Want to find sunny Middle East solar opportunities? Think short term investments, and know that higher risks mean bigger rewards, says Belén Galled who talks about MENASOL 2013 CSP and PV solar opportunities in Dubai.
A two-day networking and conference in Dubai this May will give equal treatment to both concentrated solar power (CSP) and photovoltaic (PV) initiatives. This year MENASOL will be attended by a host of such luminaries as Waleed Salman, EVP, Strategy & New Business Development from the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority and Obaid Amrane, Board Member from the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy. A delegation from K.A. CARE will also be attending.
We talked to CSP Today founder Belén Gallego about the state of solar in the region and what attendees can expect from the event being held from May 14 to 15 at the Hyatt Regency Dubai.
There is a great deal of interest in the Middle East North Africa region’s solar resources since there is so much of it, she said: “However, for the industry to be successful it is necessary that the solar projects adapt to our current short-term private financial processes, which is why developers need to think about the value proposition of their projects for the short as well as long term,” she tells us.
Hit the jump to read our Q & A with Gallego and find out how to register for the conference in time to receive a discounted price.
Green Prophet: Who are the main attendees? From Europe, NA, Asia, or the MENA region? Can you give us a brief breakdown?
Belén Gallego: Traditionally the conference has harnessed the international reputation of the CSP Today and PV Insider brands and brought a majority of Europeans to the region. However, this pattern is now beginning to shift, as increasingly we are seeing more ‘local’ participants in the conference. This is due to the rise in popularity of solar solutions in MENA (Middle East North Africa), as well as a drive for local companies to form partnerships with their international counterparts and learn from their experiences.
What can you say about the Arab Spring? Has it renewed interest in solar or has it made prospective investors more leery of entering the market now?
Belén Gallego: The MENA region has always been interesting for investors and although and I think it is obvious that the Arab Spring might have made investors more leery of the region. However, it is also true that with higher risk there is potentially a higher reward, which should still attract international investors. Furthermore, bilateral and multilateral investment banks can bring a lot of peace of mind and tend to be quite active in the region. I think the amount of plants announced recently certainly speak well for the future prospects of the MENA region.
Which are the top five MENA countries that an investor might look at?
Belén Gallego: In solar terms I think that obviously Saudi Arabia holds a lot of promise, although we would have to see how the tenders evolve. Morocco, UAE, Jordan, Tunisia and Algeria are the countries that come up repeatedly, although the potential in the Gulf region is very high, especially for solar PV technology.
Do you see any true innovation coming from the MENA region? Where?
Belén Gallego: I think that the MENA region has the potential to truly make solar water desalination a reality [see Green Prophet’s coverage on solar desalination by Masdar here]. Although much has been spoken about this potential use for solar energy, very little has been done or trialled in this regard. The lack of drinking water in the MENA region provides the perfect opportunity for R&D for technology specifically applied to water desalination.
If you could wave a magic wand to provide one solution to any barriers for solar in the region, what would that be?
Belén Gallego: I honestly think there is only one barrier in the whole world that is slowing down solar development and that is money. If I could provide anything it would be the access to low interest financing for R&D and commercial deployment. Solar is an industry which I think will underpin our economy in the future. However, the way the financial world is currently understood is mostly driven by short term rewards, which doesn’t make it easy to develop a future industry.
In my mind solar, but particularly CSP, should be understood more as a infrastructure build (like a bridge, or a hydro station.) The life-cycle of the plant should also be extended, as CSP plants can operate longer than the 25 years stipulated by the financial institutions conditions… The biggest barrier for solar is not that is expensive, or that it isn’t sufficiently supported, it’s just that it doesn’t adapt to “business as usual”
Are there more opportunities in richer MENA countries (Saudi Arabia, Qatar versus poorer ones, ie Jordan) or are they similar given development aid?
Belén Gallego: Potentially there are more opportunities in richer countries if the governments make the opportunities available to developers; however, what we need to look for is that perfect situation where there is an increasing need for energy, a good solar resource and growth.
Tell us a little more about the opportunities for oil nations and what they can make from solar investment (ie desalination, oil recovery)
Belén Gallego: There is a wealth of opportunities for oil nations to save fossil fuels and use the free, limitless solar resource to perform a variety of processes, from desalination, steam generation, heating and cooling for industrial processes, air conditioning… Literally the sky is the limit! Providing the solar resource is high enough in the area, a system can be tailor made for the particular needs; and there always will be a technology that fits comfortably with the use you are looking for.
If we were going to set up a booth to show our wares to your attendees, who would we be? Are your booth holders mechanical solutions, entrepreneurial or investment/legal related?
Belén Gallego: Any product or service for the solar industry is welcome. Whether you are consultant or a supplier of pumps, each part of the supply value chain is a key stakeholder in the development of a strong industry. We are looking to engage local suppliers who are interested in the industry as much as international suppliers who are interested in the region.
Attendees who register to attend MENASOL 2013 prior to 22 March, 2013 will receive a €400 discount.