The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is the largest oil-exporting region in the world. Around 85 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions come from energy production, electricity generation, industrial sector and domestic energy consumption. Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia figure among the world’s top-10 per capita carbon emitters. Without a change in energy policies and energy consumption behavior, MENA‘s energy-related GHG emissions will continue to grow.
Presently, MENA countries are heavily dependent on fossil fuels to meet their energy requirement which is a major challenge in climate change mitigation efforts. However it also encourages local governments to craft policies and adapt stringent environmental regulations to reduce the GHG emissions.
Energy Efficiency Prospects in MENA
There is a great potential for MENA region to cut the projected GHG emissions growth by adopting energy efficiency programs in commercial industrial and domestic sector. MENA governments need to create a policy environment that rewards energy-efficient choices and encourages innovation through both consumers and businesses.
The Middle East electricity market is growing at an accelerating rate due to higher consumption rates in the private, commercial and industrial sectors. This results in the need for a successful implementation strategy that can bridge the gap between the current supply and increasing demand.
The MENA region has great ambitious plans and already adapted energy conservation programs aiming to achieve real energy efficiency gains related to environment. An immediate gain of adapting energy efficiency policy is to be seen in elevating consumers’ energy awareness, improving energy products procurement and services, reducing pollutant and saving money.
MENA governments should put energy efficiency at the top of energy policy agenda with a committed goal to reduce GHG emissions through energy efficiency programs. For example, US administration has focused on the importance of energy efficiency investment programs as an engine of economic growth and environment conservation in the United States. According to the former US President Obama, “energy efficiency is one of the fastest, easiest, and cheapest ways to make our economy stronger and cleaner.”
Energy Efficiency Outlook for MENA
There is a wide array of measures which could help MENA countries in promoting and implementing policies to moderate increasing energy demand and reduce pollution in the generating, transmitting, and distributing energy from power plants. Energy conservation may not yet be a way of life in the Middle East but the rapid changes being seen there are an indicator of what is to come.
Formal energy efficiency programs and voluntary measures combined will help the region to maintain its economic strength in the region. Energy conservation programs in residential, commercial and industrial sectors can significantly reduce carbon emissions and augment energy supply in the MENA region.
Across the MENA region, there is a growing interest in renewable energy, such as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass, which could enable regional countries to adopt a green economy and cut down on fossil fuel consumption. In the transportation sector there are many energy-efficient adaptations to reduce air pollution and GHG emissions, like public transportation, carpooling, electric vehicles and alternative fuels. MENA countries can adapt new alternatives to fossil fuels such as fuel cells, bioethanol and biogas.
The linkage between energy efficiency adaptations and GHG emissions is crucial in the fight against global warming. Emerging technologies like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) involves the capture of carbon dioxide from power plants and large industrial sources, and then injection into deep underground geological formations for long-term storage. CCS can not only reduce carbon emissions from power generation sector but also expand renewable energy capacity and increase energy efficiency.
Another attractive energy conservation method is Smart Grid which involves modernizing the system of transmitting electricity all the way from generation to end use. Unlike the tradition electricity meters, the smart meters provides consumers with situational awareness about how much electricity are consuming per unit of output.
Smart grid offers an excellent opportunity to modernize power infrastructure, lay the foundation for energy management, provide new employment opportunities and ultimately reduce region’s dependence on fossil fuels.
The Middle East region has the highest per capita carbon footprint in the world which can be offset by mass deployment of energy-efficient systems. An improved energy efficiency in MENA region (in both supply and use) will help in mitigating the domestic and global environmental impact of energy by reducing both atmospheric particulate matter and GHG emissions.