Solar Panels in the Mojave Desert

Solar Power in the Middle East: Market Analysis

The scorching sun, sandy deserts, and oil-rich nations are what come to mind when thinking about the Middle East. However, this region is also becoming a hub for renewable energies development, especially in the gulf states. With abundant sunshine and increasing energy demand due to population growth and economic expansion, solar power is emerging as a viable solution for meeting the region’s energy needs, particularly with the reduction of electricity subsidies. Moreover, with advancements in technology and decreasing costs of production, solar power is becoming more competitive with traditional fossil fuels.

Governments in the Gulf states are taking notice of the potential of sun power and investing heavily in renewable energy sources like solar power. This shift towards sustainable development not only reduces dependence on fossil fuel but also diversifies their economies, while reducing electricity subsidies. From rooftop installations to large-scale concentrated solar power plants, companies like First Solar Inc are leading the charge in solar development across the region.

As we explore further into this topic, we will delve into how renewable energies such as solar power can transform the energy industry in the Middle East, reducing the need for electricity subsidies and utilizing the abundant sun to increase renewable capacity. This transformation will have a significant impact on economic growth and environmental sustainability.

Market Size and Share Analysis of Solar Power in the Middle East

The Middle East, also known as the MENA region, has long been a major player in the global fuel market due to its vast oil reserves. However, in recent years, there has been a shift towards renewable energy sources such as solar power due to increased focus on sustainability and reducing emissions. This shift is further driven by the falling costs of solar technology, which is helping to reduce electricity subsidies.

Growing Market Size

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) solar power market is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 20 per cent from 2020 to 2025. This growth is being driven by several factors, including government initiatives by MENA governments to promote renewable energy and reduce emissions, rising demand for electricity due to population growth and urbanization, and falling costs of solar technology.

Largest Markets

Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Egypt are currently the largest solar markets in the MENA region, with Lebanon showing increasing demand for renewable energy sources such as solar power. These countries have taken significant steps towards reducing their emissions by increasing their use of solar power. For example, Saudi Arabia has set an ambitious target of generating 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 to meet the rising demand for clean energy.

Dominance of Utility-Scale Projects

Utility-scale projects dominate the market share in the Middle East solar power market, which is part of the energy transition towards renewable energies. These projects are typically large-scale installations that are designed to generate electricity for distribution on the grid and increase the renewable capacity. However, distributed generation is gaining momentum in the region as well, with Enerwhere Sustainable Energy DMCC leading the way in providing sustainable energy solutions through smaller-scale installations for local use.

Falling Costs Driving Growth

One factor driving growth in the residential and commercial sectors, as well as the power demand market, is falling costs of solar technology. As prices continue to fall, it becomes increasingly cost-effective for homeowners and businesses to install rooftop solar panels or other small-scale installations, as well as larger solar power stations to meet the power demand in the MENA region. Many governments offer incentives such as tax credits or rebates for installing renewable energy systems.

How Countries in the Middle East are Utilizing Solar Power

Ambitious Targets for Renewable Energy Adoption

Most countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have recognized the potential of the renewable energy market and set ambitious targets for adoption. These MENA governments acknowledge that solar power is a crucial part of their energy mix and are taking steps to increase their use of clean energy sources.

For example, as part of its energy transition, Saudi Arabia aims to generate 50% of its electricity from renewables, including solar energy, by 2030, with an installed capacity of 58.7 GW to meet its power demand. Similarly, the United Arab Emirates has set a target to generate 44% of its electricity from renewable sources, including solar farms, by 2050.

Large-Scale Solar Projects Across Various Industries

Large-scale solar projects are being developed across various industries such as oil & gas, mining, and transportation to accelerate the energy transition towards renewable power generation. These projects not only help reduce carbon emissions but also provide economic benefits through job creation and reduced reliance on fossil fuels. Additionally, power stations are increasingly turning to renewable energies to meet their energy needs.

