The mood at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi from 18-21 January was noticeably more positive from the same event 12 months before. In the past year, plans for large-scale renewable programmes were finally converted into action.

While the potential for renewable energy throughout the Middle East and North Africa has been discussed for a number of years, 2015 was the year that renewable energy entered the mainstream of the region’s power sector.

According to MEED’s latest analysis of the region’s power market, the value of contract awards for the renewable energy generation projects rose to $7.7bn in 2015, a major increase of 450 per cent on the previous calendar year.

While diversifying energy resources and reducing emissions were already long-term targets for the region’s governments, the main reason for the rapid rise of renewables is due to economics. The record-low tariff price selected in early 2015 for Dubai’s 200MW PV solar independent power project (IPP) was so low that Dubai has now increased its renewable target for 2030 from 5 to 25 per cent.

The falling cost of renewable energy, particularly PV solar, has encouraged other countries throughout the region to prioritise renewable projects and increase clean-energy targets.

Morocco and Jordan both made major progress with major renewable projects in 2015, and Egypt and Abu Dhabi are both set to move forward with significant projects in the coming year.

One of the most exciting developments in 2016 is the start of the tendering process for the first renewable IPP projects in Saudi Arabia. While the planned two PV and one wind projects are small in scale compared to some of the others in the region, the news that Saudi Arabia is finally starting to move on renewables will be greatly received by those in the regional and international power and project finance sectors. If Riyadh is able to successfully push ahead with renewables projects, the Middle East and North Africa can become the most lucrative and exciting renewable energy market in the world.