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Here comes the sun?

The Middle East's solar power sector may finally be set to emerge

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PV panels in the Middle East could become a  more common sight, as they are in parts of Europe and China.
PV panels in the Middle East could become a more common sight, as they are in parts of Europe and China.

In 1977 during a televised speech, Jimmy Carter, the then President of the United States said: “Because we are now running out of gas and oil, we must prepare quickly for a third change, to strict conservation and to the use of coal and permanent renewable energy sources, like solar power.”

That was 33 years ago. Today, would we be shocked if we saw the same message conveyed by Barack Obama? It represents a startling lack of progress in the fields of renewable energy and solar power.

In the Middle East we have an unlimited amount of sun, yet still this region is not at the forefront of the solar power industry. Something is holding it back, whether it is politically or financially motivated.

But a hope remains for the region, and it comes in the form of the companies involved, and their government links. Masdar has been pushing solar forward and it recently invested in the PV technology firm Environmena.

This firm is now enjoying the added scope of business which such strong government contacts can provide. But should this be the case? Surely if renewable energy is as important as politicians and governments constantly remind us, it should be as free a market as possible.

One major move which could accelerate the solar power sector in the Middle East, is the introduction of feed-in tariffs, which encourage end users and utilities to make use of solar energy. But that step has not been taken, despite firms within the sector crying out for it.

In this month’s edition of Utilities Middle East, we delve into the solar power question, with the opinions of both established companies in the region, and those of companies attempting to break through here.

We also take a look at the software behind smart grids, courtesy of two Microsoft executives. They explain how these systems can bring us a better grasp on the renewables question.

Now the introduction of smart grid technology has given solar power a base from which to work and in some respect signs appear to be encouraging. Perhaps now is the time when solar power will finally come out from behind the clouds.

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