The Future Looks Bright

New Mesia president Imtiaz Mahtab looks forward to the next phase of solar development in the region

COMMENT, BP Solar Arabia

By Imtiaz Mahtab, president of the Middle East Solar Industry Association

The Middle East Solar Industry Association (MESIA) was formed five years ago when a group of pioneers came together with the aim of giving life to the vast potential for solar in the Middle East. The group was led by Vahid Fotuhi of BP Solar and Prof. Georgeta Vidican of Masdar Institute. After a hugely successful launch event on November 23, 2009, the group established a steering committee made up of the key players in the local solar market.

These players went on to become the founding members of MESIA and included Enviromena, Alsa Solar Systems, Chadbourne & Parke, Masdar, Standard Chartered Bank, First Solar, Siemens, Power One, SCHOTT Solar and Schneider Electric. Thanks to their hard work and perseverance, the founding members successfully laid the foundations of what would emerge as the largest and most respected solar association in the MENA region. Now with over 100 members, MESIA had been recognised by DEWA three years in a row for its role in advancing solar power in the region.

Over the last five years, the solar sector has changed drastically – both globally and in MENA. With the dramatic drop in costs led by a combination of technological innovation and capacity building supported by policy making, solar has become a mainstream source of power generation world-wide. Last year alone around $140bn was invested in the sector - almost half of all clean tech investment. The cumulative capacity of solar worldwide is expected to reach over 250GW by the end of 2015.

Various technology solutions, business models and financing schemes have evolved along the way, giving rise to a sector that has seen faster growth than any other in recent years. Though MENA was initially slow to develop, we have finally seen two very positive developments. Firstly, the market: the number of projects to be tendered or awarded in 2015 is estimated to be about 1.8GW – six times more than previous years combined. Over 40 projects were launched in 11 MENA countries. Besides utility scale projects, a number of countries have also introduced solar roof top programmes.

Secondly, the business fundamentals have changed. MENA now leads the away in developing some of the most cost competitive solar projects in the world. The recent tendered solar project ($6 cents/kWh) at DEWA and Jordan Phase 2 is equivalent to burning gas at less than $5 per MMBTu or oil at less than $20/barrel. Policy makers in our region are taking notice and integrating solar into their overall energy mix to meet rising demand and balance their fiscal budgets. It was very gratifying to see Saudi Oil Minister, Mr. Ali AL-Naimi recently laying out the vision for solar in Saudi Arabia, both in the long and short term, with an ultimate goal of exporting solar power rather than oil.

As the region moves towards a new era of sustainable development though creating a gigawatt (GW) level solar sector, I and our newly appointed board are very much committed to supporting our members and stakeholders while evolving MESIA into an even stronger organisation. Though our core mission - “Expand the use of Solar in the Middle East, to strengthen the local solar industry, and to facilitate business opportunities for its members” – remains the same, we aim to broaden our market presence to address the growing needs of our members and stakeholders.

That means working more closely with policymakers across various markets with public-private partnership schemes, bringing relevant technologies, business and financing models and supporting other forms of renewable energy - ultimately creating smart jobs and lowering the carbon footprint in the region. MESIA will achieve these goals through our flag ship activities during the year such as trade missions, seminars and workshops, networking events – to name a few. MESIA is fully committed to the cause of evolving the solar sector in the region.


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