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MENA countries urged to diversify their energy mix

Temperatures across MENA increased 0.46°C per decade between 1980 and 2022. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

In its latest report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has said that climate change poses challenges to energy systems in the Middle East and North Africa

According to IEA statistics, temperatures across MENA increased 0.46°C per decade between 1980 and 2022. Precipitation patterns have also changed significantly, aggravating existing water scarcity in some MENA countries, with droughts in Morocco in 2022 and Tunisia in 2023, and causing floods in 2022 in the UAE, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and Yemen.

Diversifying the energy mix

Thanks to increasing temperatures, countries are also having to meet higher electricity demands for cooling systems. Last year, Morocco’s electricity imports from Spain in May reached record-high levels, which were spurred by rising peak demand.

The IEA predicts that such instances may increase over the years due to decreasing rainfall and increasing incidents of drought. The IEA has said that the eastern and southern Mediterranean region are projected to see a drier climate in the coming decade. If GHGs are not mitigated, and fossil-fuelled thermal power plants in the region continue to operate, around 32% of coal power plants, 15% of gas power plants and 9% of oil power plants may face a “significantly” drier climate, which would have even greater impacts on cooling water availability. 

Thus, adding more renewables is a long-term answer to decreasing precipitation and increasing droughts. While the MENA region is already on track to increasing its share of renewables, it is also imperative to plan for climate hazards. 

Contingency planning

Conditions such as extreme heat should be incorporated into energy transition planning, says the IEA. The performance of natural gas-fired power plants, which account for the largest share of electricity generation (74%) in the region, can be negatively affected by warmer air mass flow entering the gas turbine compressor. 

Additionally, more than 80% of the installed capacity of gas-fired power plants in the region face an annual addition of more than 20 hot days. In the Arabian Peninsula, the level of exposure could go even higher, reaching around 90% of installed gas-fired capacity.

Energy suppliers must develop more robust designs for wind power facilities and new cooling technology for solar PV to handle the predicted rise in high heat occurrences. To address growing electrical peak demand, governments and consumers must also pursue energy efficiency improvements in cooling devices.

The energy transition must also incorporate three goals: clean energy, energy security and climate change adaptation. Climate-resilient technologies are aligned with the region’s plans for emissions reductions, which drive further deployment of solar PV and wind. This diversification of energy sources contributes to energy security by enhancing readiness and robustness against climate-driven disruptions. In addition, it allows greater use of adaptation measures to withstand extreme weather events, such as air conditioning and healthcare services during heatwaves.