After acquiring the second-largest solar company in the world, global energy giant French Total SA is seeking to set up a solar business in Qatar to boost its chances of bagging the coveted solar project that would give Qatar’s 2022 FIFA World Cup games the smallest carbon footprint ever.
Total has become a global name in solar power after acquiring U.S.-based SunPower, the second largest solar company in the world.
The French energy giant already has a solar business in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, where it has built a solar plant in partnership with Masdar and Abengoa Solar. But a foray into Qatar at this time is very significant, and it’s all about FIFA. Related: Another Major Natural Gas Pipeline Project Bites The Dust
“We understand that Qatar Petroleum is establishing a new company in association with Qatar Electricity and Water Company to develop some solar farms in Qatar. We intend to study the possibility of setting up a joint venture between Sun Power and this new company,” Total Chairman and CEO Patrick Pouyanné told the Gulf Times.
Qatar’s hosting of the FIFA world cup in 2022 will be the first by an Arab nation. Along with other controversies on awarding the World Cup to Qatar, one of the sticking points was the extreme hot weather during the time of the Cup, when temperatures are expected to reach 50 °C (122 °F).
Qatar had plans to use solar energy to cool the five stadiums where matches were to be held, as showcased in its 500-seater model stadium. The stadiums’ solar plants were to be connected to the national grid. During matches, the stadium would import energy from the grid, whereas, it would export to the grid when the stadium was not being used, making the facility carbon neutral. Related: Oil Prices Fall Back as Rally Hits a Ceiling
Though FIFA has decided to change the date of the Cup now to coincide with the Qatari winter from 21 November to 18 December 2022, the general belief is that Qatar will still go ahead with the solar plants for the stadiums to prove their point that they could have successfully hosted the event even during the summer.
Qatar is also very determined to make a lasting impression by hosting a low carbon footprint version of the world cup—another continuing criticism of the event itself.
Along with the cup, the Qatar National Vision 2030, launched in 2008, also emphasizes developing clean renewable energy resources, further solidifying the solar push. So while Qatar has the third largest gas reserves in the world exceeding 250 trillion cubic feet, accounting for more than 13 percent of the known global resource, and Doha has been the center of attention in failed talks of an oil output freeze, solar is fast becoming a focal point here.
The push by the oil and gas rich nations to adopt renewable energy resources may serve as proof that fossil fuels are destined to decrease in importance and will someday be overtaken by cleaner and greener energy. Related: Why Oil Prices Will Likely Drop Below $40 Soon
But the interesting thing about FIFA—for all the criticism of its carbon footprint—is that it may be exactly events such as this that help bring solar and other renewable energy resources to the forefront. As always, it’s the biggest violators that come under pressure to change and start the ball rolling. Total is clearly in the front line of this changing game.
FIFA’s carbon footprint cannot be easily dismissed. The 2014 World Cup in Brazil was said to generate over 2.7 million metric tons of CO2e, while FIFA worked on a plan to offset those carbon emissions.
FIFA is important to Qatar in more than one way. It’s not just about being the first Arab nation to host the World Cup—it’s a showcasing arena for the Qatari desire to become a leader in renewable energy and to prove to the world that it’s got just as much prowess in solar as it does in gas. FIFA during the summer would have been a major coup. FIFA in the winter will be a far less dramatic presentation setting for Qatar’s solar stadiums, but it could still drive the point home.
By Rakesh Upadhyay of Oilprice.com
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