Arab renewables to grow five-fold

Ahmed Kotb , Thursday 4 Aug 2022

Solar and wind power capacity will grow 500 per cent by 2030 in the Arab world, according to a recent report, writes Ahmed Kotb

Arab renewables to grow five-fold
Arab renewables to grow five-fold


The Arabic-speaking region has ground-breaking plans for increasing solar, wind, and green hydrogen capacities in order to generate 80 Gigawatts (GW) from renewable energy by 2030, according to a report issued in June 2022 by the Global Energy Monitor (GEM), a US NGO that provides data on fossil fuel and renewable energy projects worldwide.

The report says that projects in the region have made the average sizes of prospective solar farms more than four times those of the rest of the world. The size of average wind farms is more than one-and-a-half times that of the rest of the world.

The Arab region currently has over 12.1 GW of operating utility-scale solar and wind power, with solar facilities accounting for 7.4 GW and wind farms accounting for 4.7 GW.

The GEM report says that the region is pursuing utility-scale solar and wind projects that together would increase renewables capacity by 73.4 GW (60.9 GW by 2030). 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.

The report notes that according to the Global Wind Power Tracker and the Global Solar Power Tracker, if all the utility-scale solar and wind power projects the region is currently trying to accomplish come online, these new projects plus current operating projects will account for 91 per cent of the projected 73.4 GW by 2030.

Egypt is leading the Arab region in terms of currently operating solar and wind energy projects, with a total capacity of 3.5 GW. 1.9 GW comes from utility-scale solar capacity and 3.5 GW from wind generation.

The UAE, Morocco, Jordan and Saudi Arabia follow Egypt in the list of top five countries in the Arab region for utility-scale solar and wind energy capacity, with 2.6 GW, 1.9 GW, 1.7 GW, and 0.78 GW, respectively.

The report cites a number of reasons for the prominence of the region in building capacity in renewables. It is looking to capitalise on the demand for energy storage and aims to become a transcontinental hub for renewable energy exports, especially given the urgency with which the European countries are seeking alternatives to gas imports.

“The region is poised to reap the benefits of its favourable conditions for building renewables projects,” the report says.

Countries belonging to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, receive 500 to 600 Watts per square metre (W/m2) of solar energy on every square km of their land per year, the report states, equivalent to 1.5 million barrels of crude oil.

The GEM report says that there are at least four countries in the region having planned projects for the production of green hydrogen. “Egypt looks to be a frontrunner in the region’s renewables energy space,” the report says, adding that the Sovereign Fund of Egypt is collaborating with the Norwegian company Scatec and others to bring the region’s first green hydrogen project online with a capacity of 100 Megawatts (MW) reportedly in time for the UN COP27 meeting on climate change in November in Sharm El-Sheikh.

Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Oman also have wind and solar energy storage projects underway.

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi announced plans in 2014 to encourage investment in renewable energy by starting to phase out fuel subsidies and introducing a feed-in-tariff system. This was driven by an eight-year energy crisis that began in 2006 when Egypt first became a net-importer of oil, according to the report.

“These policies led to Egypt’s emergence as a regional leader for utility-scale wind and solar adoption,” the report says, adding that Egypt is slated to add an additional 3.3 GW of utility-scale wind and solar projects by 2024, bringing the national total to 6.8 GW.

Egypt’s Integrated Sustainable Energy Strategy targets 52 GW of large-scale and distributed on-grid renewable energy across all renewable sources by 2035.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 4 August, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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