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Gulf ‘needs to pick up pace’ to hit 2030 solar energy goals

This solar array powers a hotel in Wadi Rum, Jordan. The kingdom ranks first in the Arab world for renewables contribution to electricity Bubble Luxotel Hotel
This solar array powers a hotel in Wadi Rum, Jordan. The kingdom ranks first in the Arab world for renewables contribution to electricity
  • Industry report identified plenty of progress, but there’s more to do
  • Many governments have set ambitious targets for energy transition
  • Here’s the outlook for 13 countries across the region

The Middle East’s solar power industry has come a long way, but it needs to work faster if the region is to meet its energy transition targets, according to the Mesia Solar Outlook Report 2023.

Romain Riche, international development director at Mesia (Middle East Solar Industry Association), told AGBI that the key challenges were accelerating the pace of implementing renewable projects, ensuring availability of supply chains and making sure the region’s grid infrastructure is resilient enough.

Riche added that the Cop28 climate conference in Dubai this year should be a catalyst for more renewable projects in the region, as well as the emergence of the green hydrogen sector.

Algeria has the most untapped potential for solar development, according to Mesia’s Solar Outlook Report 2023. It is Africa’s largest nation by land mass – and where we begin our look at the key solar projects and targets in the Mesia countries.

Algeria

Algiers has set a goal of generating 15,000 megawatts of energy from renewable sources by 2035 – up from 438.2mw of capacity in 2021.

Solar power is expected to contribute about 1,000mw, under the government’s Solar 1000 project. This consists of 10 solar stations with capabilities ranging from 50mw to 300mw. Five have been announced so far. The total capacity of solar photovoltaic energy connected to the grid in 2021 was 12mw.

Bahrain

Massive deployment of solar systems will be needed to hit Bahrain’s target of net zero by 2060.

In January, Bahrain’s Ministry of Electricity and Water announced that it had received seven bids for its 72mw multi-site, solar PV project. Five proposals have been accepted.

Last October, the government in Manama launched a tender for construction of a solar park with at least 100mw capacity in the Southern Governorate. Once built, it could power more than 17,000 homes and offset about 170.4 million kg of carbon each year. 

Egypt 

While Egypt was hosting the Cop27 summit last November, its government signed 16 agreements with international, regional and local consortiums that will add almost 55gw to its solar and wind power production.

It would be a significant increase. Egypt’s solar PV capacity stood at 2.02gw in 2020 and onshore wind capacity was 1.39gw.

In December the IFC – part of the World Bank – approved a financing deal for Dubai’s Amea Power to build, own and operate Abydos, a 560mw solar facility in the Aswan province, and Amunet, a wind power project in the Red Sea area with a capacity of 505mw. 

They will be Egypt’s biggest solar and wind power projects and are set to deliver renewable energy at the lowest price in Africa: $20 per megawatt-hour and $30 per mwh respectively.

Abydos and Amunet will reduce Egypt’s annual carbon footprint by 1.7 million tons and meet the needs of 1 million Egyptians for electricity. Construction is scheduled to begin this month on both facilities. The solar plant is expected to be finished in 18 months according to IFC. 

Egypt ranks third in the Arab world in terms of the share of renewables in its electricity generation, according to Mesia. Solar capacity is expected to hit 7.71gw by 2030 while wind capacity is forecast to reach 5.64gw. 

Iran

Iran added 8.29mw of rooftop solar in 2022, taking its total solar installed capacity to 519mw. Tehran’s Ministry of Energy has set a target to reach 10gw of renewable power by 2025 – 7gw of solar and 3gw of wind. Going forward, the commissioning of large-scale PV projects will only be organised through government tenders.

The Mesia report said Tehran had “several legislative enablers” to support its target, including power purchase agreements (PPAs) and the tendering process. “A recent tender for the construction of 1.5gw of solar power plants was held, with 12 companies selected,” it added.

Iraq

Iraq is targeting the development of 12gw of utility-scale solar power projects by 2030 – equivalent to 33 percent of its clean energy sources. A key challenge is that the distributed solar segment runs almost entirely on diesel generators, but the country “is on track to become one of the most important solar energy markets in Mena by 2030”, according to Mesia. 

Jordan

Jordan currently ranks first in the Arab world in terms of the share of renewables in its electricity generation, the report found.

It currently has 1,498mw of commercial photovoltaic projects under power purchase agreements (PPAs) and 1,027mw of small-scale installations under net metering and wheeling schemes. It is expected to introduce energy storage legislation in 2023. 

Lebanon

Lebanon experienced “exponential growth in the solar PV and battery energy storage segments” in 2022, driven by an unwillingness to rely entirely on private generators.

The government approved a distributed renewable energy production law in March, allowing producers to sell electricity directly to end users, distributors or other electricity suppliers through on-grid or off-grid PPAs. It is targeting 500mw of rooftop solar capacity and 2,500mw of utility-scale solar capacity by 2030.

Morocco

Morocco ranks second in the Arab world in terms of the share of renewables in its electricity generation. Its cumulative solar capacity reached 830mw in 2022. More than 500mw of this comes from the Noor Ouarzazate solar power complex south of the Atlas mountains.

Another 260mw of capacity will be added by the Noor Atlas solar farm, which will be developed across seven sites in eastern and southern Morocco.

Last June the government issued a call for companies to bid for engineering, procurement and construction packages, as well as operation and maintenance contracts, on the project. 

A $20 billion project that combines wind and solar, Xlinks, has been granted permission in the Guelmim-Oued Noun region. Almost 12 million solar panels and 530 wind turbines will be installed across 370 square miles of desert and the power they generate will be transferred to the UK via the world’s longest undersea electricity cable. The first phase of the project is slated to go live in 2029, with the second phase due in 2031.

Oman

In 2022 Oman commissioned its largest PV park, the 500mw Ibri solar power plant. The sultanate aims to commission two more solar plants, with a total capacity of 500mw, around the end of 2023 and the start of 2024.

The government’s forecast renewable energy mix for 2030 will be 21 percent solar energy, 6.5 percent wind power and 2.5 percent waste energy. 

Qatar

In October 2022 Qatar commissioned the 800mw Al Kharsaah solar power plant. It has more than 1.8 million panels and is equipped with solar tracking systems and robots to clean the panels at night.

Doha plans to announce another 2gw solar plant this year and a 1.4gw facility in 2026. Net metering regulation is expected in 2023.

Saudi Arabia

The kingdom expects solar to generate 40gw of energy by 2030 – 68.1 percent of its renewables capacity. Growth to be driven by competitive auctions, bilateral utility contracts, corporate PPAs and state-owned projects. This marks a 12.7gw increase from its current levels.

The 2gw Shuaibah 2 solar park, which is in Mecca province, is scheduled to come online by the end of 2025.

Tunisia

In March 2022 the Tunisian government signed PPAs for five new solar power plants, with a total capacity of 500mw. In June it commissioned Mena’s first floating solar plant, which is due to produce 265mwh a year. 

UAE

The UAE’s cumulative installed solar capacity stood at around 3.5gw by the end of 2022, but this will reach 6gw on the completion of mega-projects in Abu Dhabi (Al Dhafra – 1,500mw) and Dubai (Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar park phases 4 and 5 – 950mw and 900mw).

The UAE has also introduced the first legally binding regulatory framework for clean and renewable energy in the electricity sector in the Middle East. 

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