In Oman, as part of the energy transition, Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) is developing one of the largest solar plants in the MENA region with an installed capacity of 1 GW. The plant, which will be supplied by Enerwhere Sustainable Energy DMCC, aims to capture a larger share of the market for sustainable energy and provide power to PDO’s oil fields while saving up to 300,000 barrels of oil per year.

In Egypt, Benban Solar Park is one of the world’s largest solar parks with an installed capacity of 1.8 GW. The park consists of more than thirty individual plants and provides electricity to millions of people. This makes it one of the most significant power stations in the MENA region and a key player in the market. Additionally, ACWA Power Barka SAOG is one of the major investors in this project.

Hybrid Systems Combining Multiple Sources

Hybrid systems combining multiple sources like wind or storage with solar power are gaining traction in the MENA market region. These systems offer increased reliability and stability while reducing dependence on a single source.

Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) has built a hybrid plant that combines concentrated solar power (CSP) with photovoltaic panels (PV). The plant, located in the MENA region, has an installed capacity of 700 MW and can store up to fifteen hours’ worth of thermal energy, making it a significant addition to the renewable energy market.

Net Metering Policies to Encourage Small-Scale Adoption

Some MENA countries in the region have implemented net metering policies to encourage small-scale adoption of solar power in the market. Net metering allows homeowners and businesses to generate their electricity from solar panels and sell excess energy back to the grid, reducing their electricity bills.

In Jordan, the government’s net metering policy has boosted the market for solar power by allowing homeowners and businesses to install solar systems with an installed capacity of up to 100 kW. The policy has been successful in increasing small-scale adoption of solar power in the MENA region.

The UAE’s Investments in Renewable Energy

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the world’s largest oil-producing countries, but it is also quickly becoming a leader in renewable energy. The country has set ambitious goals to reduce its carbon emissions and increase its use of clean energy, including solar development and the establishment of solar farms and power stations. Additionally, the UAE is poised to make a significant impact on the east solar power market.

Generating Clean Energy

The UAE aims to generate 50% of its electricity from clean energy by 2050 through investments worth $163 billion. This investment will help the country reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and decrease its carbon footprint. The government has taken several measures to achieve this goal, including promoting solar development, tapping into the lucrative east solar power market, encouraging rooftop solar installations, and positioning itself as a leader in the MENA region.

  • Building large-scale solar parks
  • Developing wind farms
  • Investing in green hydrogen production

Large-Scale Solar Parks

Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is one of the world’s largest single-site solar parks in the MENA region with a planned capacity of 5 GW by 2030. The park currently has a capacity of 1.2 GW and covers an area of 77 square kilometers. It uses photovoltaic (PV) panels to convert sunlight into electricity.

Abu Dhabi, located in the MENA region, is also building a massive solar park called the Al Dhafra Solar PV project, which will have a capacity of 2 GW when completed. The project will help Abu Dhabi reduce its carbon emissions by more than three million tons per year.

Wind Farms

In addition to solar power, the MENA region is also investing in wind power. Masdar City, a sustainable urban development project in Abu Dhabi, has installed several wind turbines that provide clean energy for the city.

The government has also approved plans for a wind farm in Dibba Al Fujairah that will have a capacity of 100 MW and produce enough electricity to power approximately 45,000 homes. In addition, the region is also focusing on solar energy with the help of companies like First Solar Inc. and ALSA Solar Systems LLC, making it a leading player in MENA’s renewable energy sector.

Green Hydrogen Production

Abu Dhabi plans to build a massive green hydrogen plant powered by renewables that will produce up to 40,000 tons annually by 2024. The plant will use solar and wind power to produce hydrogen through electrolysis. The hydrogen can be used as fuel for transportation or as a feedstock for industrial processes.

Private Sector Investments

The UAE is also attracting private sector investments in renewable energy. In 2020, Abu Dhabi Power Corporation (ADPower) announced the formation of a new company called TAQA Energy that will focus on developing renewable energy projects in the UAE and abroad. First Solar Inc is among the companies that have expressed interest in investing in these projects.

