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This Emerging Economy Bets Big On Solar

This Emerging Economy Bets Big On Solar

Put simply, Asia is the main source of solar technology and demand for it seems to be however tumbling everywhere as confined resistance to the pandemic is hampering its dynamics. It remains that all renewables account for something like 26 percent of all capacity expansion in the Middle East region. As an exception amongst the most engaged would be Egypt. This emerging economy bets big on Solar as elaborated on by Oxford Business Group could be indicative of all that is happening nowadays.

This Emerging Economy Bets Big On Solar


April 06, 2020

Egypt’s total of 1173 recorded Covid-19 cases and 78 deaths, as of April 5, places Africa’s third-most populous country significantly below the global per capita averages for both counts as the pandemic continues to disrupt the global economy.

However, as a result of the sharp growth in international cases and the gradual closing of national borders, in mid-March the government decided to implement travel restrictions.

Egyptian airports were closed to international flights on March 19 for an initial period of two weeks. This shutdown has since been extended to internal flights and will last until at least April 15. 

Additionally, on March 25 the government announced a two-week curfew from 7pm to 6am, while pharmacies and food shops will be the only retail establishments allowed to open on weekends and past 5pm on weekdays. Restaurants may only open for deliveries.

Pre-emptive economic stimulus

As the potential economic fallout of the pandemic began to become clear, on March 22 President Abdel Fattah El Sisi announced a comprehensive LE100bn ($6.4bn) package of measures. This included a LE22bn ($1.4bn) stimulus to support the Egyptian Exchange, which should also benefit from a 50% reduction in taxes on the dividends of listed companies.

In addition, the Central Bank of Egypt announced a 3% interest rate cut in what it described as a “pre-emptive move” to support the wider economy.

In a further bid to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on key sectors, the government has committed to support exporters by allocating LE1bn ($63.5m) for export subsidies during March and April, and will furthermore postpone tax payments for three months on facilities and properties occupied by tourism companies.

Energy prices cut

Following the country’s IMF-backed reforms beginning in 2016, energy subsidies have been gradually removed, resulting in a projected price rise for both households and businesses into 2020.

However, in a bid to offset the impact of the pandemic on industrial output, on March 17 the government announced that the price of gas for industrial providers would be reduced from $5.50 to $4.50 per 1m British thermal units.

As part of the same package of measures, the government also announced that the price of electricity would be reduced for heavy industry consumption, from LE1.10 ($0.07) to LE0.10 ($0.006) per KWh. For other industries, the price is to be kept stable for between three and five years.

Boosting solar capacity

Against the current backdrop of challenging economic circumstances, on April 1 it was announced that the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) would provide funding for six new solar power plants at Benban Solar Park in the Aswan Governorate in Upper Egypt, one of the largest such installations in Africa.

The amount is guaranteed against the risk of currency inconvertibility and transfer restriction for up to 15 years. It is part of Egypt’s solar feed-in-tariff programme, which provides long-term contracts to private energy companies with a view to generating investment in renewable sources.       

“In the face of uncertainty arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, MIGA remains committed to helping drive foreign direct investment (FDI) by supporting investors who are helping Egypt achieve its long-term goals of diversifying its energy mix,” Hiroshi Matano, executive vice-president of MIGA, said in a statement.

While the pandemic has caused a number of delays for the renewables segment, notably the postponement of the construction of four solar plants by domestic firm Inter Solar Egypt, the future bodes well for the expansion of the industry.

“In the current uncertain economic environment, solar energy has become popular, as it can be produced up to 80% more cheaply than other sources,” Yaseen Abdel-Ghaffar, Managing Director of SolarizEgypt and board member of The Solar Company, told OBG. “Although it was initially difficult to secure FDI for projects, banks are becoming increasingly receptive to renewables and a growth in financing is expected after regular economic conditions are re-established.”

By Oxford Business Group

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Solar O&M outfit ‘boosts’ Jordan project output

Solar O&M outfit ‘boosts’ Jordan project output

reNEWS Solar reports on 2 April 2020 that Alectris, MASE work together to automate asset management activity with the Solar O&M outfit ‘boosts’ Jordan project output. As reported countless times, Solar is gaining traction in MENA region. And this story is not the last one.

Alectris is a global service provider for the integrated care of solar photovoltaic (PV) energy assets and MASE, (Modern Arabia for Solar Energy), was established by the Arabia Group of Companies, to lead clean energy development in Jordan and the MENA+GCC region. 


Solar operations and maintenance company Alectris has completed a project to automate asset management activity at a photovoltaic plant in Jordan.

Alectris implemented the initiative at the 11.5MW facility with MASE, a solar O&M provider in the Middle East.

The partnership between Alectris and MASE aims to automate and standardise asset management activity across new solar projects in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

As solar development has increased in the MENA region, O&M and asset management has “struggled to keep pace”, limiting long-term productivity prospects, said Alectris.

