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SolarQuarter Middle East interviewed Laurent Longuet, CEO and co-founder, SirajPower, and learned about the company, its services, and its innovative projects. He also spoke about the region’s transition towards Renewable Energy and his outlook on how the sector is going to progress in the region in the near future.
Please tell the readers about SirajPower and the kind of services you provide in solar energy space for the Middle East region.
SirajPower is a UAE-based company established by a respected local family with a strong heritage. SirajPower offers innovative solar solutions to businesses, government agencies, commercial, industrial and educational institutions of all sizes within the UAE with plans to expand further regionally.
SirajPower provides comprehensive turnkey solutions combining development, financing, construction, and operation of solar rooftops and carports. The company’s advanced, record-breaking solar technology allows customers to maximize savings, gain energy independence, and meet sustainability goals. SirajPower is the only locally-owned company in Dubai licensed and certified to offer under the same umbrella both Engineering, Procurement, Construction (EPC), O&M, and financing solutions. The company provides solar leasing system solutions that substantially reduce energy expenditure while fulfilling a sustainable future in line with the emirate long-term green vision.
To date, SirajPower holds the largest distributed solar energy portfolio in the UAE with 100 MWp secured and is rapidly expanding to become the regional Green Champion.
With most of the middle east countries being the major oil-producing nations, how do you see the transition towards renewable energy in the region? What are the barriers ahead for such a transition?
In terms of what we witnessed for the industry, we have seen an increase in investments towards the solar rooftop market in the MENA region, as policies or visions are being put into place. Today, the main countries that have embraced investments in distributed solar include the UAE, Jordan, Egypt. However, we are seeing growth in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, and other countries that have launched
initiatives that promote this sector.
In the MENA region, Dubai is taking the lead in the growth of solar rooftop investments, with over 300 MW of cumulative distributed solar connected to the grid since the initiative’s inception. Besides being a locally established company, SirajPower decided to initially focus purely on the Dubai market due to the well-established solar regulations, relatively high utility tariffs, creditworthy customers, and openness for the private sector to enable the distributed solar market through unique financing solutions.
Tell us about some innovative and exciting projects executed by your company recently.
Last year (2021) was really great for SirajPower, and also aligned with the industry growth both regionally and internationally. We have experienced a great number of achievements, which included signing a long-term solar lease collaboration with Lulu Group to design, build, fully finance, operate and maintain a 1 MWp solar carport installation and 4 electric vehicle charging stations for the brand-new Dubai Silicon Central Hypermarket. As a fully comprehensive solar energy provider for the C&I market, SirajPower handled the entire scope of the solar service for the Lulu Group.
Apart from Lulu Group project, some of our other major new projects were Al Shirawi Group (7 MWp), Ajmal Perfumes (1.5 MWp), and UAE-base logistics provider, Airlink (1.3 MWp). We have also signed with Emerson (2.6 MWp) and The Sevens Stadium (2 MWp) solar projects. Other notable solar projects include DP World, RSA Logistics, Landmark Group, Apparel Group, Lifco, and Bond Interiors.
What are some key challenges being faced by the Solar industry in the region which you would wantto be addressed immediately?
The main challenge we see in the distributed solar space in many parts of the region is either restrictive regulations or the lack of regulations entirely for on-grid systems, which is the primary driver for kickstarting a solar market. We have seen that regulations in some countries make it very restrictive with stringent criteria that shrink the market size. The final challenge is for regulators to be open for the private developers to enable this market through financed solar solutions. Today, many customers understand the benefit of outsourcing solar to a private developer, where interests are aligned, rather than self-investing in a system outside their core business. The above-mentioned regulatory and restrictive challenges are perceived risks for private sector investments, limiting market growth potential. We have seen that net metering regulations have been widely successful in every market that has adopted this scheme.
In the UAE, Dubai is the only Emirate with a solid regulatory framework, with the main restriction being a cap on maximum solar capacity per plot, which limits the market size to some extent. Although there is a solar regulation in the Emirates of Abu Dhabi, the main challenges are that there is no net metering in place (i.e., any export of solar electricity is lost) and the low electricity tariffs. For the other Emirates including the Northern Emirates, there is an absence of on-grid solar regulations, although electricity tariffs are quite high. Bahrain has a solid net-metering regulatory framework and is expected to grow but will have limited capacity dictated by the country’s size. However, we expect to see the market grow.
In Oman, a significant challenge that the solar energy provider encounters are the lack of clarity in regulations and the role of stakeholders, making it a complicated and lengthy process to obtain connection permits and provide financed solar solutions. Although initial distributed solar projects may have been signed, they have yet to be successfully implemented. In Saudi Arabia, although there is a strong regulation that has been put into place recently, the regulations have several technical restrictions on solar capacity, and the scheme is net billing rather than net-metering, which incentivizes self-consumption, thereby further limiting the solar potential.
How do you see your company contributing to the clean energy sector in the region in the next couple of years? What are your plans for expanding your services in the region?
As for us at SirajPower, we expect to continue complimenting the growth of the solar power industry in the UAE market and building on the same success which we have seen for our company in 2021 by continuing to leverage our successful collaborations and partnerships, which have assisted us in better servicing our loyal customer base as we look forward to being part of and complimenting this strong regional growth.
Lastly, how do you see the solar sector progressing in the middle east market in the next 5 years?
Falling solar energy costs combined with the evolving regulations should unlock premature rooftop markets where we would see rapid growth. Adaption of electric vehicles would commercially incentivize both the utility companies and the end-users to install solar rooftop systems combined with energy storage. Utility companies would embrace solar rooftop systems without compromising their revenue stream, thanks to the adaption of electric vehicles. Locally, UAE recently announced that it wants to be net-zero for carbon emissions by 2050. Having the net-zero concept embraced by countries worldwide and all the stakeholders incentivized, we expect exponential growth in solar rooftop investment in the next 5 – 10 years.