Water-Energy Nexus in Arab Countries

Amongst the most important inter-dependencies in the Arab countries is the water-energy nexus, where all the socio-economic development sectors rely on the sustainable provision of these two resources. In addition to their central and strategic importance to the region, these two resources are strongly interrelated and becoming increasingly inextricably linked as the water scarcity in the region increases.  In the water value chain, energy is required in all segments; energy is used in almost every stage of the water cycle: extracting groundwater, feeding desalination plants with its raw sea/brackish waters and producing freshwater, pumping, conveying, and distributing freshwater, collecting wastewater and treatment and reuse.  In other words, without energy, mainly in the form of electricity, water availability, delivery systems, and human welfare will not function.

It is estimated that in most of the Arab countries, the water cycle demands at least 15% of national electricity consumption and it is continuously on the rise. On the other hand, though less in intensity, water is also needed for energy production through hydroelectric schemes (hydropower) and through desalination (Co-generation Power Desalting Plants (CPDP)), for electricity generation and for cooling purposes, and for energy exploration, production, refining and enhanced oil recovery processes, in addition to many other applications.

The scarcity of fresh water in the region promoted and intensified the technology of desalination and combined co-production of electricity and water, especially in the GCC countries. Desalination, particularly CPDPs, is an energy-intensive process. Given the large market size and the strategic role of desalination in the Arab region, the installation of new capacities will increase the overall energy consumption. As energy production is mainly based on fossil-fuels and this source is limited, it is clear that development of renewable energies to power desalination plants is needed. Meanwhile, to address concerns about carbon emissions, Arab governments should link any future expansion in desalination capacity to investments in abundantly available renewable sources of energy.

There is an urgent need for cooperation among the Arab Countries to enhance coordination and investment in R&D in desalination and treatment technologies.  Acquiring and localizing these technologies will help in reducing their cost, increasing their reliability as a water source, increasing their added value to the countries’ economies, and in reducing their environmental impacts. Special attention should be paid to renewable and environmentally safe energy sources, of which the most important is solar, which can have enormous potential as most of the Arab region is located within the “sun belt” of the world.

Despite the strong relation, the water-energy nexus and their interrelation has not been fully addressed or considered in the planning and management of both resources in many Arab countries. However, with increasing water scarcity, many Arab countries have started to realize the growing importance of the nexus and it has now become a focal point of interest, both in terms of problem definition and in searching for trans-disciplinary and trans-sectoral solutions.

There is an obvious scarcity of scientific research and studies in the field of water-energy nexus and the interdependencies between these two resources and their mutual values, which is leading to a knowledge gap on the nexus in the region.  Moreover, with climate change deeply embedded within the water energy nexus issue, scientific research on the nexus needs to be associated with the future impacts of climate change.  Research institutes and universities need to be encouraged to direct their academic and research programs towards understanding the nexus and their interdependencies and inter-linkages. Without the availability of such researches and studies, the nexus challenges cannot be faced and solved effectively, nor can these challenges be converted into opportunities in issues such as increasing water and energy use efficiency, informing technology choices, increasing water and energy policy coherence, and examining the water-energy security nexus.

References
1. Siddiqi, A., and Anadon, L. D. 2011. The water-energy nexus in Middle East and North Afirca. Energy policy (2011) doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2011.04.023. 
2. Khatib, H. 2010. The Water and Energy Nexus in the Arab Region. League of Arab States, Cairo.
3. Haering, M., and Hamhaber, J. 2011. A double burden? Reflections on the Water-energy-nexus in the MENA region. In: Proceedings of the of the First Amman-Cologne Symposium 2011, The Water and Energy Nexus. Institute of Technology and resources Management in the Tropics and Subtropics, 2011, p. 7-9. Available online: http://iwrm-master.web.fh-koeln.de/?page_id=594.

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Women and the Environment in Arabia

Women and the environment are closely interlinked, throughout history, different nations glorified women as powerful symbols of nature, and nature has always been given the female characteristics: care, reproduction and life-giving. Nevertheless, women’s involvement in the preservation of the environment has seldom been recognized and documented in the histories of several nations.

One of the most significant phenomena in the last decades is recognition of women rights to achieve sustainable development; many international agreements reflected this recognition, including Rio Declaration in 1992, which stresses the point of the centrality of the full women participation to achieve environmental sustainability. The UN Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012 has acknowledged the importance of gender equality and women empowerment, the CBD identifies the integration of women right in biodiversity conservation as intrinsically vital. Linking gender equality and sustainable development is not only important for ethical and moral reasons, but also because achieving gender equality as human rights of women is prerequisite of a fair and sustainable globe and future.

Increasingly, achievement environmental sustainability is recognized as central to pursue development goals. It`s crucial that gender equality —a human right—is central to this pursuit. Worldwide, there is a perception that women are closer to nature than men, as women interact directly and more intensively with the natural surroundings more than their counterparts' men, which produced their profound experience, understanding and knowledge about the environment. Many studies on women and environment have shown that women are significant role player in natural resources management and ecological preservation. Women have served as farmers, water and firewood collectors and scientists with more respective and caring attitude.

The interesting dilemma about all is since women interact directly with the environment, and because of their roles as home-managers, they are often vulnerable to several environmental threats and hazards especially rural women in developing countries. The toxic environmental hazards may increase the risk of birth defects, abortion, perinatal death, and fetal growth retardation.

Women in Agriculture and Plant and Soil Conservation

Globally, women produce around half of all the grown food, women`s roles in agriculture include: planting, cultivation, production, weeding, distribution, harvesting and storage, women are also involved in animal farming such as rearing poultry and goat. Some examples of women role in agriculture in Arabia include rural women in the Jordan Valley, who have proved themselves in agricultural work and is now irreplaceable in various agricultural operations. In addition, women have participated in and led soil and plant conservation projects. A role model is the Royal Botanic Garden (RBG) of Jordan, led by its founder HRH Princess Basma bint Ali. The RBG aims to preserve plants and ecosystems, and promote biodiversity research and environmental education in Jordan.

Women in Forest Management and Tree Planting                                                

In many areas of the Arab world, natural resources, such as firewood, are the main source of energy for domestic consumption. Unfortunately, the extensive use of these sources has led to forests degradation and air pollution. At the same time, women are the main contributor in forest management through planting and protection. A good example is the campaign organized by the APN, represented by its President Razan Zeater, which has planted more than two million trees in Jordan and Palestine.