The partnership began in 2016 with MASE responsible for field operations and maintenance services on location, while Alectris provided operations and “legacy expertise” in global asset care.

“Working together, both businesses successfully improved the bankability of the project, which was financed by key development finance institutions operating across the region,” said Alectris.

The initiative involved the integration of Alectris’ ACTIS software platform for solar PV plant asset management, with all data monitoring streams gathered under the single platform to “improve oversight” into project activity.

Alectris managing director Vassilis Papaeconomou said: “Solar development in the MENA region offers a significant opportunity to invest in clean energy projects.

“But if this market momentum is to be maintained, it is imperative that operating plants offer security and stability of financial returns. By partnering with MASE, we’ve been jointly able to combine the latest in asset management software with leading experience in services activity.

“This will ensure that project owners and investors benefit from enhanced and efficient performance reporting and operational management, saving time, reducing costs and ensuring the plant delivers at its optimum. As a result, the plant delivered above expectations with an excellent performance ratio and availability close to 100% over the last three years.”

MASE chief executive Tareq Khalifeh added: “Throughout this collaboration, Alectris have proved to be reliable, dedicated and experienced with a wealth of knowledge that has been indispensable when working in an exciting but challenging market.”

A new low-cost solar technology for environmental cooling

A new low-cost solar technology for environmental cooling

A new low-cost solar technology for environmental cooling developed in Politecnico di Torino, Italy could bring some advantages in this day and age; especially in the MENA region.


Space cooling and heating is a common need in most inhabited areas. In Europe, the energy consumed for air conditioning is rising, and the situation could get worse in the near future due to the temperature increase in different regions worldwide. The increasing cooling need in buildings especially during the summer season is satisfied by the popular air conditioners, which often make use of refrigerants with high environmental impact and also lead to high electricity consumption. So, how can we reduce the energy demand for building cooling?

A new study comes from a research group based at the Politecnico di Torino (SMaLL) and the National Institute of Metrological Research (INRiM), who has proposed a device capable of generating a cooling load without the use of electricity: the research has been published in Science Advances*. Like more traditional cooling devices, this new technology also exploits the evaporation of a liquid. However, the key idea proposed by the Turin researchers is to use simple water and common salt instead of chemicals that are potentially harmful for the environment. The environmental impact of the new device is also reduced because it is based on passive phenomena, i.e. spontaneous processes such as capillarity or evaporation, instead of on pumps and compressors that require energy and maintenance.

“Cooling by water evaporation has always been known. As an example, Nature makes use of sweat evaporation from the skin to cool down our body. However, this strategy is effective as long as air is not saturated with water vapour. Our idea was to come up with a low-cost technology capable to maximize the cooling effect regardless of the external water vapour conditions. Instead of being exposed to air, pure water is in contact with an impermeable membrane that keeps separated from a highly concentrated salty solution. The membrane can be imagined as a porous sieve with pore size in the order of one millionth of a meter. Owing to its water-repellent properties, our membrane liquid water does not pass through the membrane, whereas its vapour does. In this way, the fresh and salt water do not mix, while a constant water vapour flux occurs from one end of the membrane to the other. As a result, pure water gets cooled, with this effect being further amplified thanks to the presence of different evaporation stages. Clearly, the salty water concentration will constantly decrease and the cooling effect will diminish over time; however, the difference in salinity between the two solutions can be continuously – and sustainably – restored using solar energy, as also demonstrated in another recent study from our group**”, explains Matteo Alberghini, PhD student of the Energy Department of the Politecnico di Torino and first author of the research.

The interesting feature of the suggested device consists in its modular design made of cooling units, a few centimetres thick each, that can be stacked in series to increase the cooling effect in series, as happens with common batteries. In this way it is possible to finely tune the cooling power according to individual needs, possibly reaching cooling capacity comparable to those typically necessary for domestic use. Furthermore, water and salt do not need pumps or other auxiliaries to be transported within the device. On the contrary, it “moves” spontaneously thanks to capillary effects of some components which, like in kitchen paper, are capable of absorbing and transporting water also against gravity.

“Other technologies for passive cooling are also being tested in various labs and research centres worldwide, such as those based on infrared heat dissipation into the outer space – also known as radiative passive cooling. Those approaches, although promising and suitable for some applications, also present major limitations: the principle on which they are based may be ineffective in tropical climates and in general on very humid days, when, however, the need for conditioning would still be high; moreover, there is a theoretical limit for the maximum cooling power. Our passive prototype, based instead on evaporative cooling between two aqueous solutions with different salinities, could overcome this limit, creating a useful effect independent of external humidity. Moreover, we could obtain an even higher cooling capacity in the future by increasing the concentration of the saline solution or by resorting to a more sophisticated modular design of the device” commented the researchers.

