Southern Arab states may turn to solar power exporters - report
(ADPnews) - Feb 9, 2010 - The oil-rich Persian Gulf and sunny North African countries may refocus on solar energy exporting along with their large hydrocarbon exports, the Arab energy analyst, Nicolas Sarkis, said for the Monday edition of Emirates Business.
The director of the Paris-based Arab Petroleum Research Centre (APRC) noted that some Arab countries are showing increased interest in renewable power not only because of their fossil fuel dependence, but also due to environmental imperatives and the technological progress.
The UAE's Abu Dhabi, according to Sarkis, is the number one in the Southwest Asian region, with its clean energy programme, known as Masdar. Representing an investment of AED 80.7 billion (USD 22 bn/EUR 16bn), the initiative has kicked off several projects both at the regional and international level. Masdar's first 10 MW photovoltaic (PV) power plant, the largest of-that-kind in the Middle East to date, was connected to the UAE's national power grid in May 2009.
The leader in oil-exporter, Saudi Arabia, is also investing in the development of solar energy. Last June, the state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco has signed an agreement with Japanese refining company Showa Shell in order to develop a 10 MW pilot solar power plant, scheduled to go online in 2011. Another 20 MW PV facility is planned to be built at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, along with a centre for PV technology.
Other oil-exporting countries, such as Kuwait and Iraq, have also revealed their determination to focus on renewable energy sources as well as the North African Algeria. The latter has recently announced plans to develop a 150 MW solar power station at Hassi R'Mel, northern Algeria, while neighboring Tunisia has drawn up a national programme, dubbed Tunisian Solar Plan. The plan calls for an investment of USD 2 billion (EUR 1.4bn) over the 2010-2016 period in some 40 projects, in an effort to reduce the country's consumption of traditional energy sources by some 660,000 tonnes of oil equivalent per year.
Sarkis highlighted that among North African states "Morocco is the most ambitious, having announced in November 2009 a USD 9 billion programme for installing renewable energy power plants with a total capacity of 2 GW by 2020, representing 14% of the country's total power generation capacity at that point".
Egypt has also set a 20% renewable energy target for 2020.
Furthermore, the analyst reminded that the World Bank's recently said it would provide financial support to five Middle East and North Africa (Mena) countries for 11 projects, expected to absorb some USD 5.5 billion altogether. The respective projects, to be implemented in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia in a decade, will have a total generation capacity of 900 MW, Sarkis said adding that over 200 projects have been developed and submitted for approval under the Mediterranean Solar Plan (MSP). Launched in 2008 by the Union for the Mediterranean, the MSP has a target to add 20 GW of installed capacity by 2020.
Sarkis noted that the APRC would organise a conference and exhibition in Paris in September 2010 in a bid to examine the progress made so far and the prospects for the MSP.