EghtesadOnline: The Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Organization—a subsidiary of the Energy Ministry also known as Satba—was founded to help promote green energy but has failed in its mission, said an entrepreneur and founder of the first solar-powered office building in Iran.
"Those in charge of the state-run organization [like most other executive bodies] lack a thorough knowledge of energy issues" and that is why their views are shortsighted and unwise, Saeed Mansour Afshar said in a talk with the Persian-language weekly ‘Tejarat Farda’, a sister publication of the Financial Tribune.
There is a visible lack of seasoned engineers and experts in the organization and those in charge do not have a clear understanding of solar power. That is the reason why they are unable (probably unwilling) to introduce fair tariffs for electricity produced by the private sector, he complained.
"Private firms started producing photovoltaic power 10 years ago and are still grappling with pricing issues with the government," Afshar, who also is a university lecturer, asserted, according to Financial Tribune.
Referring to the cost of producing each kilowatt of solar energy, he said most of the equipment, including PV inverters, panels and certain cables, should be imported.
Afshar says generating one kilowatt- hour of solar power with the help of on-grid or grid-tie solar systems, which do not need batteries and are connected to the public electricity grid, costs 22 cents.
If the same energy is produced with off-grid systems, which need batteries, the cost will rise to 29 cents and Satba expects the producer to sell for 6 cents! "We hope common sense will prevail."
Electricity in Iran is sold at highly subsidized rates.
Criticizing officials who often claim the producing solar energy is very cheap, he said generating one kilowatt of electricity for state-run power stations is less than 3 cents because they have access to free water, gas, land and other utilities. For the private investor it is a very different story.
"If we too were exempted from tax, insurance and utility bills, generating low-cost energy would be doable."
Making an analogy between Iran and Germany, he said producing a kWh of solar energy costs 19 cents in the latter and is sold to the government for 21 cents.
Afshar said so long as fossil fuels are sold dirt cheap in the country, renewables will not get the space and voice they deserve. “Officials apparently are not fully aware of the long-term benefit of developing renewables.”
Across the world including Iran billions of dollars are allocated for treating cardiovascular and respiratory diseases emanating from worsening air pollution. A fraction of the colossal costs can help reduce such ailments to a great extent in long term, but "Satba officials and other policymakers seem to be oblivious to simple arithmetic.”
Denying claims that PV plants' maintenance costs a fortune, he asserted that this is a wrong idea.
“Maintaining a thermal power plant costs the same as a solar plant. Furthermore, developing solar stations is more economically viable than building atomic plants in long term."
Germany has said it will decommission all its nuclear power plants by 2025 as the government has come to this conclusion that renewables make more sense as it is a clean source of energy.
The university teacher noted that setting up solar farms in deserts namely Dasht-e- Kavir and Dasht-e-Loot requires a new technology because extremely high temperatures — above 65 or 70 degrees Celsius (150 or 160 Fahrenheit) —and frequent dust storms do not let PV panels function properly.
In such regions a new technology called "concentrating solar power plant" is used. Iran does not have this technology.
CSP plants use mirrors to concentrate the sun's energy to drive traditional steam turbines or engines that create electricity.
Thermal energy concentrated in a CSP plant can be stored and used to produce electricity when needed, day or night. The share of renewables in Iran’s energy mix is 780 MW despite the fact that it has huge potential to harness renewable energies, including geothermal, solar and wind power.