Wednesday, 31 August 2022

Could Morocco really supply 8% of the UKs energy needs…And do it sustainably?



Good morning, climate watchers. We hope you’re enjoying what remains of your summer break (so … many … “ooo” replies). It seems we’ve hit our first slow sumer news day on the business front.

That said, the region is awash with climate-related events, with a flurry of activity in MENA, Africa and elsewhere ahead of COP27. We break those down in detail below. But first…

MORNING MUST READ- Morocco is positioning itself to be a global leader in renewables with plans for a facility that will generate 10.5 GW of solar and wind energy by 2030. It plans to export a chunk of that to Europe — and could potentially supply 8% of the UKs electricity needs if the project goes through. We break it down in today’s Project Profile, below.

One large step for regional carbon capture: The Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute (CCSI) opened its first MENA headquarters in Masdar City, UAE, according to a statement. “Following years of ambition, CCS [potential is] being realized in the GCC and the progress so far is promising,” CCSI global CEO Jarad Daniels said at the inauguration. “The region is well positioned to become a leader, both in the CCS market and the energy transition more broadly, and with the institute’s new regional office in Abu Dhabi we aim to be there every step of the way,” he added.

You can take a stroll at Expo City Dubai in a few days: Dubai’s popular sustainability pavilion is opening its doors to visitors starting 1 September, ahead of the Expo City opening. Expo City Dubai — the legacy site of Expo 2020 Dubai — will open on 1 October, but throughout September, visitors can buy tickets to the city’s sustainability pavilion, Terra, at AED 50 per head. Terra wants to offer real-world solutions to climate problems and claims to be a fully self-sustaining building — using some 4.9k solar panels to generate 4 GWh of clean energy per year and a greywater recycling system to reduce water usage.


The G20 Joint Environment and Climate Ministers’ Meeting is taking place in Bali, Indonesia. Saudi Arabia is the only country from our corner of the world that will be attending. “This will be a chance to engage in discussions on climate cooperation ahead of […] COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh,” notes a US State Department statement about special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry’s attendance of the meeting.

IRENA takes center stage right next door: In partnership with the Indonesia G20 presidency, the first-ever Investment Forum organized by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) kicks off today and runs for two days. The forum will focus on investment for the energy transition, looking to improve access to finance and accelerate renewable energy projects in Southeast Asia.

Coming soon, to a region near you: The next forum will focus on West Africa and take place in Nigeria before the end of 2022. We don’t yet have a date for the first MENA forum, but in advance of it, requests for MENA renewable energy project development support or access to finance can be made here.

CLIMATE DIPLOMACY- India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar is heading to the UAE today to talk renewable energy, India’s news agency said. The three-day visit will focus on boosting ties in renewable energy, food security and other areas. Back in May, the two countries signed an MoU to establish a framework on climate action. On the sidelines of that meeting, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company Masdar and Indian conglomerate firm Reliance Industries had also pledged to explore agreements for collaboration in green hydrogen.

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#1- Death toll from Pakistan floods rises as UN chief calls for help: The death toll from the unprecedented floods in Pakistan has risen to more than 1.1k, Pakistani officials said yesterday as the UN launched an appeal for USD 160 mn to help the stricken country. The funds will provide some 5.2 mn people with food, water, sanitation, emergency education and health support, according to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres — who said the Pakistani people are “facing a monsoon on steroids” in a video message for the appeal’s launch. (Reuters | WSJ | Washington Post)

#2- SIGN OF THE TIMES- More ice is melting, causing the sea to rise twice as much as expected: The climate-induced loss of 120 tn tons of Greenland’s continental glaciers will inevitably raise global sea levels by 10 inches (25.4 cm) by the end of the 21st century, twice what scientists had previously forecast, according to a new report picked up by the Associated Press. The impact will echo in our slice of the planet, ultimately impacting MENA coastal cities including Alexandria in Egypt and Basra in Iraq, both of which are primed to bear the brunt of climate-induced sea level shifts in our part of the world.

The catch? We can’t do anything about it. The sea is rising because ‘zombie ice’ is melting. Zombie ice, which is also known as ‘doomed ice,’ is unreplenished ice that melts when their parent glaciers receive less snow. “This ice has been consigned to the ocean, regardless of what climate (emissions) scenario we take now,” the study’s co-author told the newswire.

