The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries comprise Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). About 66% of the global oil reserves are situated in the Arabian Gulf [1
]. The world is currently experiencing a decrease in the oil prices since 2015. This oil slump will greatly affect the GCC countries because they are the major exporters of oil in the world. These countries export revenues and gross domestic product (GDP) will slump and this will lead to their current budget deficits. It is a well-known fact that the GCC countries depend on oil as the major energy source, especially for power generation, which is non-renewable. The environmental impact from non-renewable energy (RE) sources such as gas and oil are enormous and can cause a major challenge for these countries. For example, an increase in high-carbon dioxide (CO2
) emissions that pollute the atmosphere and subsequently affect global warming [2
]. The oil installations/ constructions (coastal and off-shore) have even major impacts on the environment. Besides, off-shore oil rigs kills sea birds at night due to lightning and flares. There is also a carbon release from burning of oil because of the flaring process. Additionally, birds and other marine animals get killed as a result of oil ingestion [3
]. Therefore, there is an urgent need for the GCC countries to consider RE sources in their energy mix. RE potentials are enormous in the GCC countries, especially solar [4
] that are not currently being fully utilized. Annual average solar radiation within the GCC countries is relatively equal to 1.1 barrel of oil equivalent per m2
. The radiation is the highest in Kuwait, in June–July, (8200 kWh/m2
) and the lowest in Oman (6400 kWh/m2
). The radiation is low in January–December (4200 kWh/m2
in the UAE and 3200 kWh/m2
in Bahrain) [5
Solar energy is regarded as infinite in the long-term and is an ample RE resource available within the GCC countries [6
]. The two most renowned solar energy technologies are the solar thermal system and solar photovoltaic (PV) system [2
]. It is well-known that solar PV produces electricity from sunlight through an electronic mechanism in a specific type of semiconductor material, commonly silicon. The sunrays induce free electrons from these materials to travel in an electrical circuit in order to power electrical systems or conveying the electricity to the grid. The PV panels can be installed on the ground, on rooftops or standing structures. On the other hand, the solar thermal technology generates heat for heating fluids or water and for powering solar cooling systems [7
]. Since, in most countries of the world solar PV is the most commonly used, this paper will focus on the solar PV.
The solar PV can contribute immensely to the socio-economic development of the GCC region. According to an International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) report [8
], the GCC countries could gain numerous benefits from RE implementation. These include oil savings of about 400 billion barrels and creating 210,000 jobs by the year 2030. A recent report from the Gulf Research Center in the UAE shows the assessment index for GCC countries based on their RE index, where Saudi Arabia and UAE are ahead of other GCC countries regarding RE adoption, but in terms of launching new projects, the UAE is leading with several solar power projects [9
The RE sector within the GCC countries is considered to be at an early stage, but recently plans and aspirations are gradually transforming into projects with the long-term outlook looking auspicious. There is a likely future acceleration of RE as up to 250 MW projects are on the way [10
]. Investment in RE among the GCC countries rises in 2011 with slightly over USD 800 million, but later dropped to less than USD 100 million in 2012 [8
]. Nevertheless, as at 2015, investments in new projects rose to around USD 900 million in the GCC [8
]. Figure 1
shows the investment per country from 2006 to 2015, while Figure 2
shows the fossil fuel savings from GCC’s RE targets up to 2030.
This paper provides an up-to-date review of solar PV progress in the GCC member countries, discusses the challenges, and recommends strategies for future development of solar PV. Section 1
gives an introduction regarding the solar energy potentials and benefits in the GCC countries. In Section 2
, the countries that constitute the GCC is described. Section 3
reviews the solar PV developments in the GCC countries such as Bahrain, Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar, Sultanate of Oman and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Section 4
describes the RE sources in existing buildings and the barriers hindering full take up of RE in GCC countries. Finally, Section 5
presents the conclusions and suggestions for future improvements regarding RE sources integration in GCC countries.
2. GCC Countries Background
The GCC came into being by agreement on the 25 of May 1981 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia between Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The objectives of this union are to have greater coordination, integration and inter-connection between them in all fields of development [11
]. GCC member states are also members of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA), with the exclusion of Yemen. Countries like Morocco and Jordan have applied for GCC member status, but this is still under study. The GCC member states’ economy is one of the fastest growing due to oil and gas revenues. Some GCC countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE are among the top ten of countries in the world, with long-term oil reserves as shown in Table 1
The organizational structure of GCC is made up of the Supreme Council, the Ministerial Council and the Secretariat General. The Secretarial General Office is located in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The main purpose of the GCC countries is to realize coordination, integration and cooperation in all fields of economic, social and cultural affairs [11
]. The Supreme Council of the GCC is made up of the head of states of the six member’s council and they meet once a year in an ordinary meeting. However, emergency meetings can be convened at any given time by the head of states of any two-member states. The Chairmanship of the Supreme Council is rotational among each member state. Resolutions are also passed by the majority. The foreign ministers from each member state form the Ministerial Council.
