MENA, Middle East and North Africa photovoltaic market

The Middle East and North Africa (also called MENA region) states are interested by a quantity of annual sunlight that produce a direct radiation exceeding 6 kWh/m2 per day in many regions. The Recent decreases in the price of photovoltaic technologies coupled with rising electricity demand in these growing nations, could make the MENA region a hub for solar expansion.

The region produces more than a third of the world’s petroleum and as a region with such rich fossil resources it is normal that in the past this resource has been widely used for energy production. The two main factors that have contributed in changing this situation are that the MENA region population continues to grow (in most MENA countries over 50% of the population is below the age of 30) and the hydrocarbon reserves start to run out. In response to these important changes the region’s leaders are looking at alternative sources of energy as petroleum prices continue their inevitable increase.

The first answer was the use of the concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies, due to the technological similarity of some CSP steam turbines to conventional natural gas turbines, but right now photovoltaic technology it is growing exponentially as the main renewable energy.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) technology offers its own distinct set of advantages. PV can be deployed at a smaller scale than CSP, with less capital cost. PV plants can also be deployed very quickly, and in a wider range of conditions, including on rooftops. Last but not least the sharp declines in the cost of PV over the last years, including an estimated 40% decline in PV module costs in the last decade, PV will have a distinct cost advantage on other renewable energy technologies.

Industry specialists agree that the main protagonists of the solar revolution in the MENA region will be the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and others… All of these nations have potent economic reasons for adopting solar technologies, and none of these nations have been seriously affected by the Arab Spring uprisings.

A careful look at the main policies implemented by some of these states confirms the forecasts:

United Arab Emirates: In the UAE the Clean Energy Strategy 2050, launched by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President  and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, foresees to provide 7% of Dubai’s total power output from clean energy sources by 2020, 25% by 2030, and 75% by 2050.

Jordan: The National Energy Strategy includes ambitious targets to increase the contribution of renewable energy sources to the national energy supply. The share of renewable energy in the total energy mix is anticipated to reach 10% by 2020, of which 800 MW from solar.

Egypt set a target of reaching 20% of total electrical energy mix from renewable energy.

Morocco is the the only North African country with no natural oil resources.The US$9bn Solar Plan calls for the development of 2,000 MW by 2020, with 10,000 hectares of solar installations (both photovoltaics and concentrated solar power) to be spread over five sites (Ouarzazate, Ain Beni Mathar, Foum El Oued, Boujdour, Sebkhat Tah).

Iran: The Iranian Renewable Energy Program aims to reach 5 GWp of installed capacity by 2020.

As a result of these factors, solar power looms large in the future of the MENA region, and the main photovoltaic companies are rapidly getting ready to be present in this region as O&M and EPC solar contractor.

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