#3- From the guy who gave you the Tesla: Elon Musk believes the world needs to continue oil and gas extraction so that it can sustain civilization — at least in the short-term, Reuters writes. The comments came while Musk was speaking at an energy conference in Norway, announcing that he wants to get Tesla’s self-driving technology ready by the end of the year. He added that the shift to renewable energy will take some decades to complete, which warrants some further oil and gas exploration for the time being.

WORTH WATCHING- Let’s be wholesome for a moment — or 50 minutes: In a refreshing change from the endless parade of gloom of climate disasters that has (frankly) desensitized us, climate documentary Brave Blue World aims to challenge our “global sense of impending doom” by painting an optimistic water future. The 50-minute film explores new innovations across five continents that tackle the preservation or reuse of water. It also features a bunch of celebrities, including Matt Damon and Jaden Smith, and is narrated by Liam Neeson. The documentary is available on Netflix.

And while you’re feasting your eyes: Have a look at the 2022 Earth Photo selection here. We’re particularly fond of the Climate of Change category.


Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry called upon African nations to demand equitable climate action ahead of COP27 during the UN Climate Change Conference in Gabon on Monday, Shoukry said in a statement. “Africa is obliged with its financial means and scant level of support to spend around 2-3% per annum to adapt to these [climate change] impacts; a disproportionate responsibility that cannot be described as anything other than climate injustice,” he said. Shoukry’s statements came during the sidelines of Africa Climate Week, where he is drumming up support ahead of COP27.

Climate finance is going to be a major theme of COP27 in Sharm: Affordable climate finance and the need for wealthier nations to make good on their financial commitments to developing economies are on everyone’s mind in the run-up to the conference — with UAE Climate Change and Environment Minister Mariam Almheiri, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, and Egyptian International Cooperation Minister Rania Al Mashat, and Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo among those who have been vocal in calling for them recently.

Meanwhile, the American University in Cairo (AUC) will host its COP27 and Beyond: Climate Policy and Inclusive Development session at its downtown campus in Tahrir Square, Cairo, on 5 September. The talk will host Special Representative of COP27 President-Designate Wael Aboulmagd to discuss the significance of COP27 for Egypt's inclusive economic development and Egypt's agenda and goals for the global meet in November. You can register for the event here.


The World Conference on Climate Change and Sustainability is taking place on 1-3 September in Frankfurt, Germany. The aim of the conference is to bring together “a range of key actors from institutions, governments, cities and communities, the private sector, and civil society, to make the world more climate-resilient,” the event’s organizers note. You can also attend the event online by registering here.

Execs from nearly 80 Russian companies are set to land in Tehran on 19 September to talk about business in fields including energy and recycling, according to the Iranian Chamber of Commerce.

A MENA youth climate innovation lab and Academy is set to run starting Friday, 16 September. Backed by Seedstars, the United Nations Climate Technology Centre and Network, and Denmark’s foreign ministry, the three-day event will spotlight climate tech developed by young folks from the MENA region. The deadline for applications is on 4 September; you can apply here.

Check out our full calendar on the web for a comprehensive listing of upcoming news events, national holidays and news triggers.


How Morocco is positioning itself as a global leader in renewables with one ambitious megaproject: Morocco’s ambitions to become a global leader in renewable energy got a major shot in the arm back in 2021, when it announced plans to generate a whopping 10.5 GW of solar and wind energy from just one project and on-site battery storage by 2030 — far outstripping regional rival Egypt’s Benban solar park’s 1.8 GW.

Details: The Xlinks project boasts a total size of 1.5 mn sqm — 200k sqm of solar arrays alone. The project will also include a 20 GWh lithium-ion battery storage facility.

With plans to become a major electricity exporter to the UK: The project aims to export 3.6 GW of electricity to the UK through four sub-sea cables stretching 3.8k km — potentially the world’s longest undersea electric cable connection. When completed, the project is expected to supply 8% of the UK’s electricity needs.

The kicker? The cost: The project is expected to cost USD 18 bn. As of May, Xlinks — whose board members include ACWA Power’s CEO Paddy Padmanathan — had raised an investment of undisclosed size from UK-based energy supplier Octopus Energy Group and was in talks to for additional funding.

Morocco is already one of the region’s solar energy leaders: Morocco’s Noor Ouarzazate solar power complex is among the world’s largest concentrated solar power facilities and currently has 510 MW capacity from its three separate, co-located power stations: Noor I (160 MW), Noor II (200 MW), and Noor III (150 MW). A 72 MW fourth station, Noor IV, is also planned, according to energy analyst and writer Llewellyn King, who recently interviewed Energy Transition and Sustainable Development Minister Leila Benali.