Women and Water Resources

Around the Middle East, women constitute the main group of direct users of water for household consumptions. Therefore, they are a mainstream interest group in water management to provide and safeguard their own water resources. Women involvement in water management is growing up, but not yet receiving the attention it deserves. To fill the gap, many programs are launched to empower women at all levels including research. Dr. Malak AlNory, a scientist and a winner of Ibn Khaldun fellowship, researched the supply chain for water in Saudi Arabia and was the first Saudi woman presented her paper at the IDA Congress in 2013.

Women and Waste Management

Women role in waste management include garbage disposal management and research. Dr.Sumaya Abbas, a Bahraini engineer and a winner of L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science Fellowship, works on waste management and waste transformation into energy. “Because oil and gas resources are depleting, we are looking at alternatives sources of energy, and waste is one of them ” she clarifies.

Women and Energy

Worldwide, many people lack access to modern, clean energy, which has a huge impact on general quality of life. Rural women devote much of their time as fuel gatherers. Additionally, women work on projects to produce energy. An excellent model is the Jordanian brave Bedouin Rafea, who decided to challenge gender roles in her Bedouin community and followed her aspirations to light up her underprivileged village by enrolling in a solar program in India. Rafea has not only become the first female solar engineer in Jordan, but she has also set up 80 small-scale solar systems, helping her village to become solar-powered. Today Rafea is a role model, an elected leader and training many others on how to use sustainable energy.

Women and Policy

There is growing evidence of the synergies between gender equality and environmental sustainability. While women participation is vital, their involvement in policy-making aimed at sustainability does not mean better gender equality, especially when the foundations of gender inequality remain unchanged. Governments and donor agencies target women as influential agents for green transformation.

However, such stereotypical assumptions which view women as “sustainability saviors” have risks, as it's based on the assumption that women are unlimited resource that can sustain environments without consideration of women’s health, time, knowledge, interests and opportunities. Thus, women’s involvement in policy-making focused only at sustainability doesn't mean better gender equality; on the contrary, increase of women’s already heavy unpaid work burdens without consideration of their benefits in advantage to the environment can worsen gender inequalities and power imbalances.

Conclusions

Despite the challenges, this is a time of great opportunity for Arab women.  Worldwide, there are many examples of alternative pathways that move towards environmental sustainability and gender equality synergistically, which means respect for women knowledge, capabilities and rights, while ensuring that roles are matched with rights, control over resources and decision-making power.

 

References

  1. Wuyep, Solomon Z. et al "Women Participation in Environmental Protection and Management: Lessons from Plateau State, Nigeria." American Journal of Environmental Protection, n.d. Web. 2014.
  2. Yalan, Zhu. Women’s Participation in Environmental Protection Organizations—A Qualitative Study of Australian Women’s Involvement in Green Non-Governmental Organizations. Diss. D the Graduate School of Beijing Foreign Studies U, 2007. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
  3. Chelala, Cesar. "Women's Role Key to Saving Environment." China Daily. N.p., 2011. Web. 27 July 2015.
  4. "Women, Environment and Sustainable Development: Making the Links." UNEP (n.d.): n. pag. Web. <http://www.unep.org/civilsociety/Portals/24105/documents/publications/Women%20and%20the%20environment/ChapterTwo.pdf>.
  5. The Environment and Women's Health (n.d.): n. pag. Web. <http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/environment-womens-health.pdf>.
  6. JACKSON, CECILE. "Doing What Comes Naturally? Women and Environment in Development." World Development. N.p., n.d. Web. http://josiah.berkeley.edu/2007Fall/ER275/Readings/DP3/jackson-GAD-1993.pdf.
  7. Schultz, . Irmgard.et al  "Research on Gender, the Environment and Sustainable Development." N.p., n.d. Web. <ftp://ftp.cordis.europa.eu/pub/eesd/docs/wp1_endversion_complete.pdf>.
  8. UN Documents. Beijing Platform for Action. Chapter IV. K. Women and the Environment, n.d. Web. 26 July 2013. http://www.un-documents.net/bpa-4-k.html
  9. "Gender and Sustainable Development." (2014): n. pag. The Research and Data Section of UN Women. Web..
  10. "Postural Synergies: Gender Equality, Economic Development and Environmental Sustainability." SpringerReference (2012): n. pag. UNDP. Web.
  11. "For Women, It's Personal." Water.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 July 2015.
  12. "WEDO » NEW Article: "Women and Energy Access: Impact on Sustainable Development and Livelihoods"" WEDO RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 July 2015
  13. "Sustainable Energy." (2010): n. pag" http://www.ashden.org/files/pdfs/reports/DFID-Energia-Ashden-Report-Public-Summary-Feb-2015.pdf"
  14. Rafea: Solar Mama. Dir. Jehane Noujaim and Mona Eldaief. Perf. Rafea, Rouf Dabbas, Um Bader. N.p., 2014. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ON_NQ1HnRYs>.
  15. Sarant, Louise. "L'Oreal-UNESCO Recognises Exceptional Arab Women Scientists." – News. Nature Middle East, 9 Feb. 2013. Web. 31 July 2015. <http://www.natureasia.com/en/nmiddleeast/article/10.1038/nmiddleeast.2013.20>.
  16. http://ccwce.mit.edu/Ibn-Khaldun-Fellowship <2015>.
  17. www.rbg.org.jo

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Qatar’s Fight Against Climate Change

Qatar's environmental records have always been in news, of course for the negative ones, but it has always strived to work towards reduction of GHGs emissions. Qatar is already doing plenty to help poor countries with financing and it seems unfair to focus on per capita emissions for a country with estimated population of 2.27 million making it the 143th most populous country on earth. (For climate talks, that is heresy). This may sound harsh, especially since Qatar's contribution to global warming is tiny compared with the United States, China or India.

In recent years, Qatar is making itself a benchmark for all future sustainable and renewable initiatives in the Middle East. Qatar is committed to creating a cleaner and more energy efficient environment which is expected to make significant contributions in addressing climate change challenges and moving towards a more sustainable future. However, these positive moves will not be enough to cover up the fact that Qatar, much as the other oil-producing countries in the Gulf, has still not made any commitment as part of the UN climate talks.

Qatar’s Revamping Climate Plans

In line with Qatar National Vision 2030, Qatar aims to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. Sustainable development has been identified as one of the top priorities in Qatar’s National Development Strategy. Environmental Development is one of the four main pillars of the Qatar National Vision 2030, which aims to manage rapid domestic expansion to ensure harmony between economic growth, social development, and environmental protection.

