The submission of tariff prices for the worlds largest solar scheme at Ouarzazate in Morocco can reinvigorate the regions renewable energy ambitions. Enthusiasm for the sector had begun to wane so far in 2014, due to slow progress with planned renewable schemes.
After years of talk and little action, 2013 was the year in which the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region finally set out its stall as one of the future global hubs of alternative energy. In February, Saudi Arabia outlined plans for a mammoth 54GW renewable energy programme and, throughout the year, Jordan pushed ahead with the initial phases of its ambitious direct proposal energy programme.
However, fast forward 20 months and there has been little action. Saudi Arabias specially founded renewable energy body, King Abdullah Centre for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-Care), has made no further progress with its programme, with the latest rumours emanating from the kingdom that state oil major Saudi Aramco will be drafted in to spearhead its renewable energy efforts.
Jordan has also failed to live up to expectations, with the achievement of concluding agreements for the first round of its renewable energy programme in early 2014 having been tempered by the cancellation of the third round and a lengthy delay for the second.
Progress has been made in some areas this year, with Kuwait having approved contract awards for its initial renewable energy schemes and Dubai having recently issued tenders for the 100MW second phase of its solar programme. But while these achievements should not be dismissed, for the region to succeed with its ambitious renewable energy targets, it will require a sustainable supply chain and a pipeline of projects, which can only be achieved with the delivery of projects in key markets such as Saudi Arabia.
Lacking the abundance of hydrocarbons resources of many countries in the Mena region, Morocco has more incentive to deliver on its renewable plans and achieve energy independence. The renewable energy sector and environmental groups will hope the North African countrys achievements can spur the rest of the region to deliver on their pledges.