Even the fleetest of glances at a map of worldwide solar energy levels shows Oman to be well placed to exploit the energy-giving rays of the sun. In fact, over the last few years, a gaggle of reports have been published extolling the virtues of exploiting this renewable energy source. However, with increasing and more urbanised populations consuming greater and greater amounts of energy, only now are governments across the Gulf and wider MENA regions seriously looking at harnessing solar power to help fill potential energy deficits.
And between them, they’re throwing huge amounts of money at the problem. The inaugural Solar Middle East Conference, held recently in Dubai, heard solar projects worth a combined $6.8bn were in the pipeline. There is no denying that investment in clean energy is on the rise. The projects in Oman, the UAE, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco were generating a lot of investor interest, said Jigar Shah, a partner in clean energy investment company Inerjys.
Mr Shah, quoted in a recent article on the arabianbusiness.com website, said investors were “desperate to invest in the Middle East solar industry” and were waiting for clear instructions from the governments in the region. He said, “The economics of switching to solar energy are far better here than in South Africa, India, Brazil, China and the US. Now that the costs of developing solar technologies have significantly declined, it is time for the Middle East to turn talk into action.”
That there is huge potential in the solar industry was underlined in no uncertain terms by the announcement last year of a $2 billion project to develop solar energy power resources in Oman. Terra Nex Financial Engineering AG Switzerland (Terra Nex) and Middle East Best Select (MEBS) Group of Funds are the shakers and movers behind the massive project which aims to generate some 400MW of power. The plans also envisage creating industrial plants for the manufacture of solar panels and aluminium frames, to be used by the power station and also for local consumption and export.
Knowledge and technology transfer were also critical contributors to the success of the project, said Terra Nex at the time, which also aimed to tie-up with major international technology companies and international universities with expertise in renewable energy education, to help train the local population in servicing this burgeoning industry.
David Heimhofer, Chairman of Terra Nex Group and Managing Director of Middle East Best Select Fund, said, “By attracting foreign direct investment in the growing renewable energy sector and using German expertise, Oman will become not just a regional leader in the field, but also benefit from the great intrinsic value within the complete value chain associated with this economic sector. He says“In addition to generating new jobs for the Omani people and boosting exports, this project creates an entire industry that Oman can be proud of.”
The project is expected to deliver more than 2000 jobs for Omanis across a diverse range of industrial sectors and services. In order to increase the skill set of the local population to help service these new jobs, the University of Zurich proposed the setting up of an educational institution in the Sultanate specialising in the field of renewable energy engineering.