Also due to the simplicity of the device assembly and the required materials, a rather low production cost can be envisioned, in the order of a few euros for each cooling stage. As such, the device could be ideal for installations in rural areas, where the possible lack of well-trained technicians can make operation and maintenance of traditional cooling systems difficult. Interesting applications can also be envisioned in regions with large availability in water with high saline concentration, such as coastal regions in the vicinity of large desalination plants or nearby salt marshes and salt mines.

As of now, the technology is not yet ready for an immediate commercial exploitation, and further developments (also subject to future funding or industrial partnerships) are necessary. In perspective, this technology could be used in combination with existing and more traditional cooling systems for effectively implementing energy saving strategies.

###

[*] Matteo Alberghini, Matteo Morciano, Matteo Fasano, Fabio Bertiglia, Vito Fernicola, Pietro Asinari, Eliodoro Chiavazzo. Multistage and passive cooling process driven by salinity difference, SCIENCE ADVANCES (2020), URL: https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/11/eaax5015

[**] Eliodoro Chiavazzo, Matteo Morciano, Francesca Viglino, Matteo Fasano, Pietro Asinari, Passive solar high-yield seawater desalination by modular and low-cost distillation, NATURE SUSTAINABILITY (2018), URL: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-018-0186-x

UAE best-positioned in GCC to absorb oil shock

UAE best-positioned in GCC to absorb oil shock

Following the recent oil price collapse, risks of a political and financial storm for MENA producers can easily be imagined but here is Waheed Abbas, Dubai, March 18, 2020, with his UAE best-positioned in GCC to absorb oil shock.


Nation will be able to finance current account deficit for 35 years even with prices this low


UAE best-positioned in GCC to absorb oil shock
Oil prices have plummeted over the last few weeks, with Brent dropping 45 per cent in the past month.
(Reuters file)

The UAE is best-positioned among GCC economies to weather the decline in oil prices as it can finance its current account deficit longer than any of its regional peers, says a new report.

According to Capital Economics, the UAE can finance its current account deficit for 35 years if oil prices stay at $25 a barrel. Kuwait comes second followed by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman.

“In the four largest Gulf economies – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar – current account deficits could be financed through a drawdown of large foreign exchange savings for a considerable amount of time. Saudi Arabia could do so for around a decade and the other three countries for even longer,” said Jason Tuvey, senior emerging markets economist at

Capital Economics. The report said the UAE still runs a current account surplus at $30 a barrel.

Brent crude was trading down $3.37, or 12 per cent, at $25.35 a barrel by 1720GMT after dropping as low as $25.23, its weakest since 2003. US crude was down $5.19, or 19 per cent, at $21.76. The session low was the lowest since March 2002.

Data showed that UAE-based sovereign wealth funds held over $1.21 trillion worth of assets in August 2019 compared to $825.76 billion by Saudi Arabia, $592 billion by Kuwait, $320 billion by Qatar and $22.14 billion by Kuwait.

Oil prices have plummeted over the last few weeks, firstly due to coronavirus and then the collapse of Opec+ talks on production cuts. Brent has dropped 45 per cent in the past month from $57.60 a barrel on February 17 to $31.60 on March 17.

Tuvey noted that large foreign exchange savings provide substantial buffers and the likes of Bahrain and Oman, which are most vulnerable to a period of low oil prices, and can probably rely on financial support from their neighbours to avert devaluations.

He said dollar pegs in Bahrain and Oman are more vulnerable, with foreign exchange savings only able to cover current account shortfalls for a couple of years at most. Bahrain secured a $10 billion financing package from its neighbours in mid-2018.

In recent days, GCC governments have stepped up fiscal support in order to mitigate the economic hit from efforts to contain the virus. “If oil prices stay low even after the virus fears have subsided, austerity will come on to the agenda and this means that an eventual recovery in non-oil sectors will be slow-going,” he said.

Khatija Haque, head of Mena research at Emirates NBD, has said that the UAE posted a budget surplus of Dh37 billion ($10 billion) in 2019 and is well-positioned to withstand lower oil prices in 2020.

“If we strip out volatile oil revenues, we estimate the UAE’s non-oil budget deficit narrowed to just under 20 per cent of non-oil GDP, down from 27 per cent of non-oil GDP in 2015, and pointing to a tightening of fiscal policy in recent years,” Haque said.

Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, said the sharp fall in oil prices and the outlook for a price war adds significant downside risks to the economic outlooks of GCC countries.

“We estimate that all GCC countries will realise a significant fiscal deficit at the current oil price of $37 per barrel, with Oman and Saudi Arabia seeing particularly significant shortfalls relative to GDP. A weaker oil revenue backdrop will require a meaningful pull-back in government spending, as was the case in 2015 and 2016, to limit the size of the fiscal deficit,” Malik said.