4. Renewable Energy Integration in Buildings
Buildings account for approximately 40% of the worldwide annual energy consumption in 2009 [61
]. Benefits such as decreased building operational energy costs have prompted growing interest among policy makers, the technical community, the general public in addressing building energy issues and investigating solutions for decreasing building energy consumption. Therefore, there is a need for GCC to incorporate energy efficiency into new construction buildings and this is only possible through RE integration with building. Despite barriers in skilled manpower and lack of knowledgeable manpower in architectural concept, the building integration may result in cost reduction in terms of material and labour [62
]. There is also an opportunity for reducing the building sector’s contribution toward global energy consumption through reduction of energy use in existing buildings. Although the RE integration in buildings involves a wide-range of technological equipment with complex construction processes and high initial investment costs, its implementation in the long-term would lead to apparent economic benefits, thanks to energy savings, increased energy efficiency of buildings, environmental protection and safety.
Building integration with PV refers to designs with or without ventilated fluid (air or water), which is able to cool the PV panels and increase the electrical output, and the fluid is then exhausted to the ambient. Whereas for the building integration with PV-thermal, ventilated fluid is used as the working fluid to collect heat from the PV panel for heating or drying purposes. The building integration could be with PV, as well as in combination of PV thermal either air-based or water-based. It was also found that PV as well combine PV, thermal natural ventilated systems gave almost similar performances to the forced ventilated system [62
]. Because of growth in PV technology as well as increasing interest in PV integration with building, companies are now more efficient in obtaining benefits of installing PV panels and PV-thermal panels in buildings. These building integrations with PV could be with walls, roof, PV-thermal-wall-air, PV-thermal-wall-water, PV-thermal-roof-air and PV-thermal-roof-water. Building integration with PV air-based could simply be delivered from single channel and double channels, as shown in Figure 7
The efficiency of PV cells drops with increasing temperature, therefore, a hybrid system known as a PV-thermal collector has been introduced to address this problem. Integrating PV thermal collectors onto or into buildings can improve the energy profile of buildings by reducing electrical and thermal loads of heat pumps and simultaneously providing hot air or hot water for the occupants or for drying and washing purposes. The PV-thermal integration into buildings requires additional installation costs such as frames and a pump for fluid circulation. Thus, a higher installation cost is required, which makes the building integrated PV-thermal systems relatively less attractive.
Barriers of PV integration with building and PV-thermal integration with building applications include technological limitations, financial issues such as high-initial costs, lack of financial assistance or subsidies, and social aspects such as low acceptance level and public awareness. These are the common limitations of green technologies and need to be addressed in order to create the market for business, reduce the PV panel prices and thus increase the number of installations [62
]. Figure 8
demonstrates different water-based Building integration with PV-thermal.
Another area the GCC countries could look at is the use of solar chimneys, due to their utilization in reducing heat gain and inducing natural cooling or heating in both commercial and residential buildings, because of their potential benefits in terms of operational cost, energy requirement and carbon dioxide emission [64
]. In civil buildings, solar chimneys can be installed on the walls and roofs. For the purpose of improving natural ventilation performance and achieving better indoor thermal comfort, solar chimneys are always applied in the form of integrated configurations; at roof either, with solar collector or walls of the building with also solar collector. It was reported in [64
] that a residential building with integrated solar chimney consume 10% to 20% less electrical power than conventional systems. Solar chimney can be combined with evaporative cooling, underground and solar cooking as a natural cooling to achieve the desired results.
There was also an attempt to analyze solar chimney integrated with earth to air heat exchanger, to investigate the cooling and ventilation in a solar house through the combined solar chimney and underground air channel [65
]. The finding shows that the solar chimney can be perfectly used to power the underground cooling system during the daytime, without any need to electricity.
4.1. Renewable Energy in Existing Buildings
Another issue that the GCC nations can consider in their visions is how to reduce the energy consumption of existing buildings. This can be achieved by either reducing the need for energy through the implementation of energy efficiency measures or offsetting the remaining energy needs of the buildings using RE systems [61
] (Figure 9
). National and local policies are being implemented in both developed and developing countries that require greater amounts of energy to come from RE resources.
