MENA must push – NOW! – for 100% renewable energy

Arab role in climate changeThe Middle East and North Africa (MENA) must keep pace with the rest of the world and push for a future fully powered by renewable energy, says IndyACT, the leading Arab non-governmental organization working on climate change policy.

Dynamic change is taking place in the global energy sector, with renewable energy becoming mainstream in many countries, including MENA nations. Abu Dhabi’s concentrated solar power plant (CSP) Shams 1 has a 100 MW capacity and is the largest renewable energy project in operation in the Middle East. Jordan  is constructing its first utility-scale windfarm in Tafila which will have a final installed generating capacity of 117 MW).  This past year, Egypt opened the Middle East’s largest wind energy power station in the Red Sea’s Gabal al-Zeit area. It is capable of adding 800 million kW hours to the national electricity grid each year, according to Mohamed al-Sobky, executive chairman of the Egyptian New and Renewable Energy Authority.

MENA must continue to embrace clean energy innovation to transition to a fully renewable energy future.

Global expansion in renewable energy has meant real decreases in cost, so that solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind power are now economically competitive despite a global subsidy system weighted in favor of fossil fuels, which according to the International Energy Agency receive an annual subsidy of US$550 billion, more than twice the subsidy for renewables. Even with the 45% drop in oil prices in 2014, solar power remains competitive in this region.

“The Conference of Parties presents our leaders with the opportunity to take critical action, such as investing in clean energy and the removal of legal and structural obstacles by creating detailed national energy plans that facilitate a fast transition to a 100% renewable energy system. This is essential if we are to keep average temperature rises to no more than 1.5 or 2 degrees C,” said Safa’ al Jayoussi, head of climate campaign at IndyACT and CAN (Climate Action Network) Arab World coordinator, in a press release issued today from Paris.

There are encouraging signs.  In 2014, the Middle East awarded a record number of solar projects with a combined capacity of 294 MW, a four-fold increase over the previous seven years combined. However, fossil fuels remain the dominant energy supply for MENA electricity, in large part because existing energy subsidies discourage real investment in clean energy alternatives.

An energy transition is within the reach, according to Greenpeace’s Energy [R]evolution scenario, published in September (link to the report, here). By 2050, 93% of the electricity produced in Middle East could be from renewable energy sources in the ‘basic’ Energy [R]evolution scenario. New renewables – mainly wind, PV, CSP and geothermal energy – would comprise 86% of the total electricity generation.

At current development rates, by 2020 the share of regional renewable electricity production would be 14% and 52% by 2030. Under a more advanced scenario, 100% electricity supply from renewable energy resources, or around 1,510 GW installed generation capacity, is possible by 2050.

If renewable development halts, MENA CO2 emissions will double between 2012 and 2050, but under the Energy [R]evolution scenario they would decrease from 1,670 million tonnes in 2012 to 294 million tonnes in 2050 – 47% below 1990 levels.  Under Greenpeace’s Advanced scenario, energy consumption would be fully decarbonized.

“With all this potential within our grasp, we are urging the regional governments to start taking immediate remedial action by backing projects that cover peak energy demand, help get energy to people by investing in distributed off grid projects and in turn support the growing renewable energy employment opportunities,” added al Jayoussi.

IndyACT is has engaged in the climate change negotiations since 2008 and has become a reference for Arab world climate policy for international networks and organizations, such as Climate Action Network International.

Image of 2013 Doha climate march from IndyACT

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