She sees a forecasted increase in output from Saudi and Russia and the changing dynamics of oil market fundamentals will likely bolster global oil stocks significantly in 2020. A number of oil-importing countries are also likely to accumulate inventories at the current low price levels, which in turn would lower oil demand during second-half of 2020.

Furthermore, the outlook for inventories beyond 2020 will depend on global demand and coronavirus-related developments in the coming months, she added.

Edward Bell, commodity analyst at Emirates NBD Research, has said that dust has not entirely settled yet caused by travel restrictions and lockdowns due to coronavirus.

– waheedabbas@khaleejtimes.com

Why do Arabs dream of leaving their homelands?

Why do Arabs dream of leaving their homelands?

A popular question these days more than ever before would be “Why do Arabs dream of leaving their homelands?“. The answer could be something to do with their environment, climate and internet networking.


High unemployment rates, oppressive regimes and a desire for better education are some of the reasons cited by Arabs who express a desire to leave their countries.

The Arab world has seen a lot of its youth move in search of better opportunities for employment, freedom of expression, in addition to escaping from social and cultural norms they find oppressive.

According to an August 2019 poll by the Arab Barometer company, titled “Youth in the Middle East and North Africa,” the daily living situation in the region is far from ideal.

Noting that youth between the ages of 15 to 29 comprise about 30 percent of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries, the Arab Barometer finds a significant number of them dissatisfied with their economic prospects.

They are also not happy with the education system. Moreover, “less than half say the right to freedom of expression is guaranteed”. Then there’s the high unemployment rates and widespread corruption.

This is why, Arab Barometer suggests, youth in the MENA region are more likely to consider emigrating from their country than older residents. The preferred destinations are varied, including Europe, North America, or the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

Another survey by Arab Barometer, titled “Migration in the Middle East and North Africa,” published in June 2019, notes that across the region, “roughly one-in-three citizens are considering emigrating from their homeland.”

The surveys were conducted with more than 27,000 respondents in the MENA region between September 2018 and May 2019 in face-to-face interviews.

According to the Arab Barometer’s findings, there had been a decrease in people considering emigrating from 2006 to 2016. Yet since 2016, the trend is no longer in decline but has shown an increase “across the region as a whole.”

The Arab Barometer finds that citizens are “more likely to want to leave” if they are young, well educated and male. The survey has found more than half of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 in five of the 11 countries surveyed want to leave.

While older potential migrants are more likely to cite economic factors as the primary decision, the survey suggests, younger ones “are more likely to name corruption, for example.”

As for the desired destination countries, they vary according to the homeland of potential migrants. Among those living in the Maghreb countries of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, Europe is the favoured destination. 

Whereas migrants from Egypt, Yemen and Sudan point towards Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. The survey has also found that those from Jordan or Lebanon prefer North America, notably the US or Canada.

The survey also notes that while most would only depart if they had the proper paperwork, young males with lower levels of education who may not see a positive future in their homeland have said they would be willing to migrate illegally, “including roughly four-in-ten in six of the 11 countries surveyed.”

In a blog post for Unesco’s Youth Employment in the Mediterranean (YEM) published in January 2020, Sabrina Ferraz Guarino observes that “Migration is a coping mechanism based on the assumption that moving to another country is the best and most efficient investment for their own and one’s family future” and that improving people’s lives in their home countries will likely result in less desire to migrate.

Guarino says the unemployment rates in the Mediterranean region affect youth the most: “Unemployed youth are the highest in Palestine (45%), Libya (42%), Jordan (36.6%) and Tunisia (34.8%), while Morocco (21.9%) and Lebanon (17.6%) fare relatively better.”

She adds: “Viewing this together with the share of the youth that is not in education, employment or training (NEET), reveals how the challenges of youth employment remain self-compounding. The youth NEET rates tally around 14% in Lebanon and 21% for Algeria, but progressively increase across Tunisia (25%), Jordan (28%), Morocco (28%), and Palestine (33%).”

In its MENA report published in October 2019, the World Bank says growth rates across the region are rising but are still below “what is needed to create more jobs for the region’s fast-growing working-age population.” 

The World Bank recommends reforms “to demonopolise domestic markets and open up regional trade to create more export-led growth.” Source: TRT World

Related:

The Most Severe Threat Facing MENA

The Most Severe Threat Facing MENA

Nabil Fahmy in The Most Severe Threat Facing MENA, this Winter 2020, looks at all imponderable issues that the region faces to its water supply. The author failed, however, to invoke anything about the works that are underway of 22 dams upstream on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.


Water scarcity is one of the most pressing issues facing the international community today and has gained widespread attention recently due to the rise in global temperatures and the increase in water consumption in a number of countries, especially those in the Middle East. Despite these concerns, many nations remain unprepared to confront water scarcity and continue to fail to make the issue a political priority.

