Renewables: Mena looks for $200bn

 22 Jul 2017 - 22:45

The Peninsula

The Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region is embarking on an unprecedented programme to develop renewable energy, with more than 67GW of clean energy projects at various stages of the design and study stage, according to ‘Renewable Energy in the Mena Region 2017,’ a new report from business intelligence service MEED.
MEED estimates that this will require investment upwards of $200bn, in addition to the expansion and upgrading of existing networks to facilitate the extra capacity.
The pipeline of renewable energy projects will increase further in the next five years as governments seek to meet the rapidly growing demand for power through implementing ambitious renewable energy programmes.  Region is emerging as one of the largest renewable energy markets in the world while Qatar is set to increase installed capacity by 2 percent in 2020.
Unsurprisingly due to the region’s significant hydrocarbon reserves, the Middle East has been slow to adopt renewable energy. However, this has started to change significantly over the past five years. A dramatic fall in the cost of photovoltaic (PV) solar has resulted in regional utilities launching some of the world’s largest solar projects, which have been supported by the submission of record low tariffs.
In the 12 countries covered in-depth by the report, total installed generating capacity in 2015 was 271,761MW, with just over 7 percent of this coming from renewable energy capacity. From almost an absence of renewable energy 10 years ago, almost all of the 12 countries analysed in the report have some form of renewable energy targets. While the favourable conditions for implementing renewable energy in the Mena region have long been known, the push from governments to shore up energy security through diversification of fuel for power generation and the falling cost of technologies is driving the push towards major clean energy programmes.
A key driver behind the push for energy diversification in the Mena region is the sharp growth in demand for gas. With increased efficiency and lower emissions than other fossil fuels, gas has become the favoured fuel for power generation across the region over the past two decades.
However, with the exception of Qatar, all of the GCC states are facing a tight gas market, with competing demands from oil, industrial and utility sectors. Outside the GCC, Jordan has been hit by a rising energy import bill in recent years, Egypt has turned to LNG imports and Morocco is planning an ambitious $4.6bn gas-to-power project to boost gas supplies and generation capacity.
While new alternatives such as nuclear and coal are being explored and a handful of projects being implemented across the region, renewable energy is quickly emerging as the preferred alternative to conventional oil and gas fired plants.
The key driver behind the push for renewable energy is economics, with renewable energy not only achieving parity with traditional thermal fossil fuel generation in the Middle East, but in 2016 actually falling below those achieved for conventional fossil fuel-fired plants.