How is the GCC’s alternative energy industry faring?
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How is the GCC’s alternative energy industry faring?

How is the GCC’s alternative energy industry faring?

Environmental concerns are propelling the usage of alternative energy for a sustainable future, opines Antonio Cuccarese, business development manager, Metito

The alternative energy industry has grown in the wake of rising environmental concerns. What are the key trends that you’ve seen?
With growing environmental concerns, climate change and extensive energy requirements for lifeline projects and communities around the world, many emerging economies established policies on alternative energy use and set national targets for a more sustainable future as they modernise their energy sector.

The demand for renewables continues to grow and the sector is responding with the introduction of more systems and intelligent solutions to optimise the use of alternative energy solutions. There is a growing trend for digitalisation and artificial intelligence (AI) with the use of big data to implement smarter ways in delivering the
variable renewable energy (VRE) into the power grid – increased use of solar panels, wind turbines and other types of clean energy systems. There is also a rising trend of integrating different renewable energy systems and/or traditional and renewable sources to create hybrid systems – which Metito has experimented with successfully in some of our latest projects.

How significant are public-private partnership projects to propel the alternative energy industry?
The construction of projects in the alternative energy industry which are often too large, and complex, requires considerable CAPEX and takes time in planning and  development. These can be mega water projects where governments and private entities may opt for concession-based models under different financial structures. In many cases, public-private partnerships (PPPs) are crucial to access sustainable funding that can drive the industry forward without putting pressure on government budgets and allowing other national priorities to be addressed.

With private companies investing and operating projects with support from the government or municipality, PPP projects are managed more efficiently and milestones are kept on-track especially for the long haul (20-25 year concessions).

For those entering this space, what are the primary challenges?
Funding, shortage of advanced financial/project finance expertise for alternative energy PPPs, shortage of technical expertise and weak institutional frameworks, all could limit the development of PPPs.

But with the right mix of political will and adequate planning and preparation from involved organisations, renewable energy projects formed out of PPPs are highly achievable and could be a great success.

What are the key initiatives taken by GCC governments to grow this space?
It is now evident that being 100 per cent carbon-neutral in terms of power consumption provides substantial benefits to the environment and the economy.

Through its ‘Energy Strategy 2050’, the UAE government allocated over $163bn to meet its goal to increase the contribution of clean energy sources in the total capacity mix to 50 per cent (44 per cent renewable and 6 per cent nuclear) by 2050. This goes hand in hand with the UAE’s Vision 2021 strategic plan to generate 27 per cent of its
energy requirements from clean sources.

In Saudi Arabia, the National Renewable Energy Programme (NREP) and the King Salman Renewable Energy Initiative are formed as strategic initiatives under Vision
2030 to maximise the potential of renewable energy in the kingdom. Oman’s National Energy Strategy now envisions to derive 30 per cent of its electricity from renewable
sources by 2030, while Bahrain’s National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) and National Energy E‰ ciency Action Plan (NEEAP) demonstrate a full commitment to shift the country towards more efficient consumption of energy with the use of renewables.

Looking ahead, what is the future of the solar energy sector?
Very bright indeed. With the impact of the pandemic that has underscored the importance of sustainability, solar energy has become one of the crucial renewables to accelerate green growth. We can definitely expect more solar developments and projects, and this is evident by the upsurge of demand in photovoltaic (PV) panels.

According to a four-year outlook report produced by SolarPower Europe, the world’s PV capacity would increase from around 630 GW (Gigawatts) at the end of this year to
more than 1 TW (Terawatts) in 2022 and 1.2 TW by the end of 2023. At the end of 2024, the world would have 1,448 GW of solar. In addition, with the advent of digital transformation, the solar energy sector is welcoming smart AI and blockchain-driven technologies.

This will consequently make the equipment even more affordable and accessible to more users and will upgrade the efficiencies of the systems as well as the delivery of results.

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