The Middle East has made enormous amounts of money selling oil to the rest of the world, but it also has great amounts of sunlight. The cost of solar power technology has dropped dramatically in recent years, so it makes economic sense that there is more openness to this form of clean, renewable energy.
Solar power replacing oil in the region of the world which is iconic for petroleum production would be a major tectonic shift. It won’t happen soon, but when you consider that Yemen gets all of its electricity by burning oil and most of Lebanon’s comes from the same source, it makes more sense, simply because oil is expensive compared with free sunlight.
Then, there is the fact that burning so much oil produces unhealthy air pollution, “Such inefficient consumption of energy has had adverse affects on the air quality in MENA. Five MENA countries, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, Iran, and Kuwait are among the top ten countries in terms of PM10 concentrations. Moreover, 29 cities in MENA are among the 100 most polluted cities in the world.”
Air pollution causes respiratory illnesses and many premature deaths every year.
Surely any reasonable person would ask if the Middle East has enough sunlight for solar power to be a reasonable alternative to the colossal oil consumption there. The answer is definitely yes. A World Bank blog post explained, “In a 2008 study, the Center for Global Development reported that solar power in MENA has the potential of meeting 50 to 70 percent of global electricity demand. Therefore, it is technically and also economically feasible (albeit on a level economic playing field and over the long-term) for MENA to meet its internal electricity demand from purely solar power.”
Furthermore, the Middle East has enough sunlight that it is possible it could become
an exporter of electricity made from solar power. In other words, the region already
has the business knowledge and contacts from being a global petroleum exporter, so
in theory it might be easier for it to also become a chief exporter of clean electricity.
There is a clear economic incentive in play if the Middle East can make money by
investing in solar power and then begin to sell it to neighboring countries. Of course, the greatest incentive might be the money it saves over the long-term by investing in solar power, because it would no longer have to consume so much oil.
Two things that favor solar power are the fact the building a productive solar power plant can be completed in two years. Another is that once completed, solar power plants can produce clean electricity for 20-30 years.
So, rather than being an anomaly, solar power could become commonplace in the Middle East.
Israel already has achieved a very high rate of home hot water solar heater usage.
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