The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) has also signed several agreements with private companies, including First Solar Inc, to develop renewable energy projects in the emirate and tap into the growing demand in the East solar power market.

Saudi Arabia’s Solar Ambitions

Saudi Arabia is a country that has been traditionally known for its oil reserves, but in recent years, it has set its sights on becoming one of the largest solar markets in the world. The country aims to install 58.7 GW of solar power capacity by 2030, which will make it one of the leading countries in renewable energy.

Large-Scale Solar Projects

To achieve this goal, Saudi Arabia has launched several large-scale projects such as Sakaka and Dumat Al Jandal with a combined capacity of over 1.5 GW. These projects are some of the largest solar farms in the world and are expected to provide clean energy to thousands of households.

NEOM: A Futuristic City Powered by Renewable Energy

In addition to these projects, NEOM is a futuristic city being built in the northwestern region that plans to be powered entirely by renewable energy. This project is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan, which aims to diversify the economy and reduce dependence on oil exports.

NEOM will have an area of around 26,500 square kilometers and will be located near the Red Sea coast. It will be powered by wind and solar energy and will feature advanced infrastructure such as autonomous transportation systems and smart cities.

Research and Development

Saudi Arabia is also investing heavily in research and development to improve solar technology and reduce costs. The country has partnered with several international organizations such as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the US to develop new technologies that can harness more energy from sunlight.

One example is ACWA Power Barka SAOG, a company that specializes in developing renewable energy solutions for Gulf states such as Qatar. ACWA Power Barka SAOG has developed innovative solutions such as concentrated solar power (CSP) plants that can store excess heat during sunny days and use it at night when there is no sunlight.

Egypt’s Solar Power Initiatives

Egypt has set ambitious targets for renewable energy, with a goal to generate 20% of its electricity from renewables by 2022 and 42% by 2035. To achieve these targets, the government has launched several initiatives to promote solar power in the country.

Benban Solar Park

David Malpass tours the Benban Solar Park
David Malpass tours the Benban Solar Park

One of the most significant projects is the Benban Solar Park located in Aswan. It is one of the world’s largest solar parks, covering an area of over 37 square kilometers. With a planned capacity of up to 1.8 GW, it will be able to provide electricity to more than one million households.

The park consists of several individual solar projects developed by different providers. The Egyptian government has implemented feed-in tariffs that guarantee subsidies for each kWh produced by these projects, which have attracted private investment in renewables.

Tenders for Utility-Scale Projects

In addition to the Benban Solar Park, Egypt has launched several tenders for utility-scale solar projects. These tenders aim to attract international investors and developers interested in building large-scale solar power plants in Egypt.

For example, in December 2019, Egypt awarded five contracts worth $200 million for the development of photovoltaic (PV) power plants with a total capacity of 500 MW, utilizing solar energy. These PV power plants are expected to produce enough electricity to meet the needs of around 350,000 households through the use of solar energy.

Off-Grid Solutions

The Egyptian government is also promoting off-grid solutions for rural areas through initiatives like Decent Life. This program aims to provide access to clean energy sources and improve living conditions for people living in remote areas without access to reliable electricity in the growing east solar power market.

Through Decent Life, small-scale solar systems are installed in villages across Egypt. These systems can provide enough electricity for basic needs like lighting and charging mobile phones. They can also power small businesses like grocery stores or barbershops.

Electricity Subsidies

One of the challenges facing the solar power market in Egypt is the high cost of electricity subsidies. The government has been providing subsidies to keep electricity prices low for consumers, which has made it difficult for solar power projects to compete.

To address this issue, the Egyptian government has been gradually reducing these subsidies. In 2019, it announced plans to completely eliminate electricity subsidies by 2022, which will boost the solar power market and make renewable energy more competitive and attractive to investors.

