While Northern Africa’s solar technology development is more or less on hold until the region stabilizes, solar entrepreneurs see the neighboring Middle East as a hot bed of solar opportunity.
The third annual Middle East and North Africa Solar conference, sponsored by CSP Today, will bring industry leaders and government representatives together to network and mine those opportunities May 16 and 17 in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
Heidi Hafes, a spokeswoman for CSP Today, said that the political and economic landscape has changed dramatically since the company hosted its first MENASOL conference four years ago.
Even last year, Northern Africa was still full of potential for solar development, she said. And it still is, but no one expects any activity there until the political environment stabilizes.
“Egypt did have plans for large-scale solar,” Hafes said. “But those are on standstill for now. Maybe by the end of the year, we’ll know more about that.”
Monaco, which was a focus in previous years and still has a lot of potential, is unofficially behind schedule in its development plans, Hafes said.
“We’ll just have to wait and see what happens there and what the next step will be because they’re not publicly speaking about it,” she said.
While those areas are stalled, the oil-rich Middle East is making dramatic strides toward renewable energy, Hafes said. Dubai in the UAE has several renewable initiatives and has invested heavily in wind energy production.
Saudi Arabia is also full of potential for the solar industry, Hafes said. The country is developing a system for fast-tracking renewable energy projects and is establishing a renewable energy agency.
“Both CSP and PV have good positions there,” she said.
Qatar won the bid for the World Cup and has a lot of infrastructure to install before the world’s most watched and attended soccer tournaments start there in 2022.
“They’re looking to fund renewable energy there for all of their new infrastructure,” Hafes said. “PV is favored there.”
Jordan’s parliament is also discussing plans to promote renewable energy, particularly solar development.
“That’s mostly a waiting game,” Hafes said.
MENASOL attendees have an opportunity to network with decision-makers and people in the know. They will also get a country-by-country guide to what’s happening in the region and where policy is headed.
The conference has grown in the four years since it began, and Hafes said they expect more than 300 attendees.