In the MENA region, renewables and legitimacy in post-conflict states would at this conjecture not necessarily be top of any country’s governance agenda. Ali Ahmad , Director, Energy Policy and Security Program, having his own thoughts, wrote this article published on August 14 apart from giving us a positive feel about the Middle East and North Africa and all that is happening there has the merit to elaborate on the region’s ambition to remain at the forefront of energy resource world supplies. As put by Laura El-Katiri in The Oxford Institute of Energy Studies the region is home to more than half of the world’s crude oil and more than a third of its natural gas reserves, the MENA region has, for the past fifty years, gained enormous significance as a global producer and exporter of energy. The MENA region is already a major energy consumer, and is forecast to continue to account, alongside Asia, for the majority of the world’s energy demand growth well into the 2030s; placing domestic energy policies at the heart of the region’s economic agendas for the coming decades . . .
Let me get this straight, I am a big fan of renewables. But I question their role in the energy planning of post-conflict and fragile states in the Middle East.
Renewables will play a key role in reshaping energy policies across the region, sooner than later. When it comes to the immediate needs of post-conflict Syria, Yemen or Libya, however, how relevant will renewables be?
When the dust of war settles, Syria’s would have likely lost a significant part of its electricity infrastructure. In the early days of the conflict, Syria’s low and medium voltage grids were a main target. As the fighting progressed, generation capacity started to diminish due to loss of fuel (mainly natural gas) and direct attacks on power plants such as the 1000 megawatt steam turbine plant in Aleppo.
For the country’s first post-war government, one of the major priorities (and challenges) is to reconnect the public to a reliable electricity grid. The urgent need for delivering basic services such as electricity and water goes far beyond responding to a humanitarian crisis or inducing growth after many years of economic stagnation. It is a means for regaining legitimacy. Ensuring the flow of electric current in home appliances would be associated with an able government that is going to turn things around. It would be seen as a glimpse of hope.
I see the integration of utility-scale renewable energy systems in post-conflict energy planning to be more of an aspirational target rather than a realistic one. Since the priority will be to gain legitimacy at the lowest financial and political cost possible, governments and donors will likely favor the path of least resistance, i.e. repair or rebuild existing fossil fuel power plants.
Of course, small-scale, distributed renewables would still make a difference in off-grid areas as it is the case in many regions across the world. But let’s not also forget that a number of factors would normally shape the rebuilding of the energy sector post-conflict. These factors include the level of destruction of existing energy infrastructure, existence of oil and gas reserves, tribal interests, donors’ interests, geopolitics, etc.
Renewables will have a future in war-torn states in the Middle East. I just think this future has to wait until peace and legitimacy are restored.