Policy shifts over climate change as countries seek to diversify energy sources have opened investment opportunities for renewables in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the head of UAE green energy firm Masdar said.
Countries in the region are increasingly setting renewable energy targets in their energy mix as demand grows, serving as a boost for investments in solar and wind power ventures, Masdar’s Chief Executive Ahmad Belhoul told Reuters in Paris.
“A few years back when Abu Dhabi set a target of 7 per cent of renewable energy by 2020, nobody in the region had any renewable energy target. Today, there are targets being set in Jordan, Morocco, etc,” Belhoul said in an interview.
“What we have noticed is that, over the past couple of years, there has been significant interest by many governments in renewable energies. We have seen many policy changes that allow investors to come in,” he said.
Masdar, owned by Abu Dhabi state fund Mubadala, was set up with a $15bn commitment to invest in green energy.
Belhoul said Masdar, through its private equity arm that manages two funds, had deployed over half a billion dollars invested in green projects with a portfolio of about 4.5 gigawatts of renewable energy, equivalent to about four nuclear reactors.
Masdar was looking to set up a third fund, he added.
Its investments include a 35 percent stake in the planned Dudgeon offshore wind farm in Britain with Norwegian partners Statoil and Statkraft.
It also has a 20 percent share in the 600-megawatt London Array, the world’s largest wind farm.
Belhoul said investments in mature markets such as Britain and Spain, where it has also invested in a joint venture with Spain’s Sener, were balanced out with investments in developing markets in the Middle East and North Africa.
“Our strategy over the next five years is the MENA region plus selected investments in mature markets,” he said, adding that Abu Dhabi and the rest of the United Arab Emirates were immediate priorities.
“If you look at how the sector has evolved, prices are becoming increasingly competitive,” he said. “Solar cells, for example, even in the UAE with our local gas, are more competitive than gas.”
Belhoul said Morocco was attracting huge attention and investments.
“The Moroccan government has set a target and they are following through quite systematically, it is a very mature market and quite competitive. We are closely looking at it,” he said, adding that Masdar had bid for projects in the country.
Electricity demand in Morocco rises by an annual 7 percent and the country is investing heavily in renewables.
Earlier this month, Morocco secured a $519m loan from the World Bank partly to finance two solar power plants with a combined capacity of up to 350 megawatts.
“North Africa has tremendous growth and with that growth comes a huge requirement for energy, different types of energy,” Belhoul said, adding that Masdar was also looking at Egypt.