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In the MENA region, according to the reports, in the first half of 2021, renewable energy projects worth about $2.8bn were awarded in the region. As a result, exponential progress in renewables is expected and the execution of solar projects shall rise accordingly in the next coming years. Also, green hydrogen projects are gradually increasing, and pilot projects are already being implemented. Strategies are also being put in place to engage in the next phase of the energy revolution.
Major 2021 projects were:
• Saudi Arabia’s first utility-scale renewable energy project, Sakaka PV Project was inaugurated
• In Q4, the largest solar panel production plant in MENA was inaugurated in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia
• In Dubai, the first 300MW of phase 5 of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Solar Park was inaugurated in August
• The first green hydrogen pilot project in MBR solar park was inaugurated
• Two solar tenders for projects with a total capacity of 7.5MW were issued by SEA in Bahrain
• Egypt announced it was planning to increase the green bond issuance rate to achieve their sustainable goals
• Iraq announced it is planning to develop two 2GW renewable energy projects
• In Oman, it was revealed that contracts for the Sahim II scheme to rooftop solar PV systems on 514 residential premises are expected to be awarded in Q1 2022
• A number of major green hydrogen projects were launched in the MENA region, including a 25GW green hydrogen project in Oman
• The 26 MW Kom Ombo Solar Park was constructed in Aswan and is fully operational
• Al Husainiyah Solar Project in Jordan achieved commercial operation
• Construction works were initiated on the Al Kharsaah PV Project in Qatar
The largest PV plant in the Middle East with a capacity of 2GW was awarded to EDF and Jinko Power in 2021, to be located in the emirate of Abu Dhabi in UAE. TAQA and Masdar shall own 60% of the project and 40% will be allocated to the awarded consortium. The record-breaking size project is expected to commercially operate in 2022, as construction already started. The plant will be the largest of its kind and can supply enough electricity to power 160,000 local families while offsetting emissions by more than 2.4 million metric tons of CO2 per year.
Al Dhafrah will serve the community by bringing a whole set of employment opportunities in the UAE through the different phases the project will be going through, from construction to operations and maintenance. In addition, the project creates the need for a whole new set of specializations as this technology is growing massively in the country, according to Farid Al Awlaqi, TAQA’s Executive Director of Generation. The plant takes a major step forward in the clean energy transition of the country’s vision towards net zero.
Solar energy is changing the world energy generation landscape. The latest innovations are being pushed into the market. At Al Dhafrah, crystalline bifacial solar technology will be implemented utilizing both sides of the solar panel to increase energy as well as cell tracking systems. The MENA region has been strongly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the increase in PV module prices. All the awarded projects were based on very aggressive business models, which resulted in some companies deciding to delay the implementation of projects in 2021, in anticipation of an improvement to the current situation by 2022.
In the MENA region, the total installed solar power capacity is increasing as initiatives to implement sustainability goals are approaching. By 2025, almost 40GW of solar is expected to be added. On the other hand, solar-plus-storage projects will also increase almost tenfold. The future of solar relies on several factors, but one of the most important is a technology and its advancement.
Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) has reached some key milestones in recent years. The oldest CSP facility is now being retired, Chile was able to see an opportunity for the lowest utility-scale CSP tariff so far, and in the MENA region, DEWA is set to break records with the
700MW MBR Park completing the largest CSP development in the world. All the indications are that CSP has reached a pivotal point in its development. CSP remains the only solar solution for 24 hours dispatchable electricity similar to conventional sources of electricity generation. CSP is versatile and can easily be combined with conventional Combined Cycle Gas Turbines and Geo-Thermal solutions, to name a few, thus improving efficiency, reducing emissions, and improving response to the electricity demand. However, CSP technology for applications between domestic hot water and utility-scale CSP, a sector we shall call “CSP Commercial”, the uncertainty and hurdles remain.
There has been 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, and Egypt. However, distributed solar initiatives have also been launched recently in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, and other countries. In the MENA region, the UAE, particularly Dubai, is taking the lead in the growth of solar rooftop investments, with over 300 MW of cumulative distributed solar connected to the grid. Its market has 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.
Consumers in Dubai today are well educated on the economic and sustainability benefits that solar rooftop solutions offered by the private sector. DEWA launched its Shams Dubai program back in 2015, which gave the distributed solar market players sufficient time to go through that initial steep learning curve, improve their competitiveness, and establish a mature market. Furthermore, it is anticipated that similar regulations will also come through in the other Emirates of the UAE to meet overall decarbonization objectives. The Northern Emirates offers excellent potential for solar investments, given that the grid electricity prices are comparable to Dubai.
There is an obvious movement in the Middle East and North Africa countries towards net-zero carbon and an urge to transition to cleaner energy. Although in 2021 we’ve seen probably the biggest hurdle that the solar energy sector has experienced, after an ascending decade, the challenges have only brought innovation and the opportunity to reduce costs with the implementation of technology. Fluctuations in pricing and challenges in logistics have pushed manufacturers to evaluate the opportunity of establishing manufacturing plants in strategic locations to serve the region. Northern Africa has a unique geographical position and can easily become a long-term energy exporter to both Africa and Europe.