Seesawing energy prices renew demand for solar in North Africa

Climate change ambitions announced by the governments of Egypt and Morocco are symptomatic of a desire for clean power sites with regional policymakers leaning towards auction-set payments for clean power, according to a recent webinar.

Volatile fossil-fuel based energy prices have given governments in North Africa a stronger appetite for renewable energy, a webinar on solar prospects in the region has heard.

Ashraf Kraidy, director for planning and technical projects at the Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE) told a recent online event: “If we look at the energy market worldwide, we can see how oil and gas prices are fluctuating and going up. This gives investment opportunities for renewable energy. Renewable investments have stable prices in terms of electricity production.”

Kraidy, representing the not-for-profit organization set up in 2008 to promote clean energy and energy efficiency across the Arab world, pointed to recent climate change goals set by the governments of Egypt and Morocco, with the former aiming for 42% of its power to come from renewables by 2035 and the latter 52% by 2040.

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With the event focusing on solar industry prospects in Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, and Morocco, Kraidy said most of the region’s governments are moving towards auction bidding to determine the level of subsidy paid for clean power generation.

The RCREEE representative said utility scale solar plants dominate the regional PV market and he emphasized the need for smaller, rooftop arrays in North Africa.

Egypt dominates the region’s solar industry, with 1.6GW of generation capacity, double the level installed in Morocco, with Algeria boasting around 500MW of solar, Tunisia 200MW and Libya just 20MW.

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Those figures could rise, said Kraidy, in response to burgeoning demand and plenty of interest from investors, including donor entities.

“We can see investment opportunities in the region with a lot of donors willing to support the development of renewable energies,” said Kraidy. “Various financing facilities have been announced, with competitive prices. The governments in the region have set policies that enable investment to grow. We have witnessed large investment and multinational companies are landing in North Africa to work in the field of renewable energy, with solar energy being on top.”

Obstacles remain, however, as Fahmi Chine – North Africa sales manager for Chinese solar manufacturer JA Solar pointed out. With political instability and conflict between traditional, state-owned utilities and independent generators deterring some investors, Chine pointed out regulatory bodies could help address some of the problems present in the region.

The online event was held in partnership with Chinese inverter maker Solis.

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