As policies such as these are enacted, incentives for installing RE systems are also being developed and regulatory barriers are being removed. The use of RE systems for meeting building energy needs is also becoming a mean for demonstrating leadership in environmental sustainability and resource conservation, increasing the reliability of on-site electrical and thermal energy supplies, addressing energy security issues, and other benefits.
These actions are encouraging those who are making decisions regarding existing building retrofit projects to seek out ways to use RE systems to meet sustainable building goals. In addition, these actions encourage those who are paying for the energy use associated with these buildings to explore using RE systems as a means to reduce utility costs, and in many cases, the building’s carbon footprint.
4.2. Barriers Hindering Full Take up of RE in GCC Countries
4.2.1. Technical Challenges
There are several technical challenges facing RE development in the GCC countries. These include stand-by capacity, land use issues and storage [66
]. Besides, there is intermittency in solar radiation coupled with problems of sand and dust accumulation on solar panels. The situation can worsen during the winter season when there is serious fog combining with dust particles thereby reducing the efficiency of the solar panels. Subsequently, there is a lack of rainfall in the region, which can help in cleaning the panels naturally. Gastli and Charabi [67
] reported that 4 gm/m2
of dust can reduce solar panel efficiency by 40%. Khatib et al. [68
] investigated the effect of dust deposition on the performance of multi-crystalline PV modules based on some experimental measurements, and concluded that the decrease in PV power and voltage is strongly dependent on the contaminant type and the level of deposition. Solar panels contaminant considered for the study includes sand, ash, calcium carbonate, and silica. The results further show that ash contaminants appear to have the strongest effect on the solar panels as compared to the others with PV voltage reduction of almost 25%. Baras et al. [69
] investigated the effect of temperature on the performance of solar panels in Saudi Arabia, and concluded that high-ambient temperature coupled with exposure to long sunshine increases the impact of temperature on PV panels. Table 6
shows the power reduction due to the increase in temperature for different PV cells.
Technical collaboration between GCC institutes for solar development and international partners is a challenge, which needs to be addressed by all GCC countries as a region. There is also a lack of local content in solar energy technology, which is a challenge for all GCC countries. Another key challenge is that there is no solar panel manufacturing plants in the GCC member countries.
4.2.2. Inadequate Public/Private Initiatives
There appear to be no official private and public initiative programs for solar energy development. The coming together of private and government initiatives can drive direct foreign investment into the RE in the region. There is also no collaborative approach among the GCC or governmental organizations for RE development. This is important for fair distribution of resources or benefits obtained from these RE sources. There is also no forum for exchange of scientific advice among GCC meetings through seminars or regular workshops.
4.2.3. Dependence on Oil and Gas
For the solar energy industry to develop within the GCC countries there is a need to reduce local dependence on oil and gas. These issues, among other things, have left the industry with no guidelines or productive partnership with potential foreign investors.
4.2.4. Inadequate Research and Development Capabilities
The solar energy industry requires qualified personnel, engineers, technicians and designers. It is a fact that for solar energy industry to develop there is a need for research and development regarding the technology, material and application. However, there are several solar research institutes in the GCC, but research outputs are slow. Presently, there is no data bank for solar radiation, temperatures, wind speed, and dust particles for effective research within the GCC.
4.2.5. Inadequate Legislation and Regulatory Framework
There is a lack of national policy strategies among the GCC countries to promote RE. Most of the activities in RE within the region are linked to R&D and are not well thought out as an internal part of national energy plans. There are some successes in the promotion of RE, however; there are still some limitations due to national policy framework strategies. These strategies can even encourage local, as well as international investment in RE within GCC countries.
4.2.6. Insufficient Application of Building Integration Technology RE
For efficient energy saving, there is the need to look at the possibility of integrating the RE with building. According to Hayter et al. [61
], it is vital to take consideration of technical issues, i.e., efficiency, effectiveness, safety, durability and flexibility, together with constructive and formal issues at the early design stage of building integrated to RE. One solution is the installation of the PV array on building where the building plays a supporting role to PV. The integration of PV array with building is that the PV modules appear as the building material and the PV array becomes the integral part of the construction, such as photoelectric tile roofs, photoelectric curtain walls and photoelectric lighting roofs [62
]. Most of the GCC countries still rely on the traditional ways of installing PV on rooftops. This lack of building-integrated RE in the GCC, as well as the corresponding structural and construction detail handling, the initial investment of RE and building integration technology is high and the construction cost is also high [64
]. However, with the use of RE, the economic benefits generated from its energy conservation, environmental protection, safe and efficient will become increasingly apparent.