The effective use of abundant solar energy in the Middle East will play a key role in the solution-specific programme for the second Arabian Water and Power Forum.

The two day forum, taking place on the 23-24 September 2013 at the Address Hotel, Dubai Marina under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Maktoum Bin Juma Al Maktoum and in partnership with DEWA and DSCE, will see key challenges analysed with the specific aim of formulating solutions and identifying investments needed to boost supply. 

Long considered unfeasibly expensive for an oil-rich Middle East where plentiful hydrocarbons meet energy needs, solar energy is – literally – having its moment in the sun. The United Arab Emirates has made huge commitments to solar energy, as has Saudi Arabia. Changing market conditions, with the cost of solar energy falling coupled a desire to save hydrocarbon resources for export, are leading the charge.

"The second Arabian Water and Power Forum is highly issue-driven, and solar energy as part of the sustainable energy mix will be one of the key topics on the table. Technological advances, heavy sunshine and socio-political initiative have catapulted solar energy into a position where it is set to play an influential role in meeting the Middle East’s energy demand. In the longer term, we may even see countries here export electricity to Europe," said Gurpreet Hayre, Producer of AWPF, The CWC Group.

The UAE has been leading the way in solar energy adoption, with Masdar’s 100 MW solar power plant, Shams I, going online in Abu Dhabi in March 2013. It is currently the world’s largest solar thermal power plant. Masdar has also delivered the Sheikh Zayed Solar Power Plant in Mauritiana, Africa, and is involved in solar and thermal projects in Spain. It is also contemplating another 100MW photovaltic power plant.

These solar projects are also being linked to the expensive process of water desalination to address increasing demand for potable water – one of the Middle East’s most precious resources.

The Arabian Water & Power Forum has a session dedicated to the challenges posed by solar energy, and strategies to create value. The discussion, led by Robin Mills, Head of Consulting, Manaar Energy Consulting; Vahid Fotuhi, President, Emirates Solar Industry Association; Omran Al-Kuwari, CEO, GreenGulf Inc; and Laurent Longuet, Managing Director Middle East, SunPower; will look at how solar energy targets can be met. The session will also explore policy formation, investment criteria and emerging technologies to create a roadmap for solar expansion in the GCC. The Shams 1 Power Plant will be discussed as a case study in CSP (Concentrated Solar Power) technology.

"The use of solar energy is tied up with issues such as reliability, cleaning of the solar panels, storage solutions for when the sun isn’t shining and low-loss long distance transmission. All these issues will be part of the Arabian Water & Power Forum’s solar energy agenda," Hayre added.

As the Middle East goes solar, Saudi Arabia has announced the intention of adding 41 GW of solar power by 2032 to meet over 20% of its total electricity needs. Kuwait has pledged 5GW of solar production to meet 10% of its electricity needs. The UAE, Jordan and Qatar have also announced solar targets in the gigawatt scale.

"The scale and scope of solar makes it an important element at the Forum. Even in the short term, say till 2014, solar in the region might need finance up to $1.5bn. There are massive investment and business opportunities in the sector, and huge implications for the future of energy," said Frederic Ponton, Director of Government Relations Middle East, CWC Group.

The Arabian Water & Power Forum will also focus on other future energy sources, including hybrid energy, cost-effective fuel diversification and the incorporation of nuclear power into the energy mix for sustainable growth while simultaneously evolving necessary nuclear regulation.

Discussions will be supplemented by a technology showcase where tech firms and innovators display their latest advances in creating demand efficiencies while boosting production.

"The Arabian Water & Power Forum 2013 is perhaps the only region event to create a solutions-based format, where specific challenges are focused on. It is the ideal platform for investors stakeholders to meet senior ministerial figures, industry leaders and regulators, and get involved in upcoming projects in excitingly viable new energy options like solar," concluded Ponton.