The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have released a report on the status of renewable energy development in the MENA region.

“MENA Renewables Status Report” finds that regional investment in renewables increased 40% in 2012 to more than USD 2.9 billion. The report also finds that while solar photovoltaic (PV) generation grew 112% from 2008-2011, in recent years several nations have completed concentrating solar power (CSP) plants.

“The MENA Renewables Status Report provides unparalleled insights into the MENA region, an emerging renewable energy champion,” stated REN21 Chair Arthouros Zervos. “In just the last two years, renewable energy has transformed from a niche interest to a regional phenomenon reaching almost USD 3 billion investment in 2012 alone.”

In the last few years, CSP plants have been commissioned in Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Morocco and the UAE. While it is notable that most of these are a smaller CSP component attached to a larger natural gas plant, there are some exceptions, like the 100 MW Shams 1 CSP plant in Abu Dhabi, the largest in the world.

Also, a consortium led by ACWA Power recently began construction on a 160 MW CSP plant at the Ouarzazate site in Morocco. The report notes that solar electric capacities are increasing faster than other renewable energy sources, and expects this to continue to increase in the region.

Solar water heating now accounts for 9 million square meters of collector area in the region, representing 6.3 GW of installed capacity. IRENA and the UAE found that this is led by oil importing nations with successful promotional programs including Tunisia and Morocco.

“MENA Renewables Status Report” finds 106 renewable energy projects totaling over 7.5 GW in development, which could increase non-hydro renewable generating capacity 450% in the next few years.

The report also finds that all 21 MENA nations now have policy targets, up from 5 in 2007, with at least 19 nations setting specific technology targets and 18 MENA nations enacting at least one enabling policy, including feed-in tariffs, net metering, fiscal incentives and public financing.

Finally, the report finds that several nations have developed policies to stimulate local manufacturing and innovation, particularly for solar and wind.