MENA Region Major Draw for Renewable Energy Investors: Rome Conference

The Cairo PostThe Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is becoming an attractive market for investors in renewable energy, as many governments are pushing toward sustainability, according to a number of officials and speakers during the fifth Dii Desert Energy Annual Conference Tuesday in Rome.

“The situation was different five years ago, we only had very few projects in MENA, but now there are growing sizable projects in operation,” said Paul van Son, the CEO of Dii, an industrial alliance dedicated to creating markets for renewable energy technologies like wind and solar power in the Middle East. His comments came in his opening speech. The market for RE in the past, van Son added, was “completely neglected.”

The conference hosted a large number of renewable energy companies, officials and stake holder groups, and the possibilities for renewable energy in the Mediterranean region were discussed.

“In MENA, there are so many positive movements going on, and people are taking it (renewable energy) into account to be an important part of the energy system,” said Thorsten Herden, the head of the Department of Energy Policy, Heat and Energy Efficiency at the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, during the conference.

“We have to prepare ourselves and restructure the whole energy system, because we are having new players,” Herden said, adding that the goal of renewable energy should not just be to meet energy needs, “but also we should look at energy efficiency.”

MENA governments adopting renewable energy

According to one of the workshops during the conference, the MENA region’s renewable energy capacity is expected to double from 2013 to 2015.

“Egypt is adopting new strategies and ambitious plans as well as stable policies toward the entrenching of renewable energy in the energy system,” Mahmoud Atia, the executive chairman of the New and Renewable Energy Authority (NREA), told The Cairo Post.

To fill shortages in the electricity supply, Atia added that the Egyptian government has also begun to install photovoltaic panels on the top of government installations and buildings to reduce consumption.

For future Egyptian government strategy, he added that there is a plan to produce 2,300 megawatts of photovoltaic energy and 2,000 megawatts of wind energy within two years.

Additionally, he noted the importance of a diversified energy system. “Ninety-two percent of the energy produced in Egypt is from fuel, and this does not balance the equation of energy market variation,” he said.

Khaled Mokni, the acting general director in charge of public projects monitoring in Tunisia, agreed with Atia. “There shouldn’t be a reliance on the traditional energy resources,” he said.

Mokni told The Cairo Post the Tunisian government’s “plan is to have 30 percent of the energy produced from renewable energy by 2030.”

For a long time, there were “mistaken ideas” about the costs of adopting renewable energy technology, according to Gamila Youssif Matar, the Arab League head of Energy Administration. “But now the image has dramatically changed,” she told The Cairo Post Tuesday.

For the first time in the Arab region, “there is a strategy for renewable energy developed by the Arab league and adopted in 2013, and accordingly, Arab countries are obliged to submit national plans in this regard,” Matar said.

“The strategy aims to increase the share of renewable energy in the energy system. It stands on two axes: first is to set a roadmap including initiatives to provide technical assistance to help other countries implement their national plans, and secondly, to execute the Arab Framework for Renewable energy,” added Matar.

The Arab region is more appealing to investors than Europe due to “natural resources growth (sun and wind) and the rising demands for development and social improvement in the area, which in return, calls for more investment in the field,”said Maged Karam, the head of Projects and Technical Affairs at the Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency NGO.