The train of renewable energy in the Arab countries is moving and picking up speed as governments’ policies and economics become more favourable. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), total installed capacity in 2016 of solar and wind energy facilities was 1,139MW and 2,025MW, respectively, compared to very little just years ago.

Morocco leads with 1,003MW. The country is aiming at a renewable electricity generation of 52 per cent by 2030 by installing 10GW facilities.

Last year’s installed solar capacity was 205MW but is expected to be 2GW in 2020 when the first phase of the giant Noor solar complex near the southern town of Ourrzazate — which will add 160MW — opens. It uses concentrated solar power (CSP) technology where storage of electricity for up to three hours after sunset is possible. Phase two and three are expected by the end of this year or early 2018 and will add 350MW capacity.

Morocco invested more in wind power where the installed capacity is 798MW and a bid to install five new wind farms was awarded in March for a combined capacity of 850MW. The feed-in rate was $0.03 (Dh0.11) per kWh, the lowest in the world. Again the target of reaching a wind power capacity of 2,000MW by 2020 is in the plan.


In Egypt, the installed wind power is 750MW in addition to a 20MW of CSP and the country intends to supply 20 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2022, with 14.2 per cent provided by wind and solar plants and the rest from hydropower. The solar energy plan is to install 3.5GW by 2027, including 2.8GW of photovoltaic (PV) and 700MW of CSP. Another 0.7GW of wind power is to be added and companies are bidding now for all these plants.

Jordan has an installed renewable power capacity of 480MW, with 295MW in PV and 184.5MW in wind. The share of renewable energy in total energy is expected to be 10 per cent by 2020 and 20 per cent of power generation with the plan being to add to the current capacity of up to 1,000MW in solar and 600MW in wind energy projects by 2020. As of now, 1,300MW is already contracted and 300MW is to be awarded before the end of the year.

Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power International recently signed an agreement with Jordan to build a solar plant with electricity at 5.88 cents per kWh, the lowest bid in Jordan.

Tunisia is fourth with a total installed renewable of wind and solar at 283MW. It announced at the end of 2016 a plan for up to 2030 where 30 per cent of electricity is to come from renewables. This will be doe installing 1,000MW by 2020 and another 1,250MW by 2030.

Other countries are following fast and the order of merit may change. The UAE is to invest $163 billion in renewable energy up to 2050 to generate 44 per cent of its electricity from these sources.


The country’s current capacity is 138MW, but in June 2016 Dubai announced plans to build a 1,000MW solar power plants by 2030. In 2013 Abu Dhabi started operations for the world’s largest plant of CSP, at 100MW.

Adal Saeed, director of privatisation at Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority, recently said Abu Dhabi is targeting 7 per cent of renewable energy by 2020 and “In line with this plan, contracts about to be awarded for building more than 800MW solar plant at Sweihan.” Also, the Mohammad Bin Rashid Solar Park would be the largest in the world with a planned capacity of 5,000MW by 2030.

Saudi Arabia announced in 2013 a plan for 54GW of renewable capacity by 2032. However, in 2016 only 48MW of PV was realised at the hands Saudi Electricity Company, which prompted the energy ministry to take over the programme. Minister Khalid Al Falih recently said that an investment of between $30 billion and $50 billion by 2023 would be provided for renewable energy programmes, which would produce 9.5GW of power. This will go a long way in saving liquid fuel, including crude oil used in power stations.

Falling tariffs

By 2020, renewable energy capacity is expected at about 3.5GW and two projects — one solar and one wind having a combined capacity of 700MW — are already in the tendering stage and awarding expected later this year.

The nice thing about these projects is they are either represent a full private investment or a public-private partnership. This has created competition and tariffs are therefore falling as governments guarantee the purchase of power and connection to the grid.

Let us hope that other countries will follow suit to protect the environment, reduce cost, expedite installation and provide more hydrocarbons for export in the case of producing countries.

The writer is former head of the Energy Studies Department at the Opec Secretariat in Vienna.