Going green

Doaa A. Moneim, Tuesday 28 Feb 2023

The MENA region is prioritising investment in green transition, writes Doaa A. Moneim

Going green
Going green


“With Egypt holding the COP27 Presidency till November 2023, and the United Arab Emirates building momentum to host COP28, the region is playing a leading role in net-zero transition,” said Tarek Tawfik, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt (AmCham) and Chairman of the AmCham MENA Regional Council.

Addressing attendees at AmCham’s 11th Annual MENA Regional Council Conference, held under the theme “Accelerating Green Investments in the MENA Region: US and Regional Partnerships for Growth”, Tawfik shed light on efforts by countries in the region to adopt solar and other sustainable energy solutions to diversify their energy mix.

“Jordan aims to reach 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030, while the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia have net-zero emission targets by 2050 or 2060,” he said.

The number of people working in renewable energy-related jobs worldwide reached 12.7 million in 2021 and is expected to double in the next decade, according to Tawfik. He added that investing in environment-friendly projects is one of the most important aspects of increasing employment opportunities and aiding economic development.

He pointed to the huge regional interest in green hydrogen. Egypt, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia are now prioritising the development of green and blue hydrogen production for domestic consumption and export to Europe and Asia. Green hydrogen sustainably sourced through solar energy is set to turn the region into the world’s second-largest electrolyser installer by 2040.

According to the Egypt Economic 2022 Profile report published by AmCham, Egypt’s as yet untapped potential for renewables includes high average wind speeds of 10.5 metres per second (m/sec) along the Gulf of Suez and 7.5 m/sec along the Nile’s banks in the Eastern and Western deserts, and high-intensity solar radiation of 2,000-3,000 kw/h per square metre a year.

According to Egypt’s New and Renewable Energy Authority, 3,570 megawatts of renewable energy projects valued at $3.5 billion are under development, of which 78 per cent are solar energy and 22 per cent wind energy projects.

Addressing the conference, Mahmoud Mohieldin, UN climate change high-level champion for Egypt and UN special envoy on Financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, stressed that climate finance is development finance. He urged the global community and international financial institutions to meet their obligations and commitments in terms of helping developing countries navigate the impacts of climate change.

Mohieldin noted that while developed countries had pledged $100 billion to support developing nations’ mitigation and adaptation efforts, increased debt levels on the back of the global economic crisis had led to their needing 10 times that figure annually. He also pointed out that Egypt, Morocco and Saudi Arabia’s ambitious green hydrogen projects, which are imperative for fast tracking climate action in the region, need huge private sector investment.

Egypt’s national green hydrogen strategy, prepared in 2022 in collaboration with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, rests on its ability to produce the cheapest green hydrogen globally, paving the way for the country to acquire eight per cent of the global hydrogen market.

Egypt has ambitious plans to become a regional hub for green hydrogen and eventually export 10 million tons of renewable energy to Europe. In November 2022, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre launched the first phase of a project to establish a major green hydrogen plant with a production capacity of 100 MW in Ain Sokhna. During the 27th round of the COP27 held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt signed eight framework agreements covering green hydrogen and ammonia projects with the goal of winning five per cent of the global market by 2040.

Daniel Rubenstein, chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Egypt, highlighted Egypt’s efforts in green transition through achievements made during COP27 and the role the Nexus for Food, Water and Energy platform is playing in terms of mobilising finance across the region. The platform aims to mobilise concessional development finance for a package of priority green development projects in the food, water and energy sectors. The US and Germany have pledged $250 million to finance the energy pillar, 60 per cent of which will be allocated in the form of debt exchange and development grants.

Conference participants stressed the importance of incentives to encourage private investors to finance clean energy projects and urged decision-makers to develop legal frameworks that support private sector operations and eliminate any obstacles they face. They also called for the expansion of public-private partnerships and support for small and medium-sized enterprises to play a role in the green transformation process.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 2 March, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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