How the Middle East is turning to the sun for energy


When one thinks of the Middle East nowadays, oil comes to mind. But with solar photovoltaic booming right now all around the region and beyond, this might not be the case in twenty or thirty years.

 

Iran

The country recently made the headlines by announcing its willingness to invest $3 billion to add five gigawatts of renewable energy capacity (mostly solar).

Right now, the country’s electricity is mostly thermal with natural gas amounting for 69 percent and oil for 25 percent. Renewables make up the rest with hydro having the lion’s share.

Burning oil for electricity was traditionally a good idea for OPEC countries but as local demand grew and as oil prices fluctuated this proved not profitable anymore.

 

Saudi Arabia

Right now is the world largest oil producer. When oil prices were over $100 per barrel, the country was making over a billion dollar per day thanks to its ample reserves and large production capacity.

But times are changing as the kingdom is willing to invest up to $50 billion in renewable energy sources until 2023. The goal is to source 30 percent of their total energy demand from non fossil fuels by 2030.

 

the United Arab Emirates

Last but not least, the UAE have unveiled plans to invest as much as $163 billion to cover half of its increasing electricity demand by low carbon sources by 2050.

This figure includes nuclear but as concentrated solar power (CSP) becomes cheaper and cheaper I am sure countries will reevaluate their positions on nuclear, which is getting less and less competitive since the tragic incident in Fukushima (Japan).

 

This solar rush can explained by the fact that the region has large deserts where to put solar farms and a splendind solar irradiation. To the data from the Global Solar Atlas, the maximum photovoltaic output in Tehran (Iran) or Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates, UAE) is over 1,700 kWh/kWp per year.

In Cairo (Egypt), Amman (Jordan) and Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) it reaches over 1,800 kWh/kWp per year. These figures have to be compared with Paris where it is barely over 1,000 and in NYC where it is around 1,400.

 

If you add the fact that solar prices have dropped significantly in the five last years, all this makes a lot of sense for these countries.

To conclude, not only am I sure that these countries will reach their current goals, I am ready to bet they will eventually follow other countries (Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen) which have pledged to go 100% renewables by 2050.

The future is solar, for the Middle East and the entire world.

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