EBRD invests in MENA’s renewable technology, energy sectors

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Egypt, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia are among those countries expected to benefit.

Workers walk between photovoltaic panels at the Benban plant in Aswan, Egypt, November 17, 2019. Picture taken November 17, 2019. (REUTERS)

LONDON - London-based lender, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has announced it will be investing at least $2.5 billion to assist MENA’s renewable technology and energy sectors during 2021.

Egypt, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia are among those countries expected to benefit.

Managing director for the southern and eastern Mediterranean regions at EBRD, Heike Harmgart,  explained “Last year, we did € 2.1 billion ($2.54 billion) in the MENA region and this would roughly be similar to what we will do this year.”

While EBRD is helping out MENA, countries in the region are themselves already investing greater sums to diversify their energy mix.

Managing director for the southern and eastern Mediterranean regions at EBRD, Heike Harmgart. (.ebrd.com)
Managing director for the southern and eastern Mediterranean regions at EBRD, Heike Harmgart. (ebrd.com)

Recently, Egypt completed the construction of the 1.5 gigawatts Benban plant, Africa’s largest solar park. The UAE is meanwhile  in the midst of developing a 2 gigawatt solar plant, which will be the world’s largest, located in Al Dhafra in Abu Dhabi.

They are not alone, as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Morocco also have begun their own renewable programmes.

“We played a huge role in the initial phase of solar and wind energy generation in the MENA region” said Harmgart, “We financed over half of Benban in Egypt and we financed most of the solar and renewable project together with our partners in Jordan”.

Founded in 1991, the EBRD is a multilateral lender set up following the collapse of the Soviet Union to help fund Eastern Europe’s recovery. It later expanded its remit to include both MENA and central Asia.

At the end of 2019, the bank held assets worth over  $82 billion and is owned by 69 countries over five continents, with the European Investment Bank and EU among its shareholders.

Following Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid’s announcement last month, the UAE has joined both the EBRD and the New Development Bank, which is based in Shanghai.

In response to the UAE’s new-found membership, Harmgart said that the EBRD would “support its businesses to be more active and have additional partners in neighbouring countries in the MENA region but also globally in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.”

After approving Algeria’s membership last  year the EBRD is planning to  invest there over the course of 2021.

“Algeria could start this year as a new country where we can look at investment opportunities, particularly in the private sector as well as in the green area” said Harmgart.

In cities that have already had investment opportunities clearly identified, the EBRD is developing climate action plans that will provide a return while at the same time contributing to carbon reduction emissions.

An Emarati stands in front of rows of parabolic shaped mirrors at the Shams 1, Concentrated Solar power (CSP) plant, in al-Gharibiyah district on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, on March 17, 2013. (AFP)
An Emarati stands in front of rows of parabolic shaped mirrors at the Shams 1, Concentrated Solar power (CSP) plant, in al-Gharibiyah district on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, on March 17, 2013. (AFP)

“Amman is already a green city where we developed a climate action plan” explained Harmgart, “This year, we are also going to add Cairo and Alexandria and, potentially, Tunis to the green city network”.

In 2019, the EBRD reported a net profit of $1.5 billion, an increase from 2018’s $253 million. Despite the effects of the pandemic, it is still expected to report a further profit for the financial year 2020.

Omar El-Huni is a contributor to The Arab Weekly on environmental issues. He is a graduate of the University of Reading on environmental matters. 

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