The Catalyst MENA Clean Energy Fund is beginning to put its money where its mouth is, with the equity financing of 34 MW of solar projects for telecommunications company Orange. Catalyst, which is supported by the European Investment Bank (EIB), is an important tool to attract investment in renewable energy projects, and kicks proceedings off with the shining example of renewable deployment in the region; Jordan. The financing will be provided for up to five solar plants in Jordan, for telecommunications company Orange, with an expected capacity of 34 MW. Construction is due to begin in 2017, and the plants are expected to cover the majority of Orange’s electricity needs in the country, while benefiting from the recently introduced “wheeling law.”

The law allows companies to build renewable energy projects wherever it makes most sense, even if they are in different locations to the company’s premises, so long as they can say how much power they will need annually. It is an innovative law, which is making it easier for companies to undertake renewable energy projects. “This is an innovative approach that has been able to benefit from the enlightened regulatory framework introduced recently in Jordan,” commented EIB Vice-President Jonathan Taylor. “It’s good for the planet and good for the economy and business too. Projects like this are very much part of the strategic approach of the EU bank and a key part of supporting resilience and sustainability in its neighborhood.” The catalyst fund currently has USD 47 million to invest in renewable energy projects, and it’s looking at Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt for the next investment. It is the most recent investment of the Global Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Fund (GEEREF), and alongside the EIB, is backed by FMO, Finnfund, and KfW subsidiary DEG.

There is a lot of hope that the MENA region could lead the way amongst oil-rich nations for the deployment of renewable energy, especially solar. Jordan has become the region’s front runner for solar development, with a number of completed utility-scale projects and numerous others at different stages of development. The country has set a modest, but achievable solar target for itself of 600 MW of installed solar PV by 2020. And with modest expectations, we are seeing steady development in the country’s solar industry.

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