It uses different kinds of solar tech to produce energy: Noor I and II use one kind of concentrated solar power (CSP) technology, and Noor III uses another, while Noor IV will make use of photovoltaic (PV) cells, Benali told King. CSP — which uses steam generated from heated water to produce electricity — requires collector and generator systems, and is more expensive and water-intensive than PV. These days, it’s most widely used in hot countries like Spain and Israel. By contrast, PV — which produces electricity directly — is the most widely used solar tech in the US and Europe, as PV cells have become very inexpensive.

CSP can store energy and extend power availability: CSP’s big advantage is that it can store power, helping to resolve the issue of peak energy demand often coming at night or early in the morning, when there is no sunlight. Surplus heat from CSP renewable energy production can be stored in molten salt and used when needed — “for electricity generation or other purposes,” King noted. Noor I has three hours of storage capacity, while Noor II and III have seven hours each. Benali hopes that stored solar heat could also be used for hydrogen production or desalination, she said.

Morocco is also eyeing more exports to existing markets Spain and Portugal through its existing two electricity interconnections with Europe, Benali said. Morocco’s two electricity interconnections with Europe have a total capacity of 1.4 GW. Power flows both ways between them, “depending on generating and market conditions in Europe and Morocco,” Benali told King.

It’s good news for Europe, which is looking to lock in more of its energy needs from MENA after pulling back from Russia. Members of the European Union and the UK are looking to buy more electricity from North Africa and more natural gas from Egypt and Israel in a bid to lessen their reliance on Moscow now and in the long run.

As we know, linking electricity grids is a growing trend in MENA: A proposed direct link between the electricity grids of Egypt and Greece was recently said to be accelerating, as Europe looks to transition away from Russian fossil fuels. And plans for Egypt and Saudi Arabia to start linking their electricity grids have been in the works for some time, with implementation of the USD 1.8 bn project due to begin this year, the first 1.5 GW phase set to be operational by 2024, and the second 1.5 GW phase to follow a year later.


Emrill appoints new head of soft services

UAE integrated facilities management firm Emrill appointed Kim Mayes (Linkedin) as their head of soft services. She will be helping the company enhance their sustainability efforts, the company says. Mayes held the same position at Expo Dubai 2020 prior to joining Emrill.


Solar components factory coming “soon” to Algeria

Algeria promises it’s making headway on a solar components facility: Algeria’s announced that it will inaugurate “soon” a facility that will produce components for solar plants, Algeria’s Press Agency said in a statement yesterday. The facility, which will be built along with Italy’s Fimer, comes following an agreement signed between the latter and the government back in December.



Enterprise Explains — Iraq’s chronic water shortage: Water scarcity in Iraq is causing large-scale environmental challenges, with recent news pieces reporting apocalyptic events like total surface water loss in once-lush marshlands and gazelles dying of hunger en masse. The country was named (pdf) the world’s fifth most vulnerable to decreased water and food availability, extreme temperatures and myriad associated health issues, in 2017. Now, an increasing number of international organizations are sounding the alarm in a bid to avert total catastrophe.

Iraq’s water supply has been in decline for decades, with water flows from the Euphrates and Tigris rivers — which supply at least 98% of its surface water — decreasing by an estimated 30-40% over a 40-year period ending in 2018, notes a June 2022 report (pdf) by the Water, Peace and Security (WPS) Partnership. In 2021, the country saw record low rainfall, resulting in its second driest season in 40 years, and causing an increased reduction of water flow in the Euphrates by 73% and the Tigris by 29%. As of May this year, river levels had seen a 60% y-o-y decline.

These shortages — and contamination of the existing supply — carry substantial health risks and threaten livelihoods. Currently, an estimated three out of five Iraqi children have no access to safely managed water services, Unicef notes. In 2018, some 118k people were hospitalized after drinking contaminated water. Water shortages saw 37% of farmers surveyed in 2021 (pdf) report wheat crop failure, and loss of livestock. Local wheat production shrunk to 4.2 mn tons in 2021 from 6.2 mn tons in 2020, according to Agriculture Ministry data cited by AP. Annual demand is estimated at some 5-6 mn tons.

Iraq’s overall water inflow from the Euphrates and Tigris rivers is expected to decrease by up to 60% by 2025 compared with 2015, WPS notes. Wheat and barley production in the north of the country looks set to see a 70% y-o-y decrease this year. In anticipation of a drier season, the agriculture and water resources ministries decided in October to reduce areas for planting and agricultural irrigation by 50%. Meanwhile, the country’s population of 40 mn is set to double by 2050, further straining its water resources.

