How Could Renewable Energy Drive Middle East Go Green?

renewable energy in Middle East

renewable energy in Middle East

Demystifying the meaning of renewable energy in the oil-dominated Middle East

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is a major energy consumer, demanding the majority of the world’s energy. As the energy industry plays a crucial role in the region’s economy, it showed the smallest share of renewables in new power projects as fossil fuels still dominant in the region. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), renewables accounted for 26 percent of total power capacity expansion last year in the Middle East, compared to other regions that showed at least a 70 percent share.

On the other side, non-renewable capacity expansion in the region last year grew dramatically. As per the IRENA, total Middle East production capacity rose 13 percent to 22,710 MW, while Iran continues dominating for the two consecutive years with 57 percent of the Middle East total in 2019 and 63 percent in 2018. On the renewable energy front, Saudi Arabia’s renewable energy capacity expanded by a record last year, to 397 MW from 87 MW in 2018, while the UAE’s flew to 1,885 MW from 596 MW, the agency data revealed. Total wind capacity in the Middle East climbed to 723 MW from 614 MW.


Renewable Energy in the Middle East

The oil and gas sector is the largest economic sector in the Middle East. Countries in the region are heavily dependent on oil and gas to meet their domestic energy demand. However, the prevalent use of fossil fuels has led to severe environmental impact not only in MENA, but all across the world. To address this human-made calamity, there is an increased appeal for renewable energy around the globe. 

The Middle East has also captivated significantly towards this term concerning global warming and the diminution of fossil fuels. Countries in the region that are extremely intensive in terms of carbon emissions and energy usage have started taking concrete and measuring steps to produce clean energy. Several major MEA countries are vigorously supporting the growth of renewable energy via diverse mechanisms, such as renewable targets, renewable portfolio standards (RPS), feed-in tariffs (FiTs) or auctions, net metering and tax exemptions or subsidies.

For instance, UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia in the last few years, have divulged multi-billion dollar plans to intensify the use of alternative energy. In an effort to confront global warming, Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City has built a holistic approach to implementing sustainable energy technologies in the city. The city strives to promote innovation and sustainable urban development in a modern cleantech cluster and free economic zone. It will be a sustainable, zero-carbon and zero-waste modern urban habitat. 

Conversely, in 2014, Iran set a target to generate 5 GW energy from wind and solar power by 2020. However, renewable energy didn’t make much progress in the country. Thus, the government again in January 2018 committed a target of installing 1 GW of renewable energy projects every year since then to 2022.

Despite major steps taken, reports show, the availability of oil in the Middle East region presents a major challenge to renewables. Saudi Arabia in 2016, for example, lessened its 2040 renewable goals from 50 percent to 10 percent of the country’s electricity supply. The country in April 2017 declared to develop 30 solar and wind projects over the next 10 years as part of the kingdom’s US$50 billion programs to bolster power generation and lower down its oil consumption.

Therefore, to make the Middle East the place of clean energy technologies, countries should make large-scale investments and bring new sustainable development projects. They must explore alternative energy sources to create a virtuous circle that can fortify more clean energy.