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Mena stands at a crossroads for energy security

Overreliance on fossil fuels has prevented the region from reaching its potential

Renewables such as solar and wind are central to strengthening energy resilience in the Middle East and North Africa Pexels/Kindel Media
Renewables such as solar and wind are central to strengthening energy resilience in the Middle East and North Africa

Countries in the Gulf and the wider Middle East and North Africa region are navigating a complex landscape in pursuit of energy security. 

While resource-rich nations grapple with economic dependence on fossil fuels, forward-thinking countries are embracing renewable energy and advanced technologies to build up their resilience. 

Elsewhere in the Mena region, Lebanon and Jordan, for example, are struggling with limited domestic resources and high dependence on energy imports, placing them in a vulnerable position. 

Euromonitor International’s first Global Energy Vulnerability Index, published last month, ranks 100 countries based on their ability to handle energy shocks in the global market.

We used six groups of indicators to measure each country’s level of resilience: energy self-sufficiency; alternatives to fossil fuels; energy reserves potential; energy accessibility; energy efficiency and economic resilience. 

Norway, Canada, Australia and the US rank top thanks to their strong energy self-sufficiency, ample energy resources, diverse energy mix and high economic resilience.

Belarus and Lebanon were placed at the bottom because of a lack of energy resources, poor energy efficiency and economic uncertainty.

The highest-ranked GCC state is Qatar in 19th place, followed by the UAE 21st, Kuwait 26th, Saudi Arabia 32nd, Oman 43rd and Bahrain 71st.  

Alternative avenues to meet domestic needs

What the index shows is that in terms of energy security, the Mena region stands at a crossroads of resilience and vulnerability. 

These nations’ abundant reserves of fossil fuels made them global energy powerhouses. Now they are compelled to reckon with their energy dependencies and environmental impact – all in an era of intensifying sustainability imperatives and concern over global energy security.

Gulf countries hold a prominent position in the global energy landscape, thanks to their reserves of oil and gas. Robust production capabilities, well-developed power infrastructure and economic stability also contribute to their resilience.

However, the Gulf’s heavy reliance on hydrocarbons exports exposes it to global energy price fluctuations, geopolitical risks and the low-carbon transition.

Even resource-rich nations such as Kuwait and the UAE have found themselves turning to natural gas imports. 

Meanwhile, rapid increases in local energy demand have driven such countries to explore alternative avenues to meet domestic needs. This reduces their energy self-sufficiency, but compels them to diversify their strategies. 

Lebanon and Jordan emerge as weak performers in the index for the reasons cited above. In addition, Lebanon’s persistent electricity crisis has led to widespread supply shortages. This has exacerbated social and economic challenges, underscoring the urgency of transitioning toward renewable sources and developing a more effective governance model. 

Jordan has made significant progress in expanding its renewable energy capacity in recent years. However, to benefit fully from this transition, the country needs a more comprehensive policy approach. This would enable continuous deployment and integration of clean technologies, advance end-use electrification and stimulate demand.

Euromonitor energy vulnerability map

In general across Mena, the adoption of renewables and other energy-efficient solutions, together with optimising consumption, are pivotal to strengthening resilience and energy security. Yet historical overreliance on fossil fuels has prevented the region from reaching its potential. 

The gap between investments in renewables and fossil fuels in the Middle East was one of the largest globally. Fossil fuel investment exceeded renewable energy investment by nearly 28 times between 2015 and 2020, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. 

The Middle East and Africa were the worst-performing regions for investment in renewable electricity sources, representing just 1.6 percent of global investment in 2022, according to research consortium REN21.

Nevertheless, clean energy investment has been gaining momentum. Many countries have launched sustainability initiatives and targets to diversify their energy sources and increase economic competitiveness. 

The UAE, Qatar, Oman and Jordan have witnessed the most dynamic growth. The UAE’s revised energy strategy unveiled in July, pledged to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030 and bolster green hydrogen production.  

Oman’s Hydrom has signed a package of green hydrogen agreements, expected to play a pivotal role in helping the sultanate meet its energy transition goals.   

Overall, Mena countries need to develop clear and effective legislative frameworks, foster a supportive investment environment and promote better co-operation between the public and private sector. They must also encourage greater adoption of renewables and advance energy infrastructure. 

By transcending traditional energy paradigms, these nations can pave the way for a more sustainable and secure energy future.

Aleksandra Svidler is an economies consultant at Euromonitor International