SolarQuarter Middle East magazine had an exclusive conversation with Mr. Sharif AL-Haj – Regional Manager, North Africa – MESIA And Global Business Development Director for (EXIM Investment LTD) & (iQ Power Inc.). He is a skilled multi-faceted professional with exceptional 15+ years of performance record classified by steady advancement through increasingly responsible account management & business development positions. With a great history of building relationships between Africa – GCC & Europe markets, presence from creating, executing Businesses development.
Could you please tell us how the solar sector dynamics have changed over the last few years in the Middle East?
Climate change has become a major concern for this century and there are real and serious efforts in this regard at the level of the Middle East, North Africa, and the world, especially after the last climate conference in Glasgow, which began completing the points of the Paris conference after a period of freezing pace during the past four years. The Paris Agreement sets out a mechanism to limit global temperature rise to “well below 2°C”, and ideally to 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels. A profound transformation of
the global energy landscape is essential to achieving the goals of the climate agreement. Such a transformation is possible through the rapid deployment of low-carbon technologies rather than the generation and use of traditional fossil fuels. Statistics point to a revolution in the field of renewable energy, as renewable energy sources in the MENA region have doubled to 40 gigawatts in the past decade.
Between 2008 and 2018, investment in the Middle East in solar energy increased. The GCC, which has plans to create nearly 7 gigawatts of new renewable energy generation capacity, and we expect investment in the MENA region to reach $1 trillion in the next few years. (according to World Bank estimates) MENA governments are beginning to appreciate the fact that their region is blessed with other resources and powers, besides oil, which is an inexhaustible source of renewable energy. Many Middle Eastern countries have noticed. For example, but not limited:
The United Arab Emirates:
Taking the lead in the development of solar energy, it constitutes 58% of the market share of solar projects in the MENA region. * 1,177 megawatts at the Sweihan solar photovoltaic (PV) project and * the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum 5 gigawatt solar park, * a 2 gigawatt solar power project in Al Dhafra due to be completed in 2022. In addition to a wide range of private projects.
The Egyptian government has commissioned the Benban Solar Park, the world’s largest solar park with a capacity* of 1.4 GW which eventually includes 32 private investment projects under the PPA. The government plans for renewable energy to make up 20% of the electricity mix by 2022 and 42% by 2035.
Kingdom Saudi Arabia:
Saudi Arabia has established itself as an emerging competitor in the field of solar energy. And to prove it means business, launch a $28 billion Saudi Industrial Development Fund to support future renewable energy projects. In addition to the serious and advanced steps of the Kingdom of Morocco.
What are some of the renewable energy challenges being faced by the region? What support is MESIA extending to tackle these challenges?
The MENA Challenges: In points
- Grid capacity: MENA region would have to spend over $30 billion in the next five years (as per the World Bank estimations) to ensure that sufficient grid capacity is available to support their ambitious capacity expansion plans.
Political uncertainty: political crises in a number of countries in the region have adversely impacted investor confidence and foreign direct investment
Policy and regulatory framework: Despite the large-scale renewable energy initiatives that have been launched by some countries in the region, the requisite regulatory framework is often lacking.
- This regulatory inadequacy, which could range from the absence of an independent regulator to the lack of effective tariff or net metering mechanisms, continues to be a major deterrent for investment in renewable energy.
- MESIA Role:
The focus & the Scope of MESIA (One of the first networks in the Region) that includes all the major players in the RE industry, revolves around analyzing the market in a real analysis based on concrete facts and then gathering all the relevant Authorities, Investors, Manufacturers & Legal professionals on one discussion round table (via our Trade Missions) to discuss the obstacles and discuss possible ways to overcome these obstacles and challenges. In addition to conducting Solar industry-related workshops, lectures, and briefings| High-level and focused networking opportunities |Exposure to key stakeholders in both the public and private sector | White papers and research reports on topics related to solar technology policies |Marketing & Visibility.
Please give us a brief overview of the policy environment of the Middle East solar market.
The energy landscape of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has undergone a significant transformation in recent years as a result of intersecting technological, economic, and political trends, both regional and international. The evolving dynamics of international energy markets, increased diversification of energy sources, global concerns for climate change, and regional conflict are among the leading factors impacting the evolution of MENA energy policy.
Taking into consideration the context of the myriad factors impacting policy design and implementation, besides analysis of the social, political, and economic factors that are impacting regional energy policy is provided and followed by an analysis of regional energy policy with consideration of hydrocarbon exploration and production, regional energy trade, demand management, and clean energy production. And according to a deep market study, the findings show that the MENA region is in the midst of an energy transition that has uncertain outcomes but will undoubtedly have long-lasting impacts on the global energy system, and the evidence of that The 27th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 27) to the UNFCCC will take place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.
What are some new initiatives being planned at MESIA for the year 2022?
MESIA’s endeavors do not stop from the moment it was established, and its elected board of directors and working teams always bring new developments in anticipation of events, through realistic analysis of the market and its needs. We will certainly have an effective role during the next climate conference (COP27), no less than our effective role in Abu Dhabi (WFES). With an increased focus on the leading countries such as KSA, the UAE, Qatar, Egypt, and Morocco, in addition to the countries seeking progress such as Kuwait, Algeria, the Sultanate of Oman, and in the near future Tunisia and Sudan.
Not forgetting the countries seeking to rebuild and establish currently faltering energy systems, such as Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Lebanon, and Mauritania. With a sharp and prospective view of Somalia and Djibouti. Our real endeavor and our goal are to reach the Middle East that depends on renewable energies as a source of energy and a source for successful investment models.
What is your analysis of how the solar sector is going to perform in the Middle East region in the next 5 years?
The solar energy market in the Middle East is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of more than 10.02% during the period from 2020-2025. Factors such as supportive government policies increased efforts to meet energy demand using renewable energy sources, and reduced dependence on fossils are expected to be major contributors to driving the market. (according to MESIA studies).
However, factors such as delays in large-scale solar projects are expected to result in Scale and increased focus on alternative energy sources to impede the growth of the studied market. Solar photovoltaic (PV) projects will be to drive the market, and Saudi Arabia is
expected to dominate the market. (according to MESIA studies).
From my personal point of view, to be more clear and transparent here, there are great high return opportunities for investment in the renewable energy sector, and my goal through my position in (EXIM Investment) and (iQ Power) is to bring in investment and financing through global funding channels and investors from the sector Private individuals who are looking for a high return on their investment.
As a shared vision of our entrepreneurial entities, we aim to bring global industry players and climate change leaders together, piecing together the pieces of the puzzle to guide the development and deployment of technologies that help humanity. Bringing funds and technologies to develop emerging markets in the Middle East, North Africa, Africa, and Asia. Connecting investors, scientists, experts, and manufacturers to provide energy and energy for everyone in the world.