According to recent reports, Qatar is getting close to opening its long-delayed 200-megawatt solar tender. Qatar currently has a stated goal of installing 10 gigawatts (GW) of solar power capacity by 2030; the 200 MW solar tender represents just a portion of the installations expected over the coming years, but is still a noteworthy quantity. Qatar, as part of its environmental commitment and sustainable development, is turning to renewable sources of energy such as solar power, with initiatives already underway.

Qatar Foundation (QF) plays an instrumental role in Qatar’s sustainability efforts as it helps transform the country into a knowledge-based economy. It also endeavors to realize this vision by making sustainability an integral part of the day-to-day lives of local residents. By doing so, QF is working towards achieving its own strategic mission of unlocking human potential and promoting creativity and innovation.

Qatar Foundation (QF), in partnership with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), is setting up a pioneering Climate Change Research Institute and a Global Climate Change Forum as part of MoU signed on sidelines of COP 18 UNFCC Doha conference in 2012. The Institute, the first of its kind in the region, will seek to fill critical gaps in research on mitigation, adaptation and climate resiliency for key regions such as tropics, sub-tropics and dry lands. However, it is making a very slow pace due to various issues.

Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development is producing up to 85 percent of Qatar's total solar energy as it announced the launch of one of the Gulf region's first Energy Monitoring Centre (EMC) to manage its smart grid and monitor solar power generation across all sites within Education City. The EMC is part of the recently completed Solar Smart-Grid Project that added a total of 1.68MW of new solar photovoltaic (PV) systems at various facilities. The PV systems at QF now generate 5,180 MWh of clean energy annually, resulting in savings of around 2,590 tons of CO2 emissions every year.

The Qatar Green Building Council, a QF member was established in 2009 to promote sustainable growth and development in Qatar through cost efficient and environment-friendly building practices. There has been rapid progress in green building sector in Qatar with the emergence of many world-class sustainable constructions in recent years. With the fifth-highest number of LEED-registered and certified buildings outside the U.S., Qatar has valuable experience and inputs to offer on the system’s local relevancy and application.

Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) which hosted Doha UNFCCC climate conference COP 18/CMP8 was the first LEED certified project in Qatar and remains its largest rooftop solar system installed to date. Subsequently, Qatar Foundation continues to have the largest pipeline of all PV installations in the country, in addition to its pipeline of LEED-certified green buildings. With more than five megawatts of solar energy installations planned, Qatar Foundation's clean efforts are one of the largest in the Gulf region.

QF is equally dedicated to sustainable infrastructural development. For instance, the student-housing complex at Education City is currently one of the only platinum LEED-certified student housing complexes in the world. Having earned 12 Platinum LEED certifications in the category of ‘New Construction’ from the US Green Building Council, it is also the largest collection of platinum LEED- certified buildings in one area in the world.

Qatar Solar Energy (QSE) has officially opened one of the largest vertically integrated PV module production facilities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The 300 MW facility, located in the Doha industrial zone of Qatar, is the first significant development of the Qatar National Vision 2030, which aims to reduce the country's reliance on fossil fuels in favor of more renewable energy sources. Qatar's fledgling forays into the solar PV sector have gathered pace last year, when state-backed Qatar Solar Technologies (QSTec) acquired a 29% stake in SolarWorld in a move that raised eyebrows throughout the industry.

The Head of Qatar’s state-run electricity and water company (Kahramaa) has already announced ambitious plans to install solar panels atop the roofs of many of the country’s 85 reservoirs. With these latest plans are for creative solution to Qatar’s lack of viable land space (the country measures just 11,571km²), it is a must in a country with very little available land for large-scale solar plants. Qatar will adopt a scattered model, installing several small- to medium-sized PV installations.

Qatar's National Food Security Programme (QNFSP) has been a driving force behind the nation’s thirst for renewable energy, creating an action plan designed to better utilize Qatar’s abundant solar radiation. Meanwhile, Qatar Solar Tech 70% owned by the Qatar Foundation (QF) has announced that it is scaling up its local manufacturing capabilities, and will build a 297 acre solar farm in the country’s Ras Laffan Industrial City.

As the host country for 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar has pledged solar-powered stadiums and the country is also working on a range of other solar projects gearing up to this Football Extravaganza.

Conclusions

Climate change and increase in temperatures is making Qatar even more vulnerable to the lack of water and food insecurity. Every single drop of water that is used in Qatar needs to be desalinated. Every single gram of food that is eaten needs to be either imported or grown with desalinated water. The plunging price of oil, coupled with advances in clean energy and resource conservation, offers Qatar a real chance to rationalize energy policy. Qatar can get rid of billions of dollars of distorting energy subsidies whilst shifting taxes towards carbon use. It is heartening to see that Qatar has recognized the importance of renewable energy and sustainability and its fight for reducing its ecological footprint. A cheaper, greener, sustainable and more reliable energy future for Qatar could be within reach.

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Role of Agricultural Sector in Harnessing Renewable Energy

The continuous rise in fossil energy prices, combined with climate change concerns and progress in renewable energy sector, has catalyzed interest in clean energy systems across the MENA region, especially in the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean region has abundant renewable resources, such as wind, solar, and biomass, which makes it a fertile zone for renewable energy developments. 

The agricultural sector has played a key role in the progress of renewable energy sector around the world as it provides large areas where renewable energy projects are built and is also the predominant feedstock source for biomass energy projects. For example, German agricultural sector accounts for one-fifth of the total installed PV capacity.

The main objective of this article is to explore the role that Mediterranean agricultural sector can play in tapping tremendous renewable energy potential available across the region.

Wind Energy

In countries where there is a lack of available land to build wind turbines, the agricultural sector is playing a key role by providing enough spaces. For instance, in Denmark farmer cooperatives are diversifying their incomes by investing in wind energy. Almost a quarter of wind energy sourced from wind turbines are owned by the Danish farmers. The same trend is taking place in Germany where farmers have established private companies to develop wind energy projects. Wind farms can be built in farms without any harmful impact on agricultural activities.

Wind energy potential is abundant across the Mediterranean region due to geographical location marked by a long coastline. The integration of wind energy projects in the agricultural sector is an interesting economic opportunity for agricultural enterprises in the region. However, as wind energy projects demand heavy capital, there is a need to mobilize funds to develop such projects.