So what’s causing these acute water shortages? For starters, climate change: A temperature increase of 1°C and a precipitation decrease of 10% by 2050 — both of which are likelywould cause a 20% reduction of available freshwater in Iraq. Assuming this happens, nearly one-third of the irrigated land in Iraq will have no water by 2050.

Second, regional conflicts: Iraq is highly dependent on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, which originate in Turkey and Iran. Geopolitical conflict between Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran over water distribution from these rivers has become more heated in recent years, exacerbated by the impact of large-scale infrastructure projects like dams, hydropower and irrigation schemes each country has undertaken unilaterally, WPS notes. Turkey and Iran have been reluctant to negotiate binding agreements over water distribution, it adds. Not to mention the USD 600 mn worth of damage to water transport and storage infrastructure from Daesh-bags.

Third, much of the water that is available is heavily polluted, despite existing legislation: High levels of untreated wastewater, poor waste management, agricultural runoff and high salinity all negatively impact Iraq’s water quality, WPS notes. Multiple sectors produce chemicals that endanger public health, and generally require specialized water treatment. And national enforcement of punitive measures for polluting industries is limited by personnel capacity and insufficient funding, it adds.

Only a relatively small amount of wastewater is treated: At a country-wide level, an estimated two-thirds of industrial and household wastewater is untreated and ends up in Iraqi rivers, waterways and septic systems.

Finally, the inefficient use of water and poorly-maintained infrastructure, the WPS report notes. The country’s national development plan 2018-2022 saw only 49.5% of its estimated annual investments directed towards essential infrastructure, including water. It doesn’t have an effective national water monitoring network, WPS tells us.

The prevalence of water-intensive industries adds to this: Agriculture accounts for an estimated 91% of the country’s water usage, WPS tells us. Many of the crops grown are particularly water-intensive — like rice, wheat, corn and cotton. Oil extraction is also very water-intensive, WPS notes.


Breaking down Joe Biden’s big US climate bill

What does the USD 369 bn US climate bill really entail: We interrupt our regional coverage to bring you an explainer on one of the most significant climate-related legislation: The Inflation Reduction Act (pdf). The bill — which was signed into effect by President Joe Biden earlier this month — sets out to alleviate the impact of climate change, according to Bloomberg. Having been dubbed the biggest victory for the environmental movement since the landmark Clean Air Act in 1967, it is considered the largest climate investment in US history.

Why is this so huge? The bill would cut the country’s net greenhouse gas emissions by 31-44% below 2005 levels in 2030, compared to the 24-35% drop expected from current policies, according to an analysis from energy and climate analytics firm Rhodium Group. It should also help double the capacity of installed wind and solar by 2030, based on a study by research firm Energy Innovation. This would make up 72% to 85% of total US energy supply.

Renewable energy production is hoped to more than triple in the US, adding up to an additional 550 GW of electricity from wind, solar and other clean power sources, according to analysis from the American Clean Power Association. That’s enough to power 110 mn homes, the industry trade group said.

And how does it do that? In a summary of the bill (pdf) prepared by US democratic senators, five main goals are addressed. We break those down below:

#1- Lower consumer energy costs: A range of incentives to consumers to relieve the high costs of energy and decrease utility bills includes a USD 4k consumer tax credit for lower to middle income individuals to buy used or electric vehicles, and up to USD 7.5k tax credit to buy new electric vehicles. A USD 1 bn grant program to make affordable housing more energy efficient is also on the table.

#2- Increase energy security and domestic manufacturing: This section of the bill focuses on incentives to help alleviate inflation and reduce the risk of future price shocks by bringing down the cost of clean energy and clean vehicles and relieving supply chain bottlenecks. For example, up to USD 20 bn in loans will be made available to build new clean vehicle manufacturing facilities across the country.

#3- Decarbonize the economy: This part of the bill focuses heavily on offering a number of tax credits and grant programs to reduce emissions in every sector of the economy. One program includes roughly USD 30 bn in targeted grant and loan programs for states and electric utilities to accelerate the transition to clean electricity. Another USD 27 bn would be set aside for a clean energy technology accelerator to support deployment of technologies to reduce emissions, especially in disadvantaged communities.

