MENA’s Transition To Clean Energy Crucial For Climate Adaptation And Energy Security – IEA Report

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The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region grapples with the impact of climate change on its energy systems, presenting significant challenges in meeting the demands of economic growth, energy security, and social welfare. Rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and extreme weather events have exacerbated existing water scarcity and strained energy infrastructure across the region.


According to a recent report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), temperatures in MENA have increased at a rate of 0.46°C per decade between 1980 and 2022, surpassing the global average of 0.18°C. This temperature rise has been accompanied by droughts in Morocco and Tunisia and intense floods in several countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, and Yemen.


These climate events have far-reaching implications, affecting not only people and the economy but also energy systems. For instance, higher temperatures in Morocco have led to increased electricity demand for cooling, further straining an already stretched power system. In response, the country has seen record-high levels of electricity imports from Spain.


As the region expands its renewable energy generation to meet growing electricity demand and emission reduction targets, it must also prioritize climate resilience in its energy systems. In collaboration with regional partners, namely Egypt, Morocco, and Oman, the IEA has conducted its first climate hazard and exposure assessment for MENA. This assessment, based on the latest climate models and Graphic Information System (GIS) analyses, identifies decreasing rainfall and increasing incidents of drought as significant concerns, particularly in the southern and eastern Mediterranean region. Over the past four decades, total precipitation in this region has decreased by around 8.3% per decade.

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The declining water availability resulting from reduced precipitation is expected to negatively impact fossil-fueled thermal power plants, which account for 91% of electricity generation in southern and eastern Mediterranean countries and rely on freshwater for cooling. Without mitigation of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and continued operation of fossil-fueled thermal power plants, around 32% of coal power plants, 15% of gas power plants, and 9% of oil power plants in the region may face a significantly drier climate, intensifying challenges related to cooling water availability.

To address these challenges, the transition to clean energy is crucial. Renewable energy technologies such as solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind power, which require little or no water for operation, offer resilience in drier climates. Furthermore, their reduced GHG emissions contribute to mitigating climate change, which can help curtail shifts in precipitation patterns. Several countries in the southern and eastern Mediterranean region have set ambitious targets for scaling up solar and wind power capacity. For example, Morocco aims to increase the share of solar power in its energy mix from 1% in 2020 to 20% by 2030, while also expanding wind power. These efforts are expected to enhance power system resilience by offsetting projected decreases in hydro and coal-fired power capacity caused by increasing water scarcity.

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The rising temperatures and more frequent extreme heat events pose additional concerns for energy system resilience in the MENA region. In a low-emissions scenario, temperatures in 2081-2100 could rise by 2.5°C, reaching around 6.4°C in a high-emissions scenario—both above global averages. These temperature increases lead to higher peak electricity demand during summers, driven by increased air conditioning use. For instance, Oman has experienced significant growth in peak electricity demand attributed to greater air conditioning use, which is projected to continue rising.

Higher temperatures not only raise peak electricity demand but also reduce the efficiency of power generation and networks. Gas-fired power plants, which account for 74% of electricity generation in the region, can be negatively affected by warmer air mass flow entering the gas turbine compressor. The IEA’s assessment indicates that over 80% of installed gas-fired capacity in the region may face over 20 hot days annually in a low-emissions scenario, increasing to over 60 days in a high-emissions scenario—significantly higher than the global average. Solar PV capacity and wind power plants also face challenges, with reduced efficiency during heat waves and increased exposure to hot days.

To prepare for the expected increase in extreme heat events, energy suppliers need to adopt more resilient designs for wind power plants and innovative cooling technologies for solar PV. Governments and consumers must seek energy-efficient cooling devices to manage the heightened electricity peak demand. A climate-resilient energy transition offers solutions that align with the region’s emission reduction plans and enhance energy security by diversifying energy sources.

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In support of ongoing and future efforts towards climate-resilient energy transitions, the IEA will release a series of country reports on Climate Resilience for Energy Transitions in Egypt, Morocco, and Oman. These reports provide tailored assessments of climate hazards and suggest ways to improve existing policy measures. To share key findings with the public, the IEA will hold a hybrid event in July in collaboration with the governments of Egypt, Morocco, and Oman, promoting knowledge exchange and collaboration in addressing climate challenges in the energy sector.

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