In addition, there is need to create attractive financing mechanisms for farmers and to build their capacities in developing and managing wind projects. The development of wind energy projects owned by farmers will help them to have an extra revenue stream. It will also lead to decentralization of electricity production, which will not only reduce transmission losses but also decrease reliance on the national grid.

Solar Energy

The Mediterranean region receives one of the highest solar radiation in the world. Large availability of unexploited lands in the region, especially in the Eastern and Southern countries, makes solar energy systems, especially photovoltaics an attractive proposition for regional countries.  Agricultural farms in the Mediterranean region can use PV systems for domestic as well as commercial power generation.  In addition, there are a handful of applications in agricultural sector such as water pumping and irrigation.

Off-grid photovoltaic systems ensure a reliable and completely autonomous water supply at low cost – without fuel-powered generators, battery systems or long power lines. Solar energy can make irrigation independent of grid power. Low-pressure drip irrigation systems can be operated with any photovoltaic-powered pump, making them ideal for areas not connected to the grid. Photovoltaic projects require low capital investment and can be developed at small-to-medium scales.

Bioenergy

A variety of fuels can be produced from agricultural biomass resources including liquid fuels, such as ethanol, methanol, biodiesel, Fischer-Tropsch diesel, and gaseous fuels, such as hydrogen and methane. The agricultural resources include animal manure and crop residues derived primarily from maize, corn and small grains. A variety of regionally significant crops, such as cotton, sugarcane, rice, and fruit and nut orchards can also be a source of crop residues.

Globally, biofuels are most commonly used to power vehicles, heat homes, and for cooking. Biofuels are generally considered as offering many priorities, including sustainability, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, regional development, social structure and agriculture, and security of supply.        

One of the species that is cultivated and exploited for these purposes is Jatropha curcas which is widely cultivated in Brazil and India for producing biodiesel. Jatropha can be successfully grown in arid regions of the Mediterranean for biodiesel production. These energy crops are highly useful in preventing soil erosion and shifting of sand-dunes. Infact, Jatropha is already grown at limited scale in some Middle East countries, especially Egypt,  and tremendous potential exists for its commercial exploitation.

Conclusion

The time has come for industries in the Mediterranean region, especially the agricultural sector, to undertake the shift necessary to contribute to sustainable development of the MENA region by making the best use of latest technological developments in renewable energy sector.

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Desalination – A Better Choice for MENA

Water scarcity is a major problem in many parts of the world affecting quality of life, the environment, industry, and the economies of developing nations. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is considered as one of the most water-scarce regions of the world. Large scale water management problems are already apparent in the region. While the MENA region’s population is growing steadily, per capita water availability is expected to fall by more than 40-50% by the year 2050. Also, climate change is likely to affect weather and precipitation patterns, and the consequences of which may force the MENA region to more frequent and severe droughts.

Growth in desalination has increased dramatically as countries seek solutions to water scarcity caused by population growth, climate change, pollution and industrial development. In addition, the industry has done much to lower the cost of desalination. Advances in technology have led to increased energy efficiency, and greater economies of scale have also helped lower costs. The majority of new commissioned capacity is seawater desalination. As of June 30, 2011, there were 15,988 desalination plants worldwide and the total global capacity of all plants online was 66.5 million cubic meters per day (m3/d), or approximately 17.6 billion US gallons per day.

Existing desalination plants work in one of two ways. Some distil seawater by heating it up to evaporate part of it. They then condense the vapour—a process that requires electricity. The other plants use reverse osmosis. This employs high-pressure pumps to force the water from brine through a membrane that is impermeable to salt. That, too, needs electricity. Even the best reverse-osmosis plants require 3.7 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy to produce 1,000 litres of drinking water.

Recent researches indicate that we can produce that much freshwater with less than 1 kWh of electricity, and no other paid-for source of power is needed. This process is fuelled by concentration gradients of salinity between different vessels of brine. These different salinities are brought about by evaporation. The process begins by spraying seawater into a shallow, black-bottomed pond, where it absorbs heat from the atmosphere. The resulting evaporation increases the concentration of salt in the water from its natural level of 3.5% to as much as 20%. Low-pressure pumps are then used to pipe this concentrated seawater, along with three other streams of untreated seawater, into the desalting unit.

Perspectives for MENA

Seawater desalination powered by renewable power offers an attractive opportunity for MENA countries to ensure affordable, sustainable and secure freshwater supply. The MENA region has tremendous wind and solar energy potential which can be effectively utilized in desalination processes. Concentrating solar power (CSP) offers an attractive option to power industrial-scale desalination plants that require both high temperature fluids and electricity.

The renewable energy potential is now starting to be more seriously considered in the MENA region, driven by rapidly increasing energy usage, high insolation rates, a young and empowered workforce, and an increasing awareness of the costs of burning natural resources. The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco, have ambitious solar power generation goals as well as evolving policies and regulatory frameworks to support these goals. Demonstration projects are being deployed in some countries, while large scale projects are being deployed in others.

Conclusion

Water demand and supply have become an international issue due to several factors: global warming (droughts are more often in arid areas), low annual rainfall, a rise in population rates during last decades, high living standards, and the expansion of industrial and agricultural activities. Freshwater from rivers and groundwater sources are becoming limited and vast reserves of fresh water are located in deep places where economical and geological issues are the main obstacles.

Therefore, it has turned into a competition to get this vital liquid and to find more feasible and economical sources that can ameliorate the great demand that the world is living nowadays and avoid water restrictions and service interruptions to domestic water supply. And, desalination powered by renewable energy resources seems to be an excellent alternative for getting fresh water and electricity in MENA countries.

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African Development Bank and Renewable Energy

Africa has huge renewable energy potential with some of the world’s largest concentration of alternative energy resources in the form of solar, wind, hydro, and energy. Overall, 17 countries in sub-Saharan Africa are in the top-33 countries worldwide with combined reserves of solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal energy far exceeding annual consumption. Most of the sub-Saharan countries receive solar radiation in the range of 6-8 kWh/m2/day, which counts among the highest amounts of solar radiation in the world. Until now, only a small fraction of Africa’s vast renewable energy potential has been tapped.  The renewable energy resources have the potential to cover the energy requirements of the entire continent.

The African Development Bank has supported its member countries in their energy development initiatives for more than four decades. With growing concerns about climate change, AfDB has compiled a strong project pipeline comprised of small- to large-scale wind-power projects, mini, small and large hydro-power projects, cogeneration power projects, geothermal power projects and biodiesel projects. The major priorities for the Bank include broadening the supply of low-cost environmentally clean energy and developing renewable forms of energy to diversify power generation sources in Africa. The AfDB’s interventions to support climate change mitigation in Africa are driven by sound policies and strategies and through its financing initiatives the Bank endeavors to become a major force in clean energy development in Africa.

