Model of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park on display. Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: With an expected combined output of 10 gigawatts by 2017, the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) solar energy sector is gearing for significant growth, experts said.

“As of April 2013, there were 106 renewable energy projects in the pipeline in the region, totalling more than 7.5 gigawatts of new electric generation capacity. This is in addition to 10 major projects set to go ahead in the UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco,” Director of Informa Energy Group, Anita Mathews said.

She added that 2012 saw new investments in the region totalling $2.9 billion (Dh10.6 billion), an increase of almost 40 per cent compared to 2011.

“An increasing number of countries in the Middle East are keen to invest in the region’s thriving solar industry and with renewable energy sources in abundance — particularly solar power — the region is gradually tapping these resources to pave the way for a new market,” Mathews said.

She expected the majority of demand for solar energy to originate from Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, with the latter leading the way towards the region’s first gigawatt scale solar market by 2015.

Early stage

“The UAE is close, after Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and actually the whole Middle East has plans for solar energy. In terms of capacity as in how much install capacity there is, these two countries are in the lead,” Mathews said.

Meanwhile, the director of sustainability, clean technology, and renewable energy at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Gus Schellekens said the UAE solar energy market is at an early stage of development.

“The awareness [on solar energy] has increased hugely but we have not seen yet this enthusiasm translated to projects. There are only a handful of solar projects in operation but the potential is huge and it’s heading in the right direction,” Schellekens said.

Speaking of the future of solar energy, he said it is “only going in one direction”, and while there are certain issues currently hindering development. Schellekens stressed that the UAE can overcome them.

The second edition of Solar Middle East, an exhibition for solar industry professionals, will be held from February 11-13 next year at the Dubai International Exhibition Centre.