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Arabic-speaking countries in the Middle East and North Africa plan over 73 GW of new utility-scale solar and wind power projects, a five-fold increase in current capacity that, together with operating projects, will account for 91% of the Arab’s League 2030 renewable energy target of 80 GW.
The finding was published in a new report by Global Energy Monitor forecasting the growth of renewable energy projects in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
In 2013, the Arab League committed to increasing the region’s installed renewable power generation capacity across all renewable sources from 12 GW in 2013 to 80 GW in 2030. The MENA region has over 12 GW operating utility-scale solar and wind power projects.
The region currently has 4.7 GW of operational wind farms and 7.4 GW of operational solar farms. Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt put the region’s first wind farms into operation in 2000. In contrast, the first utility-scale solar operations began in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
The region is pursuing utility-scale solar and wind projects to increase its renewables capacity by 73.4 GW. More than 49.5 GW of prospective utility-scale solar projects and more than 11.3 GW of wind projects are slated to come online by 2030.
Current renewable energy leaders
Among Arabic-speaking countries, the UAE leads the region in utility-scale solar generation; its utility-scale solar farms generate 2.6 GW of electricity. Egypt is the region’s wind leader, with its wind farms generating 1.6 GW of electricity.
Egypt’s operating wind capacity, combined with its operating utility-scale solar capacity of 1.9 GW, puts the country at the top of the region for combined utility-scale solar and wind generation at 3.5 GW. Because of its investment in utility-scale solar, the UAE ranks second in the region for utility-scale solar and wind.
Emerging renewable energy leaders
Oman is demonstrating a marked shift away from fossil power – it has 15.3 GW of prospective utility-scale solar projects in development or construction compared to only 300 MW of prospective gas-powered and 40 MW of prospective oil-powered electricity. Roughly 20% of Oman’s prospective utility-scale solar and wind capacity will come online in the next two years; the remaining 12.5 GW are associated with a green hydrogen project projected to come online in 2038.
Algeria has a combined 14.4 GW of utility-scale solar and wind projects on tap. Meanwhile, Morocco is looking to maintain its early rise to the top of the region’s renewable powerhouses. The 14.4 GW of utility-scale solar and wind projects the country is poised to roll out in the next five years are more than six times its prospective gas investments.
Storage and export opportunities
The report said that the utility-scale solar and wind farm projects being pursued in this region are markedly large. The average size of prospective solar farms in the region is more than four times that of the rest of the world, and the average wind farm size is more than one and a half times that of the rest of the world.
The central drivers behind the size of the region’s utility-scale solar and wind projects are trifold. First, the region is looking to capitalize on the demand for energy storage. Second, it is looking to become a transcontinental node for renewable energy exports, especially given the increasing urgency with which European countries seek alternatives to gas imports. And third, the region is poised to reap the benefits of its favorable conditions for building renewable projects.
According to Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (APICORP), MENA countries must rapidly scale up and integrate variable renewable energy into their respective power grids to meet their national renewable energy targets in the medium term.
Earlier, APICORP predicted that the MENA energy sector would receive investments worth $805 billion over the next five years. APICORP stated that renewables are slated to claim a significant share of almost 40% of the estimated $250 billion in power sector investments. The investment of $805 billion between 2021 and 2025 is a $13 billion increase from the $792 billion estimates in the previous year’s five-year outlook.
Arjun Joshi is a staff reporter at Mercom India. Before joining Mercom, he worked as a technical writer for enterprise resource software companies based in India and abroad. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism, Psychology, and Optional English from Garden City University, Bangalore. More articles from Arjun Joshi.