The shortage of water in the Middle East has worsened in the modern era due to high population growth rates, urbanization and the expansion of cities, the low price of water, and inefficient water management. These factors have created an unstable—and extremely dangerous—situation, which will impact the availability of water and risk exacerbating tensions between countries in the region.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) will be among the regions most impacted by global warming in the twenty-first century through a heightened risk of drought and flood, which will reduce agricultural productivity, impact food stocks, and harm the most disadvantaged of the population.

About 5 percent of the world’s population lives in the MENA region, which contains only 1 percent of the world’s renewable fresh water. Water was available to citizens at an annual rate of 819.8 cubic meters per capita as recently as a few years ago, which is more than 25 percent less than the global average. Meanwhile, 60 percent of the region’s population lives in areas suffering from surface water shortages, while the global average stands at about 35 percent. Despite the region’s scarcity of water, MENA has the world’s lowest water tariffs and the highest percentage of GDP spent on water subsidies. This has led to irrational use of water resources and over-pumping of non­renewable groundwater. These are striking examples of both poor water management and the region’s lack of appreciation of the urgency of this issue.

Groundwater, large transboundary rivers, and desalination represent the main sources of water in the region, according to a report from the World Bank. These sources are all either points of dispute between countries in the region, threatened by excessive use, or too costly to develop. As a result, the countries of the Middle East continue to suffer from an acute lack of water security, which is defined as “the availability of an acceptable quantity and quality of water for health, livelihoods, ecosystems and production, coupled with an acceptable level of water-related risks to people, environments and economies.” In other words, achieving water security is not limited to maintaining high water reserves, but also involves taking into account productive and preventive initiatives to deal with water needs and related issues. Countries that underestimate the importance of water security are squandering opportunities for economic, political, and social prosperity for their citizens.

This is because water security is directly linked to food security, energy, and irrigation inefficiency. The lack of available water impacts agricultural land and leads to an excessive dependence on food imports to meet the demands of the population. The countries of the Arab World import between 30 and 35 percent of their food resources. Egypt and China are among the largest importers of wheat in the world, despite the fact that China’s population is ten times larger. The higher the national dependence on basic food imports, the greater the risk associated with turmoil in global markets. In this way, protecting national security and achieving stability becomes difficult if water and food security needs are not addressed.

This is not exaggeration or fear mongering, but rather a warning about one of the most severe threats facing the MENA region—I do not rule out the possibility of this becoming a cause or justification for conflict—and a call for leaders to change policies. Policymakers can reach a solution to this crisis if there is political will.

For example, irrigation efficiency in the MENA region hovers at 50 percent, but if efficiency was raised to 70 percent through changes to policies and practices, huge benefits could be achieved. These include providing fifty billion cubic meters of water to the Middle East annually, which would allow countries to significantly increase grain production and work to find more sustainable ways to conserve water and produce food.

Water scarcity is a possible precursor to regional and potentially international conflict, and preemptive action must be taken to prevent this. Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan have been embroiled in a dispute related to water security and are striving to reach a consensual agreement in this regard that is both sustainable and implementable. The Nile River provides Egypt with 75 percent of its water needs, which are set to increase given population growth rates, and issues related to water security in the country are set to worsen. Ethiopia will soon begin the process of filling a lake connected to the Renaissance Dam, which is part of the largest hydroelectric power station in Africa. Egyptian anxiety and frustration at the slow pace of negotiations and the failure of talks thus far are made clear in Egypt’s public statements and talk about “red lines,” as well as in its seeking to call an international mediator to help resolve the dispute.

Another potential regional conflict lies in water disputes between Palestine and Israel, even if the political conflict is resolved, which remains unlikely. Israel controls the head of the Jordan River, which restricts access to water for Palestinians, and aquifers are also under the control of the Israeli government. This leaves Palestinians with a limited amount of water. United Nations Development Programme reports indicate that Palestinians have access to about three hundred million cubic meters of water annually, while Israelis enjoy about two thousand million cubic meters. Such a disproportionate and inequitable allocation of water resources sows the seeds of future conflict.

A sensitive and potentially dangerous issue like water insecurity in the MENA region requires sincere analysis and an honest warning about its possible impacts. If politicians, scientists, and economists work together to address water insecurity rather than ignoring the issue, we can prevent possible conflict over access to water in the region.

Translated by Madeleine Hall

Water Scarcity is a Security Risk for the Middle East

Water Scarcity is a Security Risk for the Middle East

As Water is essential for agricultural production and food security, the world over, this is acutely felt in the MENA region. And yet, in the desert of Dubai, salmon farming thrives, hence the picture above. And if that is not enough, Why water scarcity is a security risk for the Middle East dated March 1, 2020, by Jumana Khamis who tells us how:

  • The probability that water scarcity will lead to conflict in the region is 8 percent, says study
  • Water scarcity is more likely to stoke internal unrest than trigger cross-border wars
Turkey’s 1,200-megawatt Ilisu Dam on the Tigris River in southeastern Anatolia, located 30 kilometers north of the Turkish border with Syria, has been a cause of conflict with Syria and Iraq. (AFP file photo)

DUBAI: In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, access to freshwater is a perennial quest.

