Cautious Optimism at MENASOL Solar Energy Conference in Cairo

MENASOL 2010Some 250 people participated in the MENASOL conference in Cairo this week. Courtesy image.

The 2nd annual MENASOL solar energy conference on the development and finance of utility-scale solar projects in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) opened Tuesday in Cairo. Approximately 250 people from around the world gathered for the two-day conference. This is about double the number of participants who attended the initial MENASOL conference, held last year in Abu Dhabi, conference director Heidi Hafes explained.

The conference speakers, from both the public and private sectors, included representatives from Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Libya, Amman and Yemen, as well as the UN, World Bank, investment banks and other organizations.

Nearly all of the speakers incorporated PowerPoint presentations with graphs showing steep curves in the projected demand for electricity, intersecting curves depicting the projected convergence of costs for renewable vs. conventional energy (in 2014-15, one speaker suggested), charts with national goals for renewable energy capacity and/or tables listing the pros and cons of various solar technologies.

Still not a ‘no-brainer’

Some emphasized the technological, financial and regulatory challenges the MENA region still faces before becoming a solar powerhouse. As one speaker noted, it is still not a “no-brainer” for Europe to look to North Africa to supply its electricity needs.

Another speaker reminded the participants to “mind the gap” that still exists between the relative costs of alternative and conventional sources of energy.

The real value of this kind of conference, however, is not the marathon of presentations but rather the opportunity to network with potential partners/competitors. Indeed, there is quite an interesting mix of talented and knowledgeable people here, and I’ll try to profile a few of them in later posts.

More green conference news from the region:

An Obvious Absence from the World Future Energy Summit

Upbeat Mood at Carbon-Neutral Eilat Energy Event

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