Another day and more oil-funded terror coming out of the Middle East. Even though the area and North Africa boast astronomical solar power, these petroleum-based economies have traditionally captured little of it in preference for the production of more expensive, dangerous and damaging fossil fuels.
One of the supreme ironies in all of this, is that accelerating climate change and rising temperatures are rapidly making the area itself uninhabitable: droughts, war and now a recent scientific study predicts the region will face heatwaves “beyond the limit of human survival” if climate change remains unchecked.
Fortunately many people and companies are seeing massive opportunity and rolling out smart solutions like never before. For the first time ever, renewable energy solutions are taking center stage at the UN climate conference in Paris next month. See Renewables are changing the climate narrative from sacrifice to opportunity:
For oil-producing nations that use a substantial share for power generation, solar is increasingly the quickest, least-risk investment to add export capacity and revenue while satisfying rapid demand growth for electricity.
This shift is causing huge development and investment across the region. Morocco is building the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant, which will provide half the country’s energy by 2020. The UAE is building what could eventually be one of the world’s largest solar photovoltaic plants. Additional projects are in the works in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
The opportunity inherent in this shift is clear. A soon-to-be-released analysis from Irena finds that meeting renewable energy targets inBahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE would annually decrease fossil fuel consumption by 25% per cent in the water and power sector.
It would also cut water consumption by 20%, which is crucial in a region where fresh water is scarce, and likely to become even more so as a result of climate change. Generating solar power withdraws 200 times less water than a coal power plant to produce the same amount of electricity. Wind power requires no water at all.
The solar plant Shams 1 in the desert of Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates. Dramatically falling solar PV costs and visionary commitments by governments in the Middle East and North Africa are changing the economic equation of renewables.