Most countries have a limited supply of the precious resource, which is also under severe stress due to arid conditions, population growth, poor infrastructure and overexploitation. 

Large expanses of MENA are hot and dry, with only two percent covered by wetlands, so water supply is poor to begin with. To compound the problem, countries are placing increased demands on their limited supplies.

Against this backdrop, a report conducted jointly by Good Judgement, a geopolitical and geo-economic forecasting entity, and the Dubai-based Arab Strategy Forum has tried to find out if water scarcity would heighten future security risks in the region.

The study, which looked at 11 global megatrends and forecasts for the next decade, presented findings by a group of “superforecasters” from around the world, who have proven to be “30 percent more accurate than 4,300 members of the US intelligence community.”

According to the research, the overall probability that water scarcity would act as a pivot point in one or more regional conflicts over the next 10 years was fairly small, at 8 percent.

Kerry Anderson, a political risk consultant, says water concerns in the MENA region are more likely to stoke internal civil unrest and “exacerbate” other issues than cause cross-border conflict.

Describing water scarcity as potentially a “contributing factor in the escalation of hostilities” regionally, the Good Judgement report put the likelihood of a conflict between Jordan and Israel at only 1 percent.

The chances of war between Turkey and Iraq or Egypt and Ethiopia were both put at 3 percent, although the latter was considered to be among the more probable ones.

“(While) Egypt against Ethiopia is the only case where a more powerful downstream country may lose water, the report never says that a conflict may emerge considering the significant drought and deteriorating economic situation in Egypt,” Anderson told Arab News.

With regard to the tensions between Turkey, Iraq and Syria, Anderson said water disputes were unlikely to be the cause of any future conflict involving the three countries.

“Iraq’s government and military are not currently capable of launching the type of war against Turkey that would be necessary to force Turkey to change its policies,” she added.

Anderson also points out that objections by Jordan and Iraq, to what they see as disproportionate extraction of water from shared resources respectively by Israel and Turkey, are unlikely to escalate into a conflict.

“The risk of a war over competing claims might be low, but the risk of water shortages and disputes contributing to political instability, protest movements and economic challenges is far greater.”

For instance, rural families could be forced to leave unproductive farms and migrate to cities, which would contribute to increased social pressures on communities. In combination with corruption, water scarcity could worsen “inequalities,” fueling unrest, Anderson said.

The risks for MENA countries due to water scarcity cannot be overstated. A report released last year by the World Resources Institute (WRI) said 12 of the 17 most water-stressed countries in the world were located in the MENA region.

In the WRI’s “Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas,” Qatar was ranked first, followed by Israel, Lebanon, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Oman.

The scale of the challenge facing MENA governments can be gauged from the fact that in 2017, 17 out of 22 Arab League nations had more than half their populations living in urban areas.

Regional experts say the growth of urban areas in MENA countries is inevitable given that rural living was nearly impossible on arid land with marginal environments that could barely support subsistence agriculture.

The combination of increasing populations, especially in the cities, new municipalities and industrial units, rising living standards, and maintenance or expansion of irrigation systems, was putting additional pressure every year on already water-stressed countries.

In the past, the increasing demand on a limited supply of water had sparked strife, but in the future the same phenomenon could be a trigger for more migration and social unrest, according to Middle East observers.

Protests linked to water have repeatedly broken out in Iraq and Iran, and some experts have linked the Arab Spring uprisings to instability caused by droughts and heatwaves.

“There is substantial evidence that extreme, prolonged drought contributed to the causes of the Syrian civil war, partly by prompting a migration from rural areas to cities,” Anderson said.

Waleed Zubari, coordinator of the water resources management program at the College of Graduate Studies in Manama, Bahrain, said close to 1 million people were affected by an extended drought in northeastern Syria between 2006 and 2009.

This mass displacement of people from their farms in search of refuge in cities contributed to the conditions that led to the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, Zubari added.

Competition for scarce water resources exist in Palestine as well, he said, noting that Israel had exercised full control over water resources in the West Bank since 1967, including supplies from the Jordan River and mountain aquifers.

Darfur in western Sudan was another example, according to Zubari, where climate variability, water scarcity and loss of fertile land aggravated the region’s political problems, caused by ethnic tensions, to spark protracted civil war.

“Water is increasingly becoming an additional source of tension in an already unstable region,” he said, pointing out that it was now a national security priority for many Arab countries.

Given that 60 percent of the Middle East’s surface water originates from outside the region and almost all water basins are shared, the lack of management and planning in the distribution of these resources was likely to remain a source of political tensions.

