategic approach. We’re building a polysilicon plant, and by the end of this year it will be producing 8,000 tonnes. That gives you around 1.3 GW.
And what we’re doing there is, we are laying the foundation for solar industry development in the MENA region.
World Finance: So that puts you in a really good position – especially with the recent Paris agreements actually coming into force, to drive forward the solar industry.
Dr Khalid K Al Hajri: Absolutely. Because this is the first time, after COP21 in Paris, that the governments have made a real commitment. And now, whether they resist the future or go along with it: there is no other option. And we will be playing a major part in promoting the government to achieve their goals as set there.
World Finance: So what are they key challenges that are facing solar players?
Dr Khalid K Al Hajri: In the solar industry there are two challenges we have to overcome. One, to bring the price down. Two, the storage. And that will come through research and development, and dealing with Solar World, Centrotherm, Qatar Solar Technologies through Qatar Science and Technology Parks and the Qatar Foundation, that really will make the platform for positive contribution among this consortium for overcoming these challenges. And this is not only for the consortium – we’ll make it available for the rest of the solar industry key players.
Actually, there is another, third challenge. And that’s the fragmentation of the industry. The solar industry so far has been very fragmented. And we need to work on this, to make it one group, to exchange information between all the producers and key players in the solar industry to make it more competitive against other sources of energy.
World Finance: Finally then, what does the future hold for QSTech?
Dr Khalid K Al Hajri: The future – we would like to be a globally integrated company, worldwide. We have already started with our consortium with Solar World and Centrotherm.
Two: we would like to work together for research and development, and working simultaneously as we are building our plant, and building our name globally.
Thirdly, we will support the government in achieving the goal set based on COP21.
World Finance: Dr Al Hajri, thank you very much.
Dr Khalid K Al Hajri: I appreciate it so much, thank you.