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Zeenat Ganie wondering Why the MENA region is sorely lagging behind in RE growth in ESI Africa of today could not find better than “The MENA […] is home to geopolitical tensions, global interests and a wide variety of multifaceted contexts. […] Untapping MENA’s renewable energy potential will be crucial to equip the region with the right tools to face these challenges.”

In a new study, RES4Africa and Enel Green Power address the reason why only 1% of the global renewable energy (RE) growth occurred in the MENA region over the last decade.

The Middle East and Northern Africa region reached just 1% of global RE capacity addition in the last 10 years, despite remarkable potential in renewables generation. To examine the situation and propose targeted solutions, RES4Africa Foundation in collaboration with Enel Green Power launched its new study Connecting the Dots, 10 Years of Renewable Energy in MENA: What Has (not) Happened? The analysis was presented during the homonymous virtual event.

“Connecting the Dots” is a series of studies aimed at unveiling insights into the renewable energy sector in high-potential regions. The last analysis focused on the main features of MENA, examining them against three dimensions:

– what has happened in the last 10 years,
– what limited the growth of RE sources, and
– what would be needed to achieve a full energy transition.

The MENA region has seen major changes in the last 10 years, but not always for the best. Climate change is tangibly affecting the region (droughts, rise in the sea level, increasing migration) as well as worrying temperature rises. Moreover, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the outputs of the region shrank by 3.9% and the youth unemployment rate has seen a remarkable increase of up to 27%.

The worsening environmental and economic situation is not matched by a proper development of renewables. In the region, more than 90% of electricity still comes from fossil fuels, with per capita emissions among the highest in the world. Despite wind and solar having reached 36% of RE capacity in the last decade, further clues of unevenness can be traced: just five countries out of 19 (Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Jordan and Israel) accounted for more than 80% of the additional solar and wind capacity.

The study identifies the main obstacles to full development and growth of RE in the region.

The regulatory and policy framework, with a few exceptions, is still far from meeting its goals and from showing adequate standards of openness, attractiveness and readiness. Additionally, the power sector is still affected by a lack of sufficient cross-border trading as well as frequent outages and a quasi-fiscal deficit of utilities, the latter costing up to 4% of the GDP.

The key actions identified by the analysis highlight the need to diversify the energy mix and to formulate clear energy transition plans. According to the analysis, targeted reforms should also be implemented in order to move away from highly subsidised and distorted fossil fuel-based markets while reducing the inefficiencies of utilities, supporting the creation of independent regulatory authorities and the implementation of transparent tender procedures.

President of RES4Africa Foundation and CEO of Enel Green Power, Salvatore Bernabei said: “Unleashing MENA’s green capability can be a driving force for a sustainable socio-economic development. Joining efforts for a more sustainable and prosperous future for all can therefore promote dialogue and mitigate the already tangible effects of climate change”.

Secretary-General of RES4Africa Foundation, Roberto Vigotti added: “The MENA […] is home to geopolitical tensions, global interests and a wide variety of multifaceted contexts. […] Untapping MENA’s renewable energy potential will be crucial to equip the region with the right tools to face these challenges.”

Access the report: Connecting the Dots, 10 Years of Renewable Energy in MENA: What Has (not) Happened?

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