Even so, Zubari added, water scarcity was an unlikely determinant of conflict in the Arab region if the past was any guide. “History also shows that power asymmetry in favor of the upstream or occupying countries is a major factor in avoiding conflict over water instigated by downstream countries.”

Put simply, even if water stress does not cause wars, across the Arab region factors such as population increase, economic growth and climate change will place ever greater strain on limited water resources and confront policy makers with daunting challenges.

ME buyers surge to third place in the UK’s country house buying

ME buyers surge to third place in the UK’s country house buying

The surge in number of Middle Eastern buyers spending over £5 million on UK property market that translates on the ground as ME buyers surge to third place in the UK’s country house buying. This means the following is probably happening.

The number of the ultra-wealthy individuals seeking a second citizenship is on the rise, and is expected to increase at an even faster rate over the next 10 years.

According to several reports, nearly 60 per cent of applicants for a second citizenship or second residence programmes come from the Middle East.


ME buyers surge to third place in the UK's country house buying

Middle Eastern buyers surge to third place in the UK’s country house £5 million+ buyer rankings, just behind UK and European buyers who maintain their positions in first and second place, according to Knight Frank.

  • Analysis of purchaser data confirms that 2019 saw a tripling in the market share taken by Middle Eastern buyers in the £5 million+ country market compared to their share in 2018
  • This makes them the third largest source of international demand
  • Brexit went official last month, which could cause a shift in spending habits

Middle Eastern buyers surge to third place in the UK’s country house £5 million+ buyer rankings, just behind UK and European buyers who maintain their positions in first and second place, according to Knight Frank. 

Analysis of purchaser data confirms that 2019 saw a tripling in the market share taken by Middle Eastern buyers in the £5 million+ country market compared to their share in 2018, making them the third largest source of international demand. This was followed closely by near doubling in the share of purchases taken by European buyers, who upheld their second place position in the country house buyer rankings.

Although dropping slightly in 2019, UK buyers maintained their position with the largest share of the prime country market responsible for nearly six in ten purchases.

Henry Faun, Head of London International Project Sales at Knight Frank Middle East, said: “The attraction of private education options is particularly significant to Middle Easterners seeking to place their children in the UK education system. Areas in close proximity to London, such as North Surrey, have been extremely popular with Middle Eastern buyers. The many respectable international schools, combined with easy access into London, makes the Surrey area particularly attractive to buyers from the Middle East looking to settle in the UK.”

Rupert Sweeting, Head of National Country Sales at Knight Frank, said: “Although the dip in UK buyers can be explained by the concerns over the general election and Brexit that clouded 2019, international purchasers still consider the UK as politically stable and are confident in the country’s long term growth prospects – despite stamp duty taxes.”

Read: $23 billion worth of hotels to be built in MENA by 2023

Read: Foreigners’ guide to buying property in Dubai

Raising crops in PV facades of buildings

Raising crops in PV facades of buildings

An international research group has analyzed the visual impact of PV facades on buildings which include crop cultivation. Architects, PV specialists and farmers were surveyed and the results showed broad acceptance of such projects. The ‘vertical farming’ survey generated suggestions for the design of productive facades. So here is Raising crops in PV facades of buildings by Emiliano Bellini.


February 19, 2020

An international research team including scientists from Cuba’s Technological University of Havana and the National University of Singapore has investigated the potential of integrating PV facades with ‘vertical farming’ on buildings in densely-populated cities.

According to findings presented in the study Architectural quality of the productive façades integrating photovoltaic and vertical farming systems: Survey among experts in Singapore, published in Frontiers of Architectural Research, there is broad acceptance for projects combining crop cultivation and solar power generation – which the researchers defined as “productive facades (PF)” – despite concerns over architectural integration.

Web survey

The researchers conducted anonymous 10-minute, multiple-choice web surveys in English with 15 questions. The group also provided images of four variants of productive facade, with respondents asked to rate their architectural quality on a scale of one to five.

The questions addressed topics including the visual impact of PV modules and crops, preferences about the arrangement of PV modules and ease of operation for owners and workers. Around 80% of the 97 respondents were architects with the remainder engineers, PV specialists, productive facade experts, horticulturalists, solar facade professionals, consultants and other professionals.

Architectural concerns

The results indicated architects and designers gave low ratings to all four of the designs presented and rated the design of PV installation poor. However, respondents with experience in horticulture, farming and PV facades showed stronger acceptance of building-integrated productive facades. “All groups of experts agree that PFs have the most positive effect on the exterior facade design and have accordingly graded them with higher marks than the designs without PV and VF [vertical farming] systems,” the paper noted.

Concerns were expressed by almost all respondents about the logistics of crop cultivation and irrigation near electronic devices such as the vertical solar modules.

“Several comments recommended exploring more creative designs,” the researchers added.

