The future of renewable solar energy in the MENA region

renewable solar energy

Flick a switch and the light goes on. It’s a given. Taken for granted.Right? Flick a switch and the light, the television, the laptop and all the other electrical and electronic devices which enable us to live comfortably in the 21st century are now dead. No power. Suddenly our precious time-saving indispensable state-of-the-art devices are reduced to nothing more than useless lumps of metal and plastic. Welcome to the energy gap.

Unrealistic scenario? Couldn’t happen here? Scaremongering? You wouldn’t think so if you’d been living in Egypt over the past couple of years. Blackouts and interruptions to the domestic electricity supply have been a fairly commonplace occurrence. And it doesn’t take a degree in engineering either to figure out why. When the demand for electricity outstrips the supply then the lights go out. It’s as simple as that. No fancy explanation required.

So the rush is on in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to find ways of augmenting the supply of power to both the domestic and business consumers. But that’s easier said than done when private and governmental investment is a bit thin on the ground. After all, it’s nothing like going to the bank and applying for a personal loan. It’s slightly more complicated than that!

Politics certainly adds to the complications. Perceptions are also crucially important, especially when it comes to overseas investors. Flows of foreign direct investment (FDI) have stalled in some MENA countries as a direct result of the climate of uncertainty created by the Arab Spring. With one or two exceptions, the current climate is beginning to settle down. Let’s face it; investors are fully aware of potential of wind and solar energy in the Middle East and North Africa region, especially Oman, and the profits which could be made there. Banks, such as HSBC, realised this potential and know that investors are not going to stay away any longer than they have to.

A report published earlier this year by GTM Research, a division of Genentech Media, says the MENA region possesses the greatest technical potential for renewable energy (RE) in the world with much of this potential attributed to solar energy.

The 103-page report, “Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Solar Market Outlook, 2013-2017”, examines energy scenarios driving solar growth in the MENA region and examines the current and projected solar policies for each country analysed. The report also provides strategic analysis and a competitive outlook on the companies active in each market.

Egypt is one of the countries examined and others are Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. The RE potential is now starting to be more seriously considered, says the report, driven by rapidly increasing energy usage, high insolation rates, a young and empowered workforce, and an increasing awareness of the costs of burning natural resources.

The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, and Morocco, have ambitious solar power generation goals as well as evolving policies and regulatory frameworks to support these goals. Demonstration projects are being deployed in some countries, while large scale projects are being deployed in others. However, in a region undergoing dramatic political and social change, says the report, questions remain as to the long term outlook for solar energy.

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