Energy projects are an important area of the AfDB’s infrastructure work, keeping in view the lack of access to energy services across Africa and continued high oil prices affecting oil-importing countries. AfDB’s Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), and other programmes, are in the process of identifying priority investment projects in renewable energy, which also include small and medium scale hydro and biomass co-generation.  The Bank supports its member countries towards developing renewable energy projects in three ways:

  • By encouraging countries to mainstream clean energy options into national development plans and energy planning.
  • By promoting investment in clean energy and energy efficiency ventures
  • By supporting the sustainable exploitation of the huge energy potential of the continent, while supporting the growth of a low-carbon economy.

FINESSE Africa Program

The FINESSE Africa Program, financed by the Dutch Government, has been the mainstay of AfDB’s support of renewable energy and energy efficiency since 2004. The Private Sector department of AfDB, in collaboration with the Danish Renewable Energy Agency (DANIDA), has developed a robust project pipeline of solar, wind, geothermal and biomass energy projects for upcoming five years. 

The FINESSE program has helped in project preparation/development for Lesotho (rural electrification by means of different sources of renewable energy), Madagascar (rural water supply using solar water pumps), Ghana (energy sector review) and Uganda (solar PV for schools and boarding facilities), as well as on the development of the energy component of the Community Agricultural Infrastructure Improvement Program in Uganda (solar PV, hydropower and grid extension), the Bank’s initiative on bio-ethanol in Mozambique (including co-funding a recent bio fuels workshop in Maputo) and the AfDB Country Strategy Paper revision in Madagascar.

Clean Energy Investment Framework

The AfDB’s Clean Energy Investment Framework aims at promoting sustainable development and contributing to global emissions reduction efforts by using a three-pronged approach: maximize clean energy options, emphasize energy efficiency and enable African countries to participate effectively in CDM sector. The AfDB’s interventions to support climate change mitigation in Africa are driven by sound policies and strategies and through its financing initiatives the Bank endeavors to become a major force in clean energy development in Africa.

In order to finance energy access and clean energy development operations, the Bank Group will draw on resources from its AfDB non-concessional window to finance public-sponsored projects and programs in countries across Africa. According to the Framework, AfDB will work with a range of stakeholders (national governments, regional organizations, sub-sovereign entities, energy and power utilities, independent power producers and distributors, sector regulators, and civil society organizations) on key issues in clean energy access and climate adaptation in all regional member countries. 

Climate Investment Funds

Part of the AfDB’s commitment to supporting Africa’s move toward climate resilience and low carbon development is expanding access to international climate change financing. The African Development Bank is implementing the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), a pair of funds designed to help developing countries pilot transformations in clean technology, sustainable management of forests, increased energy access through renewable energy, and climate-resilient development. The AfDB has been involved with the CIF since their inception in 2008. 

The Bank is actively supporting African nations and regions as they develop CIF investment plans and then channeling CIF funds, as well as its own co-financing, to turn those plans into action. One of the Climate Investment Funds, the Clean Technology Fund (CTF) provides developing countries with positive incentives to scale up the demonstration, deployment, and transfer of technologies with a high potential for long-term greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions savings. 

In the Middle East and North Africa region, US$750 million in CTF funding is supporting deployment of 1GW of solar power generation capacity, reducing about 1.7 million tons of CO2 per year from the energy sectors of Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia. In Morocco, US$197 million in CTF funding is cofinancing the world’s largest concentrated solar power initiative. Another US$125 million is helping scale up investments in its wind energy program targeting 2GW by 2020.

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Peak Oil: Perspectives for Saudi Arabia

PeakOil-SaudiArabiaThe term ‘peak oil’ is ominous to the Middle East, as most of the countries in the region are heavily dependent on oil and natural gas for industrial, economic and social development. Petroleum is considered one of the world’s most important sources of energy generation, after uranium, of course. Many other substances have been tested in order to be used as alternatives to petroleum, but none have hitherto been successful. Scientific research illustrates how the world is facing catastrophe if it doesn’t find an alternative to oil, as it is currently impossible for the global economy to grow without sufficient amounts of energy which are adapted to the demands of this growth. There is more discussion now than ever before about how the world is definitely starting to approach a stage of peak oil.

What is Peak Oil

Peak oil is a termed coined by the renowned American geologist King Hubbert in the fifties. He managed to predict an oil peak in several regions in America which would occur in the seventies; and exactly what this scientist predicted did in fact happen. For when oil extraction reaches extreme levels it begins to decline and gradually ends. Oil is considered a finite resource, or one which isn’t renewed as it is used up.

This theory confirms that global oil production has reached its peak today and has started declining inexorably now that 50% of the world’s oil reserves have been consumed. This proves that oil could be on the brink of depletion if clear and serious plans are not put in place to guide consumption and therefore encourage using provisional reserves in the best way. However, this theory is not accepted by many or by those who continue to focus on how large the earth’s oil reserves are, and how they only need investment so that they can be drilled.

Peak Oil Scenario for Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is considered one of the largest global oil exporters and the only one able to regulate and stabilise the global oil market, thanks to its reserve stocks. These reserves are calculated to be at 265.4 billion barrels, or what is enough to last, at the current level of production, for more than 72 years. According to ARAMCO reports, there are around a trillion barrels that will be discovered in the future and will satisfy global demands, despite current consumption, for one whole century.

 Saudi Arabia is currently focussing its efforts on drilling and extracting natural gas, as it doesn’t import it but depends on domestic production. Alongside this, the Saudi Kingdom is currently making huge investments in nuclear energy and solar power.

But can natural gas and renewable energy be relied upon as alternatives to oil in order to satisfy Saudi Arabia’s domestic needs, which are rapidly growing each day? According to a recent report by America’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), Saudi Arabia is the largest oil-consuming nation in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia consumed 2.9 million barrels per day of oil in 2013, almost double the consumption in 2000, because of strong industrial growth and subsidised prices. One important contributor to Saudi oil demand is the direct crude oil burn for power generation. There is not just enough fuel oil and natural gas to meet the demand and hence the resorting to crude oil.

