Which country in the Middle East and North Africa has the greatest and most realistic solar potential in the next five years?
That was the question posed to a panel of renewable experts at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi this morning and the answer was resounding – Saudi Arabia.
As Imtiaz Mahtab of the Middle East Solar Industry Association said: “Saudi will be the icing on the cake” for the MENA region’s renewable ambitions.”
Mohammed Atif of DNV-GL Energy told the audience that there had been “a sea-change” in Saudi over plans for solar projects. While the prospects may not be “visible to the public… much progress is going on within Saudi companies, and that is a good sign. I can see Saudi expanding significantly.”
He said he had “high hopes” for the kingdom and added that the wider MENA is “up for very exciting times. We are involved in the policy and for us, we can see that the solar boom is really beginning to take off in the whole region – we are struggling to keep up.”
He cited Kuwait as another growth area, where the government has set a target of generating 20 per cent of its electricity from renewables.
Amer M. Al Swaha of cleantech advisory Apricum said that Saudi’s focus on solar was driven by its need to wean itself of oil for energy production. “Oil is used to generate 60 per cent of electricity in Saudi.” He said that the kingdom has set a target to save 1.5m barrels of oil by switching to solar generation, and stressed that “if we leave things as they are, we will use all the oil that we generate and there will be nothing left to export”.
Nour Mousa, chief executive of Saudi Arabia-based investment and EPC company Desert Technologies, singled out Egypt as another growth area in the MENA region.
“Egypt is moving at a fast pace – we are very bullish on its market.”
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