The nation of Qatar chose the occasion of this year’s UN climate talks to announce that it’s initiating a 200 megawatt solar power project, which would produce 2 percent of the country’s electricity. It’s part of a goal to have 1.8 gigawatts of solar installed by 2020.
What is most interesting about this announcement, aside from the continued promise of foreign markets for solar developers, is a comment from Mohammed al-Sada, Qatar’s Minister of Energy. He said:
“We want to produce more clean energy to save burning natural gas in power plants, which we can sell at higher prices globally.”
It’s a telling comment because it starts to signal that solar power generation has a shot at being cheaper than natural gas in the future for countries that can fetch good prices for natural gas abroad. It also means that countries like Qatar which have natural gas resources fully expect the global market for natural gas to push natural gas prices higher.
There’s a big debate in the US about whether to allow natural gas drillers to export the abundant domestic natural resource into the global market. It’s clear that other countries believe that the global market will be the most lucrative place to put its natural gas. And while it’s not great for the global climate, if solar prices continue to trend downward and natural gas prices trend upward, at some point it’s going to make more economic sense to build solar output domestically and export natural gas.