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Will solar development survive in North Africa and Middle East?

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In recent weeks the world has seen a dramatic change in the political structure in North Africa and Middle East. With all eyes of the world on the region the question remains: what does the future economy hold and what does this mean for investment and the development of solar projects?
Will solar development survive in North Africa and Middle East?

At first glance you are lead to think that solar energy development has been put to the back burner as MENA countries prioritise socio-economic stability, but that would not be telling the full story. There are two strong influences which have meant solar development is still on track in 2011.

Firstly, with the price of oil reaching $120 a barrel earlier this year and the fact that it has only dropped to $114 this week means the world is fast realising the vulnerability of relying on oil to meet the majority of our energy demands. Secondly, the nuclear power debate has been resurrected following the events in Japan, further promoting the use of alternative energy sources to meet our increasing power demands.

Dii a unique private industry joint venture, with the aim of exporting power to Europe have taken the perspective that the on-going transitions may perhaps delay their work temporarily, but they remain confident that it will not have any negative impact on the joint ambition to contribute to long-term prosperity by making better use of sustainable energy from the deserts.

Quite the contrary, they are convinced that the significance of large-scale renewable development for the local population and for export to EU will even grow, regardless of the political scenario. Desertec is also about the development of new industries in MENA, about investments, the creation of jobs and the transfer of knowledge and know-how.

Paul van Son, CEO of Dii will be speaking more about this at MENASOL 2011 taking place 4-5 May in Morocco. This is a key event in the solar calendar as senior level executives attend to gain critical market intelligence on the region and network with government officials and industrial heavyweights.

Heidi Hafes, Event Director of MENASOL 2011 said ‘We are daily communication with the CSP and PV industry and are acutely aware of the lucrative opportunities the North Africa and Middle East region presents these companies. That is why MENASOL 2011 remains an important forum that facilitates valuable business knowledge and making important connections. We are pleased to say that the some of the delegates already confirmed include ABB, Siemens, Abengoa, Applied Materials, Dow, Alstom, Areva, BP Solar, Schott Solar, Total, Taqa Arabia, which illustrate the point that solar in this region continues to be important to their business and is being pursed.

Does the UN have the answers?

The UNESCO Regional Cairo Bureau has been an active player promoting the adoption of alternative energy in the MENA region. Dr Nazar Hassan, Deputy Director of the UNESCO Regional Cairo Bureau has been working on a strategy that benefits both the nations within MENA, and the industry heavyweights that can serve the energy demand and contribute to the local economy.

One great resource that can stimulate growth and create the required dynamic societies is the Arab youth (about 30% of the Arab population), but only if they are well-educated and properly employed. But as we have seen the current “inability of Arab governments to provide the young with relevant employment after schooling or university education has resulted in regional social upheaval.

This has been a contributing factor to UNESCO’s proposal for a regional initiative that addresses regional technological advancement and technology transfer through a North-South Cooperation.

The European community have a lot to benefit from this initiative as it provides new opportunities to the European solar industry as they can become actively engaged in the growth of the commercial solar market. Dr Nazar Hassan (UNESCO, Cairo) will be presenting this initiative as a guest speaker at MENASOL 2011’s webinar taking place 6 April at 3.30 EET.

Dr Nazar Hassan will address the main ways the solar industry can drive the solar market forwards, including: technology knowledge transfer, utilising local resources, and exporting power to Europe (DESERTEC, MEDGRID and MSP).

For additional information:

MENASOL 2011

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