By Karen Leigh
Region ranks second globally behind Asia-Pacific, but data shows Gulf states still lag rest of region
Total consumption of alternative energy grew by 5.3
percent in the Middle East North Africa region in 2010, the second-highest rate globally after traditional
green energy powerhouse Asia-Pacific.
“New energies including wind, solar, nuclear power plants
and biomass and environmentally clean technologies are a necessity for the
region to keep pace with its new energy demand. This is the only way it can
conserve its main lifeline, oil, for the long term," said Shailesh Dash, CEO
of Al Masah Capital, which issued a report on worldwide alternative energy
He credited the rise to huge investments in energy
intensive industries, rapid infrastructural and real estate developments,
growing population and water consumption had significantly augmented energy
A large-scale shift away from oil and gas exports is
underway in MENA, particularly in Gulf emirates such as Abu Dhabi – yet data
shows the Gulf lags the rest of the region.
"There was no production of renewable energy in these
countries until 2008,” Al Masah said.
In 2008, Egypt had the largest share - 56.8 percent - in
total renewable energy generated in the MENA region, followed by Iran with 18 percent.
The Gulf needs to move away from “complete oil dependency
to a balanced diet which prominently features alternative fuels,” Al Masah’s
MENA recorded an average annual growth rate of 4 percent
in oil consumption from 1999-2009 – higher than the 3.2 percent the previous
Natural gas consumption also increased by 6.6 percent in
1999–2009, up from 6 percent for the previous ten years.
Oil contributes to about 50 percent of the GCC’s total
MENA countries own around 61 percent of the world’s proven
oil reserves and approximately 45 percent of its proven natural gas reserves.
Current usage of alternative energy in the MENA region was
minimal, significant alternative energy projects were underway. "Many of
them are in the planning stages but these efforts will eventually bear fruit.
The important thing is that this need is being recognized now rather than later
when it might be too late,” Dash said.
According to the International Energy Agency, concentrated
solar power plants in the region could cater to 100 times the combined
electricity consumption of MENA and Europe.
"The biggest resource in the MENA region is solar
irradiance with a potential to meet the total demand for electricity
worldwide,” it said in a statement.
Based on climatic conditions and geographic location, Al
Masah said Egypt had the best physical resources to implement solar
technologies in the MENA region followed by Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the
In terms of current utilization, Morocco had the
largest installed PV capacity in the region.