Has peak oil really arrived? If not today, then when? And how will it look, especially for countries totally dependent on oil? Will its consequences be different for both developed and under-developed nations?  Given that global demand for oil will only grow to exceed 100 million barrels a day after 2020, according to the most extreme estimates, I believe that the time may have come for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to start planning for what follows the oil era.

Despite looming threat of peak oil, power generation capacity in KSA is expected to rise from current level of 58GW to 120GW by 2032, however Saudi Arabia cannot afford to burn rising crude oil volumes for power generation. In spite of the fifth largest natural gas reserves in the world, it does not produce sufficient gas for power generation and for its vast petrochemical industry. The only solution at this point of time is transition to low-carbon economy whereby Saudi Arabia make use of its massive solar energy potential, implement effective measures for improving energy efficiency in the industrial sector and remove huge energy subsidies for industrial and domestic users.

 

Note: The article has been translated from Arabic by Katie Holland who graduated from Durham University in 2015 with a degree in Arabic and French, having also studied Persian. Currently working in London, she hopes to develop a career that uses her knowledge of Arabic and the Middle East, alongside pursuing her various interests in the arts. 

Solar Energy Prospects in Tunisia

Tunisia is an energy-dependent country with modest oil and gas reserves. Around 97 percent of the total energy is produced by natural gas and oil, while renewables contribute merely 3% of the energy mix. The installed electricity capacity in 2014 was 4,799 MW which is expected to sharply increase to 7,500 MW by 2021 to meet the rising power demands of the industrial and domestic sectors. Needless to say, Tunisia is building additional conventional power plants and developing its solar and wind capacities to sustain economic development.

Solar Energy Potential

Tunisia has good renewable energy potential, especially solar and wind, which the government is trying to tap to ensure a safe energy future. The country has very good solar radiation potential which ranges from 1800 kWh/m² per year in the North to 2600kWh/m² per year in the South. The total installed capacity of grid-connected renewable power plant was around 312 MW in 2014 (245 MW of wind energy, 62 MW of hydropower and 15 MW of PV), that was just 6% of the total capacity. 

In 2009, the Tunisian government adopted “Plan Solaire Tunisien” or Tunisia Solar Plan to achieve 4.7 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030 which includes the use of solar photovoltaic systems, solar water heating systems and solar concentrated power units. The Tunisian solar plan is being implemented by STEG Énergies Renouvelables (STEG RE) which is a subsidiary of state-utility STEG and responsible for the development of alternative energy sector in the country. 

The total investment required to implement the Tunisian Solar Program plan have been estimated at $2.5 billion, including $175 million from the National Fund, $530 million from the public sector, $1,660 million from private sector funds, and $24 million from international cooperation, all of which will be spent over the period of 2012 – 2016. Around 40 percent of the resources will be devoted to the development of energy export infrastructure.

Tunisian Solar Program (PROSOL)

Tunisian Solar Programme, launched in 2005, is a joint initiative of UNEP, Tunisian National Agency for Energy Conservation, state-utility STEG and Italian Ministry for Environment, Land and Sea. The program aims to promote the development of the solar energy sector through financial and fiscal support. PROSOL includes a loan mechanism for domestic customers to purchase Solar Water Heaters and a capital cost subsidy provided by the Tunisian government of 20% of system costs. The major benefits of PROSOL are:

  • More than 50,000 Tunisian families get their hot water from the sun based on loans
  • Generation of employment opportunities in the form of technology suppliers and installation companies.
  • Reduced dependence on imported energy carriers
  • Reduction of GHGs emissions.

The Tunisian Solar Plan contains 40 projects aimed at promoting solar thermal and photovoltaic energies, wind energy, as well as energy efficiency measures. The plan also incorporates the ELMED project; a 400KV submarine cable interconnecting Tunisia and Italy.

 

In Tunisia, the totol solar PV total capacity at the end of 2014 was 15 MW which comprised of mostly small-scale private installations (residential as well as commercial) with capacity ranging from 1 kW and 30 kW. As of early 2015, there were only three operational PV installations with a capacity of at least 100 kW: a 149 kWp installation in Sfax, a 211 kWp installation operated by the Tunisian potable water supply company SONEDE and a 100 kWp installation in the region of Korba, both connected to the medium voltage, and realized by Tunisian installer companies. The first large scale solar power plant of a 10MW capacity, co-financed by KfW and NIF (Neighbourhood Investment Facility) and implemented by STEG, is due 2018 in Tozeur.

TuNur Concentrated Solar Power Project

TuNur CSP project is Tunisia's most ambitious renewable energy project yet. The project consists of a 2,250 MW solar CSP (Concentrated Solar Power) plant in Sahara desert and a 2 GW HVDC (High-Voltage Direct Current) submarine cable from Tunisia to Italy. TuNur plans to use Concentrated Solar Power to generate a potential 2.5GW of electricity on 100km2 of desert in South West Tunisia by 2018. As per project objectives, solar power will be exported to Italy via a 1,000km high-voltage DC cable and then connected to European grids as far afield as the UK. At present the project is at the fund-raising stage.

 

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Renewable Energy in Morocco

Morocco, being one of largest energy importer in MENA, is making concerted efforts to reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuels. Renewable energy is an attractive proposition as Morocco has almost complete dependence on imported energy carriers. In 2012, Morocco spent around US$10 billion on all energy imports (crude oil and oil products, coal, natural gas and electricity). Annual electricity consumption in Morocco was 33.5 TWh in 2014, and is steadily increasing at a rate of around 7 percent each year. 

The major sources of alternative energy in Morocco are solar and wind. Wind energy potential is excellent in vast parts in the northern and southern regions, with the annual average wind speed exceeding 9 m/s at 40 meters elevation. As far as solar is concerned, the country experiences 3000 hours per year of annual sunshine equivalent to 5.3 kWh/m²/day. In Morocco, the total installed renewable energy capacity (excluding hydropower) was approximately 787MW at the end of year 2015. The Moroccan Government has set up an ambitious target of meeting 42% of its energy requirements using renewable resources (2GW solar and 2GW wind) by 2020. Morocco is investing more than USD13 billion in developing its renewable energy sector, which will reduce its dependence on imported energy carriers to a great extent. 

Morocco Solar Program

Morocco has launched one of the world’s largest and most ambitious solar energy plan with investment of USD 9billion. The Moroccan Solar Plan is regarded as a milestone on the country’s path towards a secure and sustainable energy supply which is clean, green and affordable. The aim of the plan is to generate 2,000 megawatts (or 2 gigawatts) of solar power by the year 2020 by building mega-scale solar power projects at five location — Laayoune (Sahara), Boujdour (Western Sahara), Tarfaya (south of Agadir), Ain Beni Mathar (center) and Ouarzazate — with modern solar thermal, photovoltaic and concentrated solar power mechanisms. Morocco, the only African country to have a power cable link to Europe, is also a key player in Mediterranean Solar Plan and Desertec Industrial Initiative. 

