Qatar to invest up to $20bln in solar energy

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OPEC member Qatar will ask firms to tender for a 1,800 megawatt (MW) solar energy plant in 2014 costing between $10-20 billion as the world's highest per capita greenhouse gas emitter seeks to increase its renewable energy production.

"We need to diversify our energy mix," said Fahad Bin Mohammed al-Attiya, chairman of the Qatari organisers of climate talks in Doha. The United Nations-led summit is being held among almost 200 nations from Nov. 26-Dec. 7.

Qatar, the world's top exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG), has been wary of a global shift to renewable energy, fearing it will hit demand for oil and gas from OPEC producers.

It has so far disappointed environmentalists by failing to set clear targets for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions at the UN talks, arguing its LNG exports help other nations turn from more polluting coal.

Qatar said the power generated by solar energy would mainly power its desalination plants, which are currently gas fuelled. The plant construction was expected to be completed by 2018.

"It will be developed in a concession format, there'll be blocks," he said.

Once the plant is up and running, the share of renewables in Qatar's electricity generation energy mix will rise to 16 percent from zero at present.

Attiya did not provide an exact figure on how much carbon dioxide the solar plant would displace but said it would be significant.

Qatar's current power generation was 7,000 megawatts and consumption around 5,000 MW, with an annual growth rate of more than 10 percent, he said, although that was expected to slow.

"There's a projection that growth will drop to 5-6 percent," he said.

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