Unleash the power of renewable energy in the Arab region

September 22, 2023
Photo: UNDP Egypt

In today's world, the concepts of climate and development can no longer be treated as competing priorities. It is increasingly clear that the future of development, markets, and energy production is inextricably linked to the urgent need for decarbonization. There is also a need for stable energy sources that can meet demand while protecting the environment. 

A critical aspect of moving toward sustainable development is ensuring universal access to clean and affordable energy. This transformative access to clean energy not only enables households, hospitals, and schools, but also plays a critical role in fostering new employment opportunities and livelihoods, ultimately helping to reduce poverty and inequality. 

The Arab region is full of potential for the deployment of renewable energy technologies on the ground. Many Arab countries are showing interest in using renewable energy sources, especially wind and solar power generation. Many of them have yet to build renewable energy capacity, which accounts for only 7% of the region’s energy mix. 

Simply put, the availability of clean energy has become an essential prerequisite for development and serves as a fundamental pillar for promoting a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable environment. By prioritizing and advancing access to clean energy, we can pave the way for a future that balances economic growth with environmental protection, creating a world where the needs of people and the well-being of the planet are equally preserved. 

In this blog, we will look at the importance of Sustainable Development Goal 7 and how Arab regions are adopting renewable energy in their countries. 

What does Goal 7 focus on? It focuses on affordable and clean energy, aiming to ensure universal access to affordable electricity by 2030 means investing in clean energy sources such as solar, wind and thermal.  

Which countries in the Arab region are using renewable energy to achieve SDG 7? 

Transforming energy market in Egypt 

Photo: UNDP Egypt

Sunlight is abundant all over Egypt, particularly in the south. Egypt is considered a “sunbelt” country. Most days, the sun is shining bright for up to 11 hours. Switching to solar energy can also help meet Egypt’s growing electricity demand in a climate-friendly way while helping people reduce their energy costs.  

The country is transforming its energy market by investing in energy efficiency that has significantly reduced the sharp spike in electricity demand and diversifying its energy mix by investing more in alternative renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. 

UNDP Egypt collaborated with the Government of Egypt through the “Egypt-PV” project to work on a pivotal shift in the country’s lighting market. Over 40 initiatives enabled the setup of 129 solar system plants in 15 governorates, which installed capacity of 11 MWp, with 17.6 GWh/year electricity in different factories, hotels, commercial and admin buildings, houses, educational facilities etc. The project has also extended technical support to the New Administrative Capital that installed 16 MWp over 52 government buildings in the new city. 

Efforts also extended with UNDP and the EU in support of Egypt’s COP presidency, in cooperation with the African Climate Foundation and the governments of Denmark and Switzerland. Working in close partnership with the Government of Egypt, this programme has swiftly succeeded in boosting efforts to green Sharm El Sheikh as the host city of COP27, with one of the main aims being to demonstrate how this city can become the main driver of green energy transition in Egypt.  

To showcase the benefits of rapid and targeted climate action, the project has helped install PV systems in landmark buildings throughout Sharm El Sheikh, including the COP27 Convention Centre itself, the airport, and several key government buildings. The programme has also cooperated with hotels on the installation of solar rooftops. 

Iraq uses Solar-powered wells to revive farming 

UNDP in Iraq
Photo: UNDP Iraq

UNDP Iraq's Funding Facility for Stabilization, with funding from Japan, rehabilitated wells and upgraded them with solar power. To date, UNDP has rebuilt over 40 wells across Ninewa and equipped them with 36 solar systems, reaching over 1,700 farmers and their families to support farmers. 

Previously, farmers had to use generators or electricity to operate the well, which cost around US$700 per month in diesel for 10 barrels. Now, they use solar-powered wells that provide a sustainable and cost-effective solution to the water supply problem, and it helps to adapt to changing climate and reduce their carbon footprint to combat climate change. 

Libya uses renewable energy to improve services 

Photo: UNDP Libya

In 2011, during the conflict in Libya, 40,000 residents of Tawergha had to leave their homes and were displaced for more than seven years, and people cannot reach basic services. 

UNDP Libya worked with Libyan national and municipal institutions, the Libyan government, and international partners under the Stabilization Facility for Libya (SFL) to rehabilitate critical infrastructure and provide equipment to enable local authorities, with international support, to improve services for their citizens. 

UNDP Libya was able to install 40 lighting poles for the city's streets, powered by renewable solar energy, so that people who have returned to the city can feel safe walking on the streets. 

