The 2nd Oman Economic Forum  

Oman Economic Forum concludes putting Renewable Energy and Food Security in the spotlight

The Sultanate’s second Economic Forum concluded today at the Shangri-La Barr Al-Jissah Resort Muscat, with engaging discussion about the potential for renewable energy in Oman. Amongst second and final day’s discussion at the Oman Economic Forum were topics including Oman’s investment environment; the potential for renewable energy in Oman and the Sultanate’s development and diversification strategy for the Omani economy. H.E Khalil Bin Abdullah Al-Khonji, Chairman of the Oman Chamber of Commerce moderated the panel.

Hundreds of participants attended the Renewable Energy session which discussed the growing demand for energy in the Sultanate, which is expected to double by 2021. Moderated by Mr. John Cuneen, Executive Director and Member, Authority for Electricity Regulation, Oman; Panelists included Eng. Azhar Haroun Al-Kindi, CEO Oman Environmental Services Holding company; Mr. Amjad Rihan, Director of Climate Change and Sustainability Services at Ernst & Young Middle East, Mr. Ahmad Saleh Al-Jahdhami, Director of Privatization & Restructuring, General Authority for Electricity and Water; Mr. Gary Siegel, Partner at Southern Electricity Partners and Mr. George Sarraf, Partner at Booz and Company.

In a presentation about the significant opportunities for investment in renewable energy resources in Oman, John Cunneen remarked;
“A 2008 investigation into the potential for renewable energy resources in Oman identified solar and wind energy as areas in which efforts should be prioritized. With the launch of Oman Environmental Services Holding Company, I suspect that the Sultanate now boasts a capacity of biogas energy too.”

Not in my backyard:

The Forum also raised the controversial question of the feasibility of nuclear power in the Sultanate, especially relevant given Abu Dhabi’s recent nuclear energy commitments. According to panelist Gary Seigel, Oman’s large size, versus its relatively small population makes the Sultanate an ideal candidate for nuclear facilities; which tend to require large expanse of uninhabited land because of general reluctance to reside in the vicinity of a nuclear power plant in spite of the fact that is considered very safe. It was revealed that a committee has been formed to study the feasibility of Nuclear power in the Sultanate.

Eng. Azhar Haroun Al-Kindi commented on the new approaching era of renewable energy;
“It is vital that energy consumers play a role too. People in Oman need to be educated in terms of reducing energy waste and recycling. Facilities for recycling and landfill sites need to improve. At present 100 % of waste in Oman is dumped at landfill sites, in countries such as Finland and the Netherlands is it just 1%. I am of the opinion that ‘waste is wealth’; there is a lot of potential in waste management in the Sultanate”.

Policy is slowly being formed following the 2008 study; advisors are being hired and the ministries and public sector are looking at support mechanisms and commencing pilot projects. Discussion at the Forum also raised the important issue of educating the general public to reduce and recycle.

Amjad Rihan was of the opinion that now was a time when it was important not to waste time on policy talks and bureaucracy; “This is a time-sensitive opportunity which investors should take advantage of. Rather than focusing on policy, we must quickly move forwards. Renewable energy is the future”.

Mr. Walid Abou Zaki, Executive Director of Al-Iktissad Wal-Aamal Group, the Forum’s primary organizers, commented;
“I am happy to see the interest and high level discussion regarding alternative energy in this session. I am sure we will hear a lot of feedback in the near future about the support mechanisms, feed and tariffs, usage awareness and energy consumption and other topics raised in the Forum. It was good that the fact that higher education in Oman is not currently prepared for alternative energy solutions came to light. The Oman Economic Forum 2010 will have given the various different Ministries, and public and private sectors much to consider.”

H.E Maqbool Bin Ali Bin Sultan, Minister of Commerce and Industry also led a lively open discussion titled ‘Oman’s Strategy for Food Security’. Concerned about the threats to food security from natural disasters and drought for example, he revealed that the Government have taken the initiative to appoint an international consultancy firm instructed to co-operate with the Ministry as they strategize to find solutions for threats to food security; “The Ministry are encouraging local and international investors to support the Government’s initiatives concerning, specifically fisheries and date production, that manufacture output in excess of local demand. Converting industries, such as packaging local raw food-stuffs to processed, canned varieties of local goods is a currently neglected, but excellent investment opportunity. ”

Al-Iktissad Wal-Aamal Group currently organizes around 25 events across the region annually. In the upcoming months alone the group will host the Arab Economic Forum in Beirut on May 20 – 21, and the Turkish- Arab Economic Forum in Istanbul on June 10 – 11. Publishers of leading Pan-Arab business magazine; Al-Iktissad Wal-Aamal, and specializing in business management; the Group also publish Al-Hasnaa, the Arab woman’s lifestyle magazine in addition to various other publications.

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