In a bid to diversify energy resources and shift away from fossil fuels for electricity generation, the government says a quarter of Iran's new power generating capacity in the next four years should come from renewables.
"Over the next four years, renewable energies should make up 25% of new installed power capacity," Mohammad Sadeqzadeh, the head of state-owned Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Organization, which is also known as Satba, was quoted as saying by ILNA on Sunday.
Officials say Iran needs to expand power generating capacity by 5,000 MW annually, or 20,000 MW in four years, to meet the rising demand at home and expand its footprint in the regional energy market. In roughly the same period, installed power generating capacity of renewables, including wind and solar, is envisioned to increase by 5,000 MW.
Sadeqzadeh said the target is looking increasingly feasible, thanks to the launch of several solar plants in recent months as well as a slew of factories for manufacturing photovoltaic panels.
Small-scale solar plants with a capacity ranging from 7 MW up to 30 MW are operational or in different stages of development. In July, a 20-MW photovoltaic power complex, dubbed Mokran, was launched in Kerman Province, while a 10-MW solar power plant in Isfahan and a 30-MW solar unit in North Khorasan Province are to become operational in the near future.
But the Satba chief said larger-scale plants are set for launch in two years, including a 50-MW solar plant in Bojnourd in the northwest of Iran, a 100-MW plant in Karaj, west of the capital city of Tehran, and a solar farm in Qeshm Island in the Persian Gulf with a planned capacity of 200 MW.
Sadeqzadeh underlined solar panel manufacturing as an emerging business that can prop up the economy by creating new jobs.
"Five domestic investors are operating/developing photovoltaic panel manufacturing units in five cities. Upon the launch of the country's biggest solar panel manufacturer in Shiraz, domestic companies will have the capacity to produce solar panels with a total capacity of 210 MW annually," he said.
Sadeqzade noted that ventures to increase the production capacity of solar panels to 450 MW per year are forecasted to create 150,000 jobs.
"In a positive scenario, up to 250,000 people can be employed in Iran's fledgling renewable industry," he added.
Thermal plants that burn fossil fuels make up more than 80% of Iran's installed power capacity of around 76,000 MW. The share of renewables stands at a meager 240 MW.
The country has opened up its economic gateways to international investors since sanctions imposed over its nuclear dispute were lifted in early 2016.
According to Hamid Chitchian, former energy minister, foreign investors have submitted investment proposals worth a total of $3.6 billion to develop renewable projects in Iran.