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From Black Gold…to Green Gold?

GCC energy infrastructure

Will the Gulf benefit from its desert topography as much as it has benefited from what is below our golden sands? Will alternative energy become the region’s next economic boom?


January 15, 2013 12:39 by

Here’s a thought for you. Okay, the Gulf has all of this hydrocarbon wealth. But how about a different kind of energy? The World Future Energy Summit, being held this week in Abu Dhabi, is shining a light on alternative energy, on renewable such as solar and wind power, on geothermal energy and other technologies that are cleaner than today’s fossil fuels.

The astute among you who follow or work in the region’s utilities sector will have noticed how the Gulf has unified its energy grid. Over the past ten years the six states of the GCC have worked together to establish the region’s first Interconnection Grid. Ostensibly conceived to provide and share electricity surpluses among the Gulf’s six countries this grid, which hugs the Arabian Gulf’s shoreline could become much more than a means to ensure that no Gulf state suffers from summer electricity outages.

When coupled with Saudi Arabia’s vast transmission and distribution network and a proposed sub-sea power connection cable between the Kingdom’s west coast and Egypt the GCC Interconnection Grid will become a means to export power to North Africa and eventually Europe. Considering that Europe requires energy at the same time that the Gulf has an electricity surplus, in the depths of winter when air conditioning isn’t needed in the Middle East but heating most certainly is in Northern Europe, could the Gulf become Europe’s power basket?

Even more radical would be the concept of creating huge solar farms in the Gulf’s wide desert expanses. The concept isn’t new; North Africa’s Desertec initiative aims to provide Europe with enough solar-thermal power to supply electricity night and day. The difference between Desertec and the Gulf is funding. The GCC’s states have the money and the capacity to turn the fantasy of the deserts providing Europe with power into a reality.

Will the Gulf benefit from its desert topography as much as it has benefited from what is below our golden sands? Will alternative energy become the region’s next economic boom? And are we now seeing in the World Future Energy Summit the region’s future taking shape? The signs are encouraging, with solar plants already constructed or under construction in both the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Most importantly, is there the vision and the determination to take the lead on alternative energy? I for one can’t wait to find out if our black gold turns a shade of green.


A British national with Arabic roots, Alex has spent ten years in the Gulf and has lived in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. Alex lost his heart to journalism years ago but he has worked with