Installed renewable energy capacity at the end of 2018. Source: IRENAInstalled renewable energy capacity at the end of 2018. Source: IRENA

Renewable energy has advanced rapidly in the Global Cooperation Council (GCC) countries since 2014. The project pipeline reached almost 7 GW of new power generation capacity by 2018, after record-breaking bids in renewable energy auctions in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia made solar power cost-competitive with conventional energy technologies.

According to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), abundant resources and strong enabling frameworks have led to solar photovoltaic (PV) prices of below 3 cents per kilowatt-hour and dispatchable concentrated solar power (CSP) of 7.3 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is less than some utilities in the region pay for natural gas.

At the end of 2017, the region had about 146 GW of installed power capacity, of which renewable energy accounted for 867 MW. Around 68% of this capacity was in the UAE and represents a fourfold increase in capacity in 2014. Following the UAE are Saudi Arabia with 16% and Kuwait with 9% of regional capacity.

Solar PV dominates the region’s renewables outlook, accounting for around 75% of the regional project pipeline. CSP and wind account for 10% and 9%, respectively. Solar-assisted enhanced oil recovery in Oman is also expected to contribute about 1 gigawatt-thermal (GWth) in 2019.

Regional 2030 targets can bring significant economic benefits, including the creation of more than 220,000 new jobs and the conservation of over 354 million barrels of oil equivalent in regional power sectors. The targets could cut the power sector’s carbon dioxide emissions by 136 million tons for a 22% reduction, while decreasing water withdrawals in the power sector by 11.5 trillion liters for a 17% reduction in 2020.

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