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In the Middle East, a major economic diversification effort is underway to gradually reduce reliance on fossil fuels for a long-term future. Due to the increasing demand for electricity and the advancements in technologies, solar energy is expected to be the most inexpensive form of power in the years to come. The transition from crude oil to solar is a major one for the Middle East. The article addresses the various angles this transition has.
In recent years, the renewable energy environment has experienced many significant changes, including a boom in investment. Remarkable advancements in renewable energy technology have resulted in significant cost-competitiveness gains. Over time, solar has also proven to be not only a safe and viable alternative to traditional energy sources but also a lucrative industry and a significant contributor to the regional economy. Owing to more affordable equipment and improved technology, solar plants now cost about a tenth of what they did a decade ago.
Solar electricity accounts for 58% of the solar project market share in the Middle East region. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is at the forefront of solar technology growth. In recent years, the Emiratis have initiated two massive solar ventures that include the construction of a solar park and a massive solar photovoltaic project.
The Egyptian government has also started to work on the Benban solar array, a 1.5-gigawatt project that will ultimately include 41 smaller projects. Renewables are expected to account for 20% of the country’s electricity mix by 2022, and 42% by 2035.
Growth and Evolution
Solar power is having a dream run right now, attracting nearly 90% of green project investments in the area. According to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency, highlights that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia aim to build nearly 7 GW of new renewable energy generation capacity by the early 2020s. Saudi Arabia progressed to the second phase of its solar procurement plan earlier this year, opening bidding for seven projects with a combined capacity of more than 1.5 GW. Oman has started the procurement process for a residential solar power plant with a capacity of at least 1 GW.
Another Middle Eastern state, Jordan, has a variety of large and small projects underway, ranging from the installation of solar panels on home rooftops to the construction of large solar parks with capacities of up to 200 megawatts. Jordan has made the renewable energy project bidding process relatively simple, attracting companies from all over the world.
Egypt is also trying to climb up the hole of renewables and has signed agreements with Japan and South Korea for the development of solar power and other related projects. This means that Egypt is looking for ways to expand the clean energy market beyond conventional relationships.
What Lies Ahead
Solar has a long way to go in the Middle East region. After being the largest producer of oil, the one thing that the area has in abundance is sunlight. It is expected that the Middle Eastern countries will harness thousands of megawatts of solar energy by 2025. Solar will not be able to completely replace hydrocarbons as the region’s primary energy source, but it has the potential to assist some countries in diversifying their power sources where markets can meet national goals and strategies.
Given the region’s rising energy demand, interest in and investment in solar energy will grow in the near and medium term. Its growth provides investment opportunities that, though restricted to well-capitalized companies, have the potential to change some of the region’s energy dependence. Solar projects may, in the short term, increase some countries’ reliance on other countries, but they will also help to nurture the emerging renewable energy industries, in which domestic companies are eager to invest.
All countries in the Middle East are developing and bringing in various strategies and policies to utilize sunlight and minimize the use of non-renewable energy sources. Solar projects will eventually assist states in diversifying their electrical power sources and becoming more energy independent.
The growing importance of solar power energy sources in the Middle East region has resulted in the development of a parallel green economy and numerous job opportunities. Industry-friendly regulatory policies, renewable energy programs, and creative financing have all contributed to the green and clean energy sector’s long-term success.