The RENEWABLE ENERGY ASSESSMENT AND CAPACITY ENHANCEMENT PROJECT IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (REACH MENA) is a three-phased process focused on increasing the knowledge and capacity base among local stakeholders in the MENA Region to facilitate public policy reform for sustainable renewable energy (RE) development – with an emphasis on large-scale solar energy development in the Saharan deserts.
Anticipating the socio-economic benefits for producer countries
MENA governments have increasingly recognised the potential socio-economic benefits from RE development, and formally announced their ministries’ support of desert-based power generation and transmission projects (e.g. DESERTEC initiative and Plan Solaire Méditerrannéen). The benefits most often cited include reduced dependency on imported fuel, increased local manufacturing and value generation, job creation and local entrepreneurship, knowledge transfer, extended access to (clean) electricity, desalination and extended access to drinking and irrigation water.
Process-oriented assessment and training
Policy considerations commonly focus on financial and technical aspects, mainly tailored to potential international investors. Studies commissioned by donors and cooperation agencies have often viewed ‘policy’ as a static set of instruments, regulations and government-sponsored programs, while disregarding the importance of the public policy process. The approach adopted by REACH MENA, supported by IDE-E and the Good Energies Chair of the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland), along with seven other partners considers the public policy process as that through which local priorities are established and resources allocated, based on the engagement of public, private and civil society stakeholders, across multiple policy levels and jurisdictions, with the purpose to serve national development goals and the needs of the local populations.
The proposed 3-phased REACH MENA process:
a) A country-specific assessment (building on the most recent analysis and available data1) of key opportunities and constraints associated with RE development – focusing on large-scale desert based power generation – and the public policy framework to be established by national and local governments to provide the conditions for (large-scale) RE investment to yield socio-economic benefits for local economies and populations;
In support of the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) and the German KfW Bankengruppe’s efforts to promote RE and EE development at national and local levels in East, West and Southern Africa, IDE-E works with local partners, such as OmnibusSolar (South Africa), to support the role of local authorities. The focus on capacity-building of public and private sector actors seeks to establish conditions (a) for projects to be technically feasible and serve as models for future endeavours, and to gain public support and trust in long-term RE and EE strategies, (b) for financial investment to yield the expected rates of return, and (c) for projects to have measurable positive socio-economic and environmental impact on communities and households.
The training strategy engages local and, eventually, national stakeholders (i.e. public authorities, utilities, regional development and financial institutions) in a public policy process for RE and EE development in countries from East, West and Southern Africa, taking into account local constraints, opportunities and priorities, and making optimal use of financial resources and technical expertise available from international partners.