Potential for a Renewable Energy Revolution in the Middle East

The Middle East is known for its abundant reserves of oil and gas, but the region is also home to some of the world’s most promising renewable energy projects. With abundant sunshine, strong government support, and falling costs of technology, the Middle East has immense potential for solar power market adoption.

Abundant Sunshine and Innovative Financing Models

Renewable energies such as solar power have become increasingly attractive to countries seeking to diversify their energy mix away from fossil fuels. The Middle East has one of the highest levels of solar irradiance in the world, making it an ideal location for solar power generation. Countries like Saudi Arabia are investing heavily in large-scale renewable power projects that aim to harness this potential.

Innovative financing models like green bonds are emerging to fund these large-scale projects. Green bonds are fixed-income securities that raise capital specifically for projects with environmental benefits. In 2019, Abu Dhabi-based Enerwhere Sustainable Energy DMCC issued a $10 million green bond to finance its off-grid solar power generation capacity expansion across the Middle East.

Collaboration Between Countries Can Lead to Cross-Border Interconnections

Collaboration between countries can lead to cross-border interconnections that enable better utilization of resources. For example, Egypt is building a 1.5 GW interconnected wind and solar complex with Saudi Arabia and Jordan called “the Red Sea Project.” This project aims to provide clean energy to remote areas while reducing carbon emissions.

Lebanon is another country in the region that is exploring ways to increase its renewable capacity through collaboration with other countries. The country recently signed an agreement with France’s TotalEnergies and Norway’s Scatec Solar to build two photovoltaic power stations with a total generation capacity of 60 MW.

Renewable Energy for Economic Diversification and Job Creation

Renewable energy can help diversify economies and create jobs in the region. The falling costs of technology mean that renewable energy projects are becoming increasingly competitive with fossil fuels. This competitiveness, combined with the region’s abundant sunshine, is driving investment in solar power projects.

In Saudi Arabia, for example, the government aims to install 58.7 GW of renewable energy by 2030, which will create an estimated 750,000 new jobs in the solar power market. The country is also investing in research and development to support innovation in solar power market renewable energy technologies.

The Future of Solar Power in the Middle East

Solar power in the Middle East is gaining momentum as countries in the region are investing heavily in renewable energy. The market size and share analysis of solar power reveal its potential for growth and expansion. Countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt have made significant strides towards utilizing solar power to meet their energy demands. The UAE’s investments in renewable energy, Saudi Arabia’s solar ambitions, and Egypt’s solar power initiatives demonstrate a shift towards clean energy sources.



1. What are some benefits of using solar power in the Middle East?

Using solar power can reduce reliance on fossil fuels, decrease carbon emissions, lower electricity costs over time, and increase energy security.

2. Is it cost-effective to invest in solar power systems?

Yes, investing in solar power systems can be cost-effective over time due to lower electricity bills and potential government incentives or tax credits.

3. Can individuals use solar panels on their homes?

Yes, individuals can install solar panels on their homes to generate their own electricity or even sell excess energy back to the grid.

4. How long do solar panels last?

Solar panels typically last around 25-30 years with proper maintenance.

5. Are there any downsides to using solar power?

Some downsides of solar energy include initial installation costs, potential intermittency issues during cloudy weather or at night without battery storage systems, and requirements for adequate space for installation.

6. What is the current state of government support for renewable energy in the Middle East?

Many governments in the region have set targets for increasing their use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, and have implemented policies and incentives to encourage investment in these industries.

7. How does solar power compare to other renewable energy sources?

Solar power is a popular choice due to its scalability, ease of installation, and ability to generate electricity even on a small scale. However, wind power and hydropower can also be viable options depending on the location and resources available.

8. Can businesses benefit from using solar power?

Yes, businesses can benefit from using solar power by reducing their energy costs over time, improving their environmental footprint, and potentially increasing their brand reputation through sustainable practices.

9. What is the potential for job creation in the solar power industry in the Middle East?

As the industry grows and demand for renewable energy increases, there is potential for job creation in areas such as manufacturing, installation, maintenance, and research and development.

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