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6 Feb,

Energy Trends in the Middle East

Solar energy has the potential to equip the Middle East with centuries of sustainable, clean electricity.

A solar power plant the size of Lake Nasser has the capacity of supplying the electricity needs of the entire region.

Traditional sources of power do not meet the demands of an environmentally sensitive future.

As the costs of fossil fuels continue to rise, the price of electricity and government subsidies will continue to cut into socio-economic growth, widening the gap between those who can afford electricity and those who cannot.

Carbon emissions increase as demand grows, and the costs of carbon sequestration are not monetarily efficient to be the only mitigation technique when there are better options available.

Renewable energy will stabilize electricity costs, as it is not dependent upon depleting resources.

Photovoltaic systems will also increase access to electricity in rural areas without the need of complex policy decision-making, thus balancing the socioeconomic infrastructure of the region.

Solar power will be especially useful for heating and cooling systems and water desalinization.

Renewable energy is not difficult to implement - Iran, Egypt, the UAE, and Algeria are all currently planning concentrated solar power plants - and once it is more established, it will also be useful for cooperation and peace negotiations to share this energy.

Recently, nuclear power has been sought as an alternative to fossil fuels in the Middle East.

This interest has perhaps been spurred by the pressure of keeping up with Iran’s nuclear program.

However, the waste produced by nuclear power is immense, and the costs of developing a comprehensive nuclear program, including all the up and downstream requirements, such as the development of a waste disposal program, are great.

Nuclear power production also relies on a depleting, nonrenewable source - uranium, which will suffer from cost increases if nuclear power becomes more widely used.

An attack on a nuclear power plant, whether intentional or accidental, would be disastrous, spreading radiation for miles; thus, the presence of nuclear power facilities in politically instable areas is not safe.

Thus, when considering these energy options on a larger scale, renewable energy is the most efficient choice in the long-run.

The vast solar potential of the Middle East is waiting to be tapped.