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Strong growth predicted for Middle Eastern UAE solar PV

  • 2021-08-25

Oil-dependent markets in the Middle East have a strong incentive to diversify their economies and have all set ambitious renewable energy goals. If they are to be realized, the region will have to deploy more than 50 GW of solar PV by 2030.


The development of PV has also been driven by public sector support. Even though the industry experienced a slowdown during the global Covid-19 pandemic, solar energy is once again at the heart of economic recovery efforts. Oil prices are now back at a higher level and supply chain issues are not as severe.


In this article, we profile the large PV markets in the Middle East that are expected to lead the region in solar PV deployment.


The UAE has been at the forefront of the clean energy transition in the Gulf region in terms of PV deployment and ambitious renewable targets. The Emirates aims to generate 50% of its electricity from carbon-free sources, driven mainly by solar PV, by 2050. Abu Dhabi, for instance, plans to install 5.6 GW of PV capacity by 2026 and Dubai aims to source 75% of its electricity generation from renewables by 2050.


Both have been the frontrunners of the Middle Eastern PV industry. Abu Dhabi hosts the world’s largest operational PV plant, the 1.2 GW Noor Sweihan project, which has been feeding electricity into the grid since 2019. The plant is backed by Marubeni and JinkoSolar and has a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with a tariff of 2.42 USDct/kWh.


Another giant project, the 2 GW Al Dhafra plant, is expected to be operational by Q1 2022. This private public partnership project will be 60% owned by the Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (TAQA) and 40% owned by a consortium comprised of EDF, Masdar, and Jinko Solar. A 30-year PPA will be in place with a tariff of 1.35 USDct/kWh.


Utility-scale PV installations in Dubai are clustered in the giant Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park (MBR solar park), the development of which is planned over several phases. Once fully complete, this mega solar park will reach 5 GW in capacity. The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) holds the majority equity share in the project. Each phase sees a growing installed capacity with declining tariffs.


The fourth phase will include a large share of concentrated solar power (CSP). There is also interest from the northern Emirates to become involved with Etihad Water and Electricity having set targets of executing 100 MW of solar PV projects. No further details have yet been revealed, however.


As the level of solar penetration increases in the grid, we expect regulations to expand allowing for small-scale, behind-the-meter storage in association with time-of-day tariffs. Utility-scale tenders mandating a specific size of storage to allow for power plant ramp up and ramp down in coherence with other generation assets are expected. Such regulations would allow for better use of the distributed energy sources that exist on the grid and enable the economical and reliable operation of the electrical network with mixed generation assets working side by side.

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