#4- Invest in communities and environmental justice: The investment package for this section of the bill includes over USD 60 bn in environmental justice priorities to drive investment into disadvantaged communities. This comes in the form of community led projects in disadvantaged areas or community capacity building centers to address disproportionate environmental and public health harms related to pollution and climate change.

#5- Farmers, forestland owners and resilient rural communities: Rural communities are also at the forefront of the bill. More than USD 20 bn will be set aside to support climate-smart agriculture practices while USD 5 bn in grants to support forest conservation and urban tree planting.

There may even be a climate bank on the way: The legislation also includes provisions to create a first-of-its-kind climate bank that will invest in disadvantaged communities while providing funding for environmental justice mapping and community engagement. It also institutes a brand-new production tax credit for offshore wind technologies made in the US.

The legislation already has the buy-in from major producers: Honda and LG Energy have committed to building a USD 4.4 bn factory in the US that will produce lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, they announced in a joint statement earlier in the week. The factory is expected to have an annual production capacity of 40 GWh a year and work will begin in early 2023. Also, First Solar announced that it plans to invest up to USD 1.2 bn in scaling production of photovoltaic solar modules. The investment is forecast to expand the company’s ability to produce American-made solar modules for the US solar market to over 10 GW by 2025.


The hipsters now have a vegan KitKat. Swiss food giant Nestle is launching a plant-based KitKat in 15 European countries on Friday, in what could either be seen as a welcome diversification of the confectionary market, or as the end of days for chocolate purists. But with some four in 10 European consumers reportedly interested in moving to a more plant-based diet, vegan chocolate could be the next big thing in sweet treats, Bloomberg reports. The vegan chocolate market is expected to grow to USD 1.4 bn in 10 years, more than doubling from its current value of USD 533 mn. KitKat V will be pricier than its non-vegan version, but Nestle is already rolling out 300 tons of it.

The main challenge? Getting a KitKat V to actually taste like a KitKat: KitKat V uses a rice-based formula as a milk substitute, after Nestle sampled various non-dairy alternatives including oats, soy and almond. But replicating the distinctive creamy texture of a KitKat without dairy is no mean feat — despite what the rice and oat milk evangelists might claim. “It’s super challenging,” the head of Nestle’s Confectionery Product Technology Center tells Bloomberg.



29 August-2 September (Monday-Friday): Africa Climate Week is taking place in Gabon.

31 August (Wednesday): G20 Environment and Climate Ministerial Meeting, Bali, Indonesia.


1-2 September (Thursday-Friday) UN Regional Economic Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean, Santiago, Chile

1-3 September (Thursday-Saturday): World Conference on Climate Change & Sustainability, Frankfurt, Germany (online attendance optional).

15 September (Thursday) UN’s Arab Regional Forum on Climate Finance, United Nations House in Beirut, Lebanon.

20 September (Tuesday) UN Regional Economic Committee for Europe, Geneva, Switzerland.

27-29 September (Tuesday-Thursday): WETEX & Dubai Solar Show, UAE.

28-29 September (Wednesday-Thursday): 8th World Green Economy Summit (WGES), UAE.

28-30 September (Wednesday-Friday): Ethio Weetex- Water, Energy, Electricity, Renewable (Solar, Wind) Energy, Technology Exhibition, Millennium Hall, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


16-21 October (Sunday-Friday): Arab Conference of Plant Protection, Le Royal Hotel, Hammamet, Tunisia.

24-26 October (Monday-Wednesday): International Exhibition of Renewable Energies Clean Energies and Sustainable Development, Centre Des Conventions Mohammed Ben Ahmed, Oran, Algeria.


Sustainability Forum Middle East is taking place in Bahrain.

7-18 November (Monday-Friday): Egypt will host COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh.


13-15 December (Tuesday-Thursday): International Renewable Energy Congress, Hammamet, Tunisia.

15 December (Thursday) The UN’s 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15), Montreal, Canada.


14-21 January (Saturday-Saturday): Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week takes place in the UAE.

16-18 January (Monday-Wednesday): EcoWASTE, Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center (ADNEC), UAE.


TBA The second edition of The Arab Green Summit (TAGS), Dubai, UAE

6-8 February (Monday-Wednesday): Saudi International Marine Exhibition and Conference, Hilton Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

MARCH 2023

15-19 March (Wednesday-Sunday): Qatar International Agricultural and Environmental Exhibition, Doha, Qatar.

JUNE 2023

1-3 June (Thursday-Saturday): Envirotec and Energie Expo, UTICA, Tunis, Tunisia.


6-17 November (Monday-Friday): The UAE will host COP28.

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