Construction is underway at the 500MW Solar Power Complex at Ouarzazate, the world’s largest solar power plant. To be built with investment of an estimated Euros 2.3 billion, the project is the first one to be implemented under the Moroccan Solar Plan. The Ouarzazate Solar Complex, also known as Noor CSP with a total capacity of 580 MW will produce an estimated output of 1.2 TWh/year to meet power demand of more than 1 million population when it is completed in 2018. The first phase of Ouarzazate solar project, known as Noor 1 CSP, is a 160-MW concentrated solar power (CSP) plant which will be switched on in Febrary 2016. Around $3.9bn has been invested in the Ouarzazate solar complex, including $1bn from the German investment bank KfW, $596m from the European Investment Bank and $400m from the World Bank.

The Ain Beni Mather Integrated Solar Thermal Combined Cycle Power Station, commissioned in 2011, is one of the most promising solar power projects in Africa.  The plant combines solar power and thermal power, and has the production capacity of 472 MWe. The total cost of the project was US$544 million including US$43.2 million in grant financing from the GEF, two loans from the African Development Bank (AfDB) for a total of US$371.8 million and a loan of US$ 129 million from Spain’s Instituto de Credito Official (ICO).

In 2010, the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), a public-private venture, was set up specifically to implement these projects.  Its mandate is to implement the overall project and to coordinate and to supervise other activities related to this initiative. Stakeholders of the Agency include the Hassan II Fund For Economic & Social Development, Energetic Investment Company and the Office National de l’Electricité (ONE). The Solar Plan is backed by Germany, with funding being provided by German Environment Ministry (BMU) and KfW Entwicklungsbank while GIZ is engaged in skills and capacity-building for industry.

Morocco Wind Program

Morocco has huge wind energy potential due to it 3,500 km coast line and average wind speeds between 6 and 11 m/s. Regions near the Atlantic coast, such as Essaouira, Tangier and Tetouan (with average annual average wind speeds between 9.5 and 11 m/s at 40 metres) and Tarfaya, Laayoune, Dakhla, and Taza (with annual average wind speed between 7.5 and 9.5 m/s at 40 metres) has excellent wind power potential. According to a study by CDER and GTZ, the total potential for wind power in Morocco is estimated at around 7,936 TWh per year, which would be equivalent to about 2,600 GW. Morocco’s total installed wind power capacity at the end of 2015 was an impressive 787MW.

 

The first wind farm in Morocco was installed in 2000 with a capacity of 50.4 MW in El Koudia El Baida (Tlat Taghramt – Province of Tetouan), situated 17km from the town of Fnidek. The annual production of the project is around 200 GWh, accounting for 1% of the national annual electricity consumption. In 2007, 60MW Amogdoul wind farm, on Cap Sim south of Essaouira, came online. This wind farm  was realized by the national utility ONE and  is producing around 210 GWh/year. Another landmark project is 140 MW at Allak, El Haoud and Beni Mejmel, near Tangier and Tetouan which was commissioned in 2010 with annual production of 526 GWh per annum.

Morocco has a strong pipeline of wind power projects to realize its  objective of 2GW of wind power by 2020. Africa’s largest windfarm, at Tarfaya in Southwestern Morocco, having installed capacity of 300MW become operational in 2014. The Tarfaya windfarm, built at a cost of around $700 million has 131 turbines will meet the power requirements of several hundred thousands people and will reduce 900,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year.

EnergiPro Initiative

Morocco’s national utility ONE is developing almost half of the planned projects while the other half is contributed by private investment through the “EnergiPro” initiative, which encourages industrial players to reduce their production costs by producing their own energy with projects up to 50 MW. As part of this initiative, ONE guarantees access to the national grid, and the purchase of any excess electricity produced at an incentive tariff, with different tariffs for each project.

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Masdar’s Partnership with GDF Suez for Morocco CSP Project

Masdar and GDF Suez are working in a consortium as one of the pre-qualified bidders for the 200MW Noor II and 100MW Noor III CSP projects in Morocco. The winning bidders are expected to be announced in September this year and in a recent interview with CSP Today, Yago Mancebo, Investment Manager at Masdar, spoke about Masdar’s first experience in the bidding process for a CSP project and their reasons for partnering with GDF Suez.

Masdar has a strong portfolio of CSP projects behind them (Gemasolar and Shams 1), whilst their partner GDF Suez are one of the biggest independent power producers in the world with a vast experience of bidding for utility scale power projects. In the interview, Mancebo highlights this complementing balance of experience as the main reason for choosing to partner with GDF Suez in Morocco.

Mancebo outlined their challenges and successes in finding the right partners for CSP projects. Mancebo said that the main challenge with forming a good partnership in CSP is simply that there are relatively few players in the industry. He went on to say that GDF starting to get into the CSP industry is a positive thing ‘because we now have at least one more company interested in this technology’.

Mancebo also spoke about the reasons behind why Masdar did not partner with some of the developers they have worked with in the past, such as SENER and ACWA Power, stating that the main reason is that ACWA Power has their own strategy for Morocco and other markets. Mancebo said that Masdar would ‘prefer to be the leading partner in every sense’ and ‘want to be an active investor’ in the CSP projects they are involved with in the future. He went on to say that this is reason the partnership with GDF Suez works well, as ‘the consortium’s decision-making process is like a joint venture – 50-50’.

To read the full interview, including an insight into Masdar’s future plans for CSP in the MENA region, download it here: http://goo.gl/v8tCG4

For more information about this interview or to learn more about the MENASOL event, please contact Sarah Kingham at sarah@csptoday.com

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Introduction to Solar Pond

A solar pond is a three-dimensional, open-air pit, filled with water endowed with special properties. It receives solar energy through insulation, then the trapped heat is extracted from it from the water lying at the bottom of the pond. When solar energy falls onto the pond, it heats the water, splitting it into three sections: the first section is the uppermost layer, or Surface Zone, containing fresh water with a low level of salinity. This owes to the fact that salts gather at the bottom.