The lowest rating – 2.84 – was given to a productive facade with only PV modules visible from the inside. The highest mark – 3.9 – was scored by the image in which only plants were visible.

Tips for developers

The study also generated recommendations for the improvement of productive facade prototypes. “It should be noted that the selection of elements for practical application cannot be made based on a single isolated PF element – the entire building should be considered, especially the aesthetic elements of the building envelope, such as composition, proportion, rhythm, transparency, scale, colors and materials,” the researchers stated.

The study’s authors recommended the installation of the PV systems on north and south-facing facades, with ceiling level a preferable location.

Tilt angles of less than 20 degrees were suggested as a better aesthetic solution which would also avoid reflection onto neighboring buildings. “However, a well-designed integration of the PV modules with the planter of the above storey provides additional advantages – it improves the quality of indoor daylight and obstructs the view from inside to a lesser degree,” the study stated.

The researchers added copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) panels were preferred to crystalline silicon modules, due to their more homogeneous structure.

Emiliano Bellini

Emiliano joined pv magazine in March 2017. He has been reporting on solar and renewable energy since 2009.

emiliano.bellini@pv-magazine.com

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Siemens transforms buildings from passive to adaptive

Siemens transforms buildings from passive to adaptive

In a Press Release on 6 February 2020, Siemens transforms buildings from passive to adaptive as elaborated on below.


At this year’s Light+Building trade fair, Siemens will showcase its vision for transforming today’s passive buildings into learning and adaptive environments that intelligently interact with people. The company’s focus at this year’s show is “Building the future today”, outlining the innovations that will make this possible. These include cloud-based technologies, digital planning, occupant-centric building automation and services. New solutions for smart electrical infrastructure that seamlessly connects to the Internet of Things (IoT) are also at the core of this transformation. 

Siemens transforms buildings from passive to adaptive

„Building the future today”: Siemens at Light+Building 2020 in hall 11, booth B56“Around 99 percent of today’s buildings are not smart. Digitalization has the power to transform buildings from silent and passive structures into living organisms that interact, learn from and adapt to the changing needs of occupants. This is a significant leap in the evolution of buildings where our technology plays a vital role,” said Cedrik Neike, Member of the Managing Board of Siemens AG and Chief Executive Officer of Siemens Smart Infrastructure. “This transformation is already becoming a reality. We expect to see the first entirely self-adaptive buildings in three to five years from now.”

Digital solutions for the entire building lifecycle

Globalization, urbanization, climate change, and demographics are changing the way people live and work. At the same time, digitalization is ubiquitous. With some 10 billion building devices already connected to the IoT, buildings are ready to leverage the potential of digitalization. People spend an estimated 90 percent of their lives indoors, so ensuring buildings meet the broad range of individuals’ needs is crucial. On one hand, smart buildings actively contribute to occupants’ enhanced productivity, wellbeing and comfort. For operators and owners, they help them collect and analyze data to create actionable insights, boosting buildings’ performance and therefore revenue.Siemens will showcase the smart buildings suite of IoT enabled devices, applications and services. At the core of the suite is the “Building Twin” application, which will be on display at the booth. It provides a fully digital representation of a physical building, merging static as well as dynamic data from multiple sources into a 3D virtual model. With real-time understanding of how a building is performing, operators can immediately make adjustments to boost efficiency as well as extract data to improve the design of future buildings. One of the new IoT-enabled applications is “Building Operator”, which allows remote monitoring, operation and maintenance of buildings. Available as Software as a Service (SaaS), it provides real-time building data as the basis for predictive and corrective maintenance.

Smart electrical infrastructure

Given that buildings account for more than 40 percent of electricity consumption in cities, building efficiency is crucial in the battle towards decarbonization. Electrical infrastructure lays the foundation for safe, reliable and efficient building operations, while delivering essential data for a holistic, cloud-based building management. This is made possible by communication-capable low-voltage products, power distribution boards and busbar trunking systems that enable the measurement and wireless transmission of energy and status data. To illustrate this, Siemens will exhibit a unique end-to-end solution for cloud-based power monitoring in buildings. Electrical installations can now be supplemented with digital metering without additional space requirements or wiring outlay. This makes it easy for electrical installers to start using digitalization to their benefit. With “Powermanager”, a power monitoring software, now fully integrated into the Desigo CC building management platform, all building and energy data can be managed, monitored and analyzed from one single platform.Siemens will also display its electromobility ecosystem, including battery storage and charging systems for residential buildings. In a parallel show, “Intersec Building 2020”, in hall 9.1, booth B50, the company will exhibit integrated and networked systems for safety and fire protection.  

For further information on Siemens Smart Infrastructure, please see
www.siemens.com/smart-infrastructure

For further information about Siemens at Light+Building 2020, please see
www.siemens.com/press/lightbuilding-2020