The development of renewable energy will play a major role in the Middle East and North African power sector in 2016 as governments seek to meet the rapidly growing demand for electricity from populations and industry.

The private sector will play a key role in developing and financing the billions of dollars that will be required

The move towards renewable energy is part of plans to diversify power generation away from its reliance on the hydrocarbons sector in order to increase energy security and reduce carbon emissions. The private sector will play a key role in developing and financing the billions of dollars that will be required to meet the region’s ambitious renewable energy targets.

In the GCC, Dubai has taken the lead in developing solar energy on a large scale. Following the commissioning of its first 13MW photovoltaic (PV) power plant in 2013, state utility Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (Dewa) reached financial close for the 200MW independent power project (IPP) second phase of its Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum solar park.

In 2016, the emirate will award contracts for the 800MW third phase, which will be the largest single-phase renewables project in the region.

Dubai’s neighbouring emirate Abu Dhabi is also planning to develop a 350MW PV solar IPP in 2016 to supplement its existing 100MW Shams 1 concentrated solar power (CSP) plant.

North Africa

Morocco is pushing ahead with plans to develop an 850MW wind farm alongside its already significant solar energy programme. Bids have been received for the ambitious wind project, and this will be awarded and reach financial close in 2016.

Morocco’s solar agency Masen is also moving ahead with plans for PV solar projects to supplement its 500MW-plus CSP programme, which is under construction.

Egypt will also emerge as a key player in the region’s renewable energy market in 2016. Cairo is making progress with its 4,300MW feed-in-tariff programme, and has started the tendering process for large solar and wind IPPs.

While, in my opinion, these will be the main countries where major renewable energy projects will be awarded and reach financial close in 2016, the market everyone is waiting for is Saudi Arabia. Despite ambitious plans and some small-scale solar projects, very little has been achieved.

The regional and international power and financing markets will be keeping a close eye on the region’s largest power market in 2016 to see if renewables can finally make a breakthrough on a utility-scale.