By Farzad Ramezani Bonesh
Reasons behind paying attention to the position of new energy sources in the Middle East
Widespread use of fossil fuels is damaging the environment due to carbon emissions, non-renewability, pollution, and accelerating global warming, and has far-reaching and multidimensional consequences. Therefore, in the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the United Nations has considered renewable energy as a greener and cleaner energy. Meanwhile, the Middle East region faces special challenges for environmental sustainability, human habitation, warm air masses, longer and warmer summers, delays in the onset of cold autumn and rain and so on.
Due to global warming, Middle Eastern countries, like many countries in the world, are trying to help to limit global warming below 2 ° C with renewable energy (with less environmental pollution) such as solar, wind, water and geothermal energy.
In addition to energy transfer, countries also seem to be paying attention to energy security, limiting their dependence on fossil fuels, industrial diversity, and technology transfer to new energy sources. Also, becoming more economical and reducing the costs of new energy technology creates a favorable environment for the deployment of renewable energy, especially solar and wind energy.
Increasing electricity production and consumption (average of 5-7 percent in countries), population growth, and the growth of high-consumption industries have made renewable energy sources be considered as a potential for investment.
In addition, along with other wind and water sources, by its abundant sunlight, the Middle East is very suitable for solar energy harvesting. It should also be noted that energy subsidies in the Middle East are putting pressure on government budgets, so, the renewable energy could be an important option for countries with electricity shortages, such as Iraq and Lebanon. Countries without oil and gas have also included renewable energy sources in their list due to fluctuations in fossil fuel prices.
Potentials and situation of the Middle East in the field of renewable energy
The Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East emit almost as much greenhouse gas as the whole of the European Union. The main methods of producing renewable energy (hydropower, solar, wind and geothermal, hydrogen and some others) are being developed throughout the Middle East. Although hydropower generation has negative consequences, the Middle East, with its abundant renewable energy sources (such as having 300 sunny days), can become a global leader in solar power generation.
In addition, the cost of producing hydrogen energy may not yet be entirely economical, but in other areas, renewable energy has reduced costs and regulated investment risk. So, we can see ambitious goals such as the availability of tens of gigawatts of renewable capacity.
Finding places to build wind turbines also poses challenges. But countries such as Turkey, Jordan, Iran, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Oman have also begun efforts to use it. Turkey has significantly developed geothermal energy, and Iran is preparing a 50-megawatt geothermal power plant in the northwest.
Renewable energy production in the region doubled between 2010 and 2020, and attention to renewable energy is increasing, reaching $ 21.4 billion by 2017. It was estimated that 98 gigawatts of new renewable energy generation capacity was planned for 2021. Although renewable energy accounts for only 7% of the region's electricity generation capacity. It has gradually become a top policy priority for governments in the region.
According to the 2030 vision, Saudi Arabia will get 50% of its electricity from renewable and nuclear energy. For example, 100% of the energy of a large project such as NEOM will come from renewable energy sources. Oman will generate 30% of electricity through renewable sources by 2030. Access to clean energy by 2050 will make up 50% of the UAE's energy mix, which is a significant increase from now. Egypt has set a target of achieving 42% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2035.
In addition, non-oil producer countries such as Turkey (with oil, gas and energy imports) are more motivated to access renewable energy. Apart from ratifying the Paris Climate Agreement in October 2021, the country has plans to convert coal mines to solar farms, invest more than $ 10 billion in renewable energy by the end of 2023 and by 2053.
On the other hand, the use of solar energy has become more common in countries facing crises such as Yemen for reasons such as war, instability and the collapse of the Public electricity network. Other smaller countries, such as Bahrain, have paid special attention to the development of this energy in their 2030 economic vision document.
Barriers to the development of new energy in the Middle East
Despite the potential for strong resources across the region, the growth rate of non-hydropower renewable energy is not pervasive and compared to the scale of renewable energy investment, lags behind large markets such as China, Europe and the United States. Meanwhile, the price of energy produced from new and renewable energy sources is still more expensive than fossil fuels and puts pressure on the national economy.
Lack of comprehensive support or oversight, and lack of economic and political ambiguities, transparency and security, lack of funding and problems for investors are also obstacles to the development of renewable energy in some countries. Commercialization of hydrogen as a fuel source depends on further scientific advances.
In the political and geopolitical spheres, security and political problems in some countries, such as Syria and Yemen, or the re-imposition of sanctions on Iran have slowed the pace of renewable energy development. Even now, the war in Ukraine seems to be challenging the use of technical knowledge, metallic materials, and specialized companies to develop new energy for some countries.
Fossil fuels make up a large portion of the world's energy needs and demands for gas may reach a peak by 2035. Although it is not clear exactly how much the global developments after the coronavirus epidemic and the Ukraine war will accelerate or reverse the global movement of using fossil fuels, using new energies is a very useful way for the Middle East.
Many countries are also concerned about climate change and global warming, and are considering reducing social and economic losses, and reducing the risks of possible mass migration from Middle Eastern countries.
However, the recently planned $ 104 billion renewable energy project in the Middle East could be an important step in reducing the region's vast share of fossil fuels. But it also requires investment and the will of countries to have access to diversified energy resources, to combat climate change, and a clear vision for investing in the Middle East renewable energy sector. A path that could lead to the Middle East becoming one of the most important renewable energy hubs in the world .
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