The second layer is the middle layer, called the insulating layer or Insulation Zone, whose salinity is greater than that of the surface level. The most important layer, though, is the bottom or lowest layer, known as the Storage Zone. This is the layer which retains solar energy and at which the extraction of energy is possible. This saturated layer is between approximately one and two metres thick, whereas the pond is generally two or more metres deep.

When the water of any Solar Pond gathers heat, it expands, becomes less dense, and rises. As soon as it reaches the pond’s surface, is loses its heat to the air as water vapour or by convection currents. The coolest water, which is considered the densest and heaviest, changes places with warm water which has risen to the surface, thus creating a natural carrying movement which mixes up the water and disperses the heat energy.

Solar Pond in the Dead Sea

In order to extract heat from the water of the Dead Sea, a small, square Solar Pond, 1.25 metres deep and 2.0 metres wide was designed as a test by Hashem al-Balawneh, an engineering student from Jordan, under the guidance of Dr. Khaldun al-Wahoosh. This solar pond was constructed in the Dead Sea region, at the coordinates 0 20 30 N, 0 30 35 E. Heat is prevented from escaping via convection by the Dead Sea water’s specific salinity, as well as by the addition of a group of Sodium Chloride, Magnesium Chloride and Sodium Bicarbonate salts (NaCl, MgCl₂ and NaHCO₃), which are also extracted from the Dead Sea.

Solar Ponds in the Dead Sea have a certain characteristic which allows them to keep heat energy, and that is the increase in salinity with increased depth. Accordingly, density also increases with depth, forcing the warm water to stay lower down because of the salts. Next, the heat which the water has absorbed in the last, salt-saturated layer whose temperature can reach between 85-90°C – moves turbines, thus generating clean, renewable, environmentally-friendly electrical energy.

Importance of Solar Ponds

Solar Ponds provide the simplest technique for transforming the sun’s energy into solar power, which can be extracted for different purposes. Solar Ponds are unique in their ability to gather and store energy simultaneously. It is known that the cost of Solar Ponds per unit area are less than any other current popular solar energy collector, as well as the fact that the continuous fluctuations in oil prices in recent times have pushed many individuals and organisations to look for other, cheaper, renewable sources of energy.

Similarly, the warm water which we get after extracting the pond’s heat can then be put to multiple industrial uses and to heating greenhouses in or around the Dead Sea region when the winter frosts set in. Solar Ponds can be used in all climates, as long as there is lots of sun, and even if the pond froze over, it would still be able to generate energy as it is saturated with salts. For an efficient, energy-generating Solar Pond to be set up, the following are needed: a relatively large area of low-cost land, water with high salinity and lots of sunshine. All these prerequisites are abundant in the Dead Sea region, which is the lowest and saltiest body of water in the world. Solar Pond system in the Dead Sea will help in large-scale energy storage and should be seen as an innovative step in the field of energy production and development in Jordan.

 

Translated by Katie Holland

Katie Holland graduated from Durham University in 2015 with a degree in Arabic and French, having also studied Persian. Currently working in London, she hopes to develop a career that uses her knowledge of Arabic and the Middle East, alongside pursuing her various interests in the arts. 

Towards a Green Hajj

Despite the spiritual perfection of the rites of the Hajj pilgrimage, there are some deep issues with its practical implementation. In a journey where one is meant to recalibrate one's consciousness of the one true Creator, it seems paradoxical that such an excursion should lead to environmental harm (or destruction). Why is it then that I walk the street of the Haram (sacred land) and find them littered with boxes of chicken and rice, strewn on the curb in front of beggars who offer to pray for you in exchange of spare change?

Deluge of Waste

In 7:31, the Holy Qur'an says, "O children of Adam! … eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters." The Quran has so many verses extolling the environment and natural wonders. Yet ironically, the pinnacle of a Muslim's spiritual journey, known as Hajj, has become plastered with waste, something which Saudi Arabia has become somewhat notorious for. Much of this also comes from the luxurious European and American tents who really should be bringing with them better codes of conduct as they belong to the so-called developed world.

What about the millions of plastic bottles, essential for hydrating Hajj pilgrims, but surely ending up polluting landfills and oceans, destroying countless habitats in Makkah, Madina and surrounding areas? Surely a country with the financial arsenal that Saudi boasts could arrange for sophisticated recycling facilities at least. In fact, the current sovereign has shown glimpses of visionary marvel, with an expansion project of the Sacred Mosque that will increase its capacity from 1 million worshippers to 2.5 million – this is happening AMIDST mass congregations every day! I suppose one might argue that throwing $11 billion at a problem is prone to producing miraculous engineering feats. Challenge accepted, I say, let's green up the Hajj!

For a Mosque buzzing day and night all year around, it is disappointing to see the thousands of fans, bulbs, chandeliers and air conditioners in use practically all the time. Anyone who has even stepped foot in this region could probably point to a pretty abundant source of power – the SUN! That majestic ball of gas has chosen the Gulf as its lover to whom it imparts more magnificent rays than anywhere else. Yet in a country where oil is cheaper than water, whose got time for solar panels? If the sun's energy were to be harnessed for the planned Mecca Metro, surely the smog filled air, congestion, and indefinite waiting times could be avoided in addition to the tons of carbon reduced each year!

Time to Act, now!

With the threat of Climate Change intensifying and an official Islamic Declaration on Climate Change in place, the need for countries to reduce their carbon footprints is becoming imperative. The role of faith groups in opposing environmental degradation cannot be understated, as the recent Papal Encyclical and Islamic Declaration has demonstrated. Organisations like ARC and GO2015 have come together to produce a Green Guide for Hajj in various languages. We have seen more campaigns mobilizing faith communities on this issue by groups like Islamic Relief, MADE, Christian Aid, and CAFOD.

Strong Message of Environmental Leadership

By ensuring scrupulous sustainability along every step of the most sacred journey in a Muslim's life, we are not simply reducing its carbon footprint – we are sending a strong message of leadership to 1.6 billion Muslims that environmental stewardship is an essential aspect of our faith. By 2020, an estimated 25 million more people will have completed the Hajj, and the ripple effect a Green Hajj could have on people's personal lives could change the way the entire Muslim community views the issue.

The pilgrims annually retrace the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him); the same man who forbade the excessive use of water even at a riverbank, prohibited the cutting of trees in the sacred lands, and commanded environmental custodianship as a strong tenet of the faith. It is about time that the Saudi government (and the entire Muslim Ummah) takes a stronger stand towards externalizing the inner spirituality of the Hajj by making it a journey of environmental care, contemplation and benefit.