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Sat 12 Sep 2009 04:00 AM

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Sustainable solutions

Can the Middle East export electricity as well as oil?

You might be forgiven for thinking that recent fluctuation in the oil price and the economic uncertainty were tailor-made to put the Gulf’s drive towards renewable energy provision in the shade. But you’d be wrong. As a rising oil price drives non-resource-rich economies to search for sustainable solutions, it’s more important than ever that the GCC continues to look to its non-hydrocarbon potential. A recent report has suggested that the global market for renewables will grow by 25% year-on-year and it’s clear that the Middle East has a huge part to play.

As we look around the region, some countries are making more efforts than others. In the UAE, Masdar City has won high praise both at home and abroad for its vision of the future. But an announcement made in July by the Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII) group of companies has genuinely pushed the boundaries of how the world perceives renewable energy.

Utilities Middle East offers a brief assessment of a truly leviathanic project that hopes to deliver 15% of Europe’s electricity – taken entirely from the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East – by the year 2050.

It’s a brave move, and many critics have jumped on the bandwagon to cite the enormous hurdles that stakeholders and politicians will have to jump to make Desertec a success. As yet, there are no commercial-scale solar power generation sites in any of the North African states – just one of DII’s many obstacles.

But this is a project that the Middle East’s leaders should seek to embrace. A successful implementation would mean that the region would have satisfied its own hunger for more capacity, and could channel billions into national coffers as a result.

Ed Attwood is the editor of Utilities Middle East.

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