Empowering women through solar energy 

Photo: UNDP Lebanon

Lebanon has suffered for years from limited electricity supply and complications in power generation, which has led to an increase in electricity and fossil fuel shortages that cause an average of 20 hours of power outages per day and pose serious challenges to people’s livelihoods, security and well-being. 

UNDP Lebanon, in collaboration with the Government of Canada, is promoting the inclusion and advancement of women in the renewable energy sector by improving their skills and abilities in solar panel installation, repair and maintenance. 

Empowering Sudan with renewable energy 

Photo: UNDP Sudan

60% of Sudan’s population lacking access to electricity. Sudan has great potential for wind energy in the northern state, along the Nile River, and on the Red Sea, as well as high solar irradiance, which could pave the way for renewable energy, providing significant opportunities and countering the threats of climate change. 

In 2020, Sudan launched a roadmap for the future of renewable energy in the country and received the first wind turbine to improve access to energy, diversify Sudan's power sources, and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.  

UNDP Sudan, together with GEF, has launched the “Solar for Agriculture” initiative to advance the use of solar and wind energy in agriculture, transportation, housing, and infrastructure. The goal is to reduce climate impact and dependence on imported fossil fuels, create livelihoods, and increase Sudan’s economic potential. The goal of this initiative is to empower farmers to increase land use and productivity. 

Amid Sudan’s current armed conflict and the consequent increased power supply disruptions and increasing cost of fuel, UNDP continues to scale up provision of solar systems to ensure families and communities have free access to energy and connectivity. 

Installing photovoltaic solar panels in UNDP Tunisia  

Photo: UNDP Tunisia

The sun is a source of energy, and there is a real opportunity to invest in renewable energy to reduce the carbon footprint. 

UNDP Tunisia took the initiative in early 2022 to install photovoltaic panels on the roofs of the “Maison Bleue”, which hosts UNDP and other United Nations agencies present in Tunisia. 

This solar installation will ultimately provide 20.8% of the building's energy needs, equivalent to using 268 laptops for 8 hours per day. The initiative will also allow a reduction in CO2 emissions of 24 tons per year and a savings in energy bills of $6,811 per year. 

Access to affordable energy to support Yemen's most vulnerable  

Photo: UNDP Yemen

Before the crisis in Yemen, 20 liters of diesel cost $7; now they are $17 and not readily available on the market or at gas stations. Solar microgrids create clean alternative energy options at low cost and can be easily replicated in rural areas, positively impacting many Yemenis. 

As Yemen remains one of the worst humanitarian and development crises in the world, the country suffers from a lack of access to basic services such as energy. 

UNDP Yemen has partnered with the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development to implement a project called Renewable Energy Improve Access to Health Services and Livelihood Opportunities (HEAL). The project supports the development of 50 solar energy micro-grid businesses in the targeted Yemeni governorates that sell electricity to provide clean energy to homes and businesses so that villagers can both benefit at home and work while caring for their families. 

UNDP Yemen and the European Union supported Iman Hadi, an entrepreneur from rural northern Yemen, to implement her project. She led a group of 10 women in installing a solar power plant to provide clean, environmentally friendly energy to residents of Abss in Hajjah governorate, where many poor families lack access to electricity due to the high cost of diesel power plants. 

In addition, UNDP and its partner, the Sustainable Development Foundation (SDF), have installed two solar systems in two communities and trained 20 people in solar installation, maintenance, and operations management to help build local solar power businesses and ensure the sustainability of renewable energy systems in Yemen. 

The solar microgrid stations in Yemen provide hope that renewable energy can play an essential role in providing replicable, cost-effective, and sustainable bottom-up solutions to humanitarian and development crises. 

Way to green recovery in the Arab region

Photo: UNDP Lebanon

Energy is a cornerstone for the holistic socio-economic development of the Arab countries. Considerable progress has been made in the Arab region to improve access to energy. 

However, in addressing today's challenges and laying the groundwork for a green recovery, the importance of renewable energy is becoming increasingly clear. The use of renewable energy sources underscores the region's commitment to sustainability and serves as a catalyst for a more resilient and environmentally friendly future. 

Partnerships are also critical to achieving the SDGs. They can help maximize the productive use of energy resources for a more sustainable future. Together, we have the power to shape a future where energy strengthens communities, boosts economies, and preserves the well-being of our planet for generations to come. 

Stay tuned to the hashtag #Act4SDGsAR to learn how Arab countries are working hard to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.