This week, Iran has reached a landmark agreement with six world powers to put limits on its nuclear programme. In return, economic sanctions on the country will be loosened.
The deal ends a 12-year stand-off over Iran’s nuclear programme, and is set to unfreeze $100bn of Iranian assets. Over time, this is set to boost investment coming out of Iran as well as investment going in. One impact should be a further fall in oil prices as Iran grows its exports while Saudi Arabia maintains high production.
We do not expect new oil to flow from Iran until 2016 but, even so, oil prices fell by $1 a barrel on Wednesday.
Iran has the fourth-largest oil reserves in the world, and the largest natural gas reserves. But what of wind? Is this deal sufficient to unlock Iran’s renewable energy potential?
If you are a glass-half-full person then you would say that wind will take off. Iran will look to export more of its fossil fuel reserves. In order to maximise the amount it can export, there is a strong argument for generating energy used locally from sources like wind and solar. It makes financial sense: Iran would make more selling fossil fuels overseas than burning them domestically for electricity.
However, if you are a glass-half-empty type you would point to Saudi, which has talked very positively about wind and solar for years but done next to nothing to deliver any. That’s curious too, since it also makes sense for Saudi to use renewable energy domestically to further boost oil exports.
Despite this, it hasn’t adjusted its domestic energy policy – and as a result, at home it still burns the black stuff by the barrel load.
Iran may take the same path as Saudi. It may ignore renewables in favour of seeking to dominate on fossil fuel exports.
Or it may seek to build wind farms to help maximise these exports, while establishing itself as a Middle Eastern leader in renewables. We are not alone in wishing we knew the mind of Iran’s leadership.
Likewise, the sceptics will argue that the loosening of economic sanctions will make it easier for Iran to increase its natural gas and oil exports; and develop nuclear power stations. Wind has looked attractive while sanctions have been in place and the economy has faltered. If the challenges go then enthusiasm for wind may go too.
For the moment, though, we will focus on the few positives.
Last month Houshang Falathian, the deputy energy minister, said Iran has the potential to build 30GW of wind farms; and the country has previously committed to 5GW of renewable power from wind and solar farms by 2018. Loosening restrictions on imports should make it easier for wind turbine manufacturers, developers and investors to enter the country.
Iran has also introduced incentives to boost private investment, including a power price guaranteed at a rate of $0.17/KWh for five years; higher rates for power generated in peak hours; and extra top-up payments to counter exchange-rate risk and local inflation.
And there is already a handful of small projects in development. If Iran is to achieve significant growth in wind by 2018 then much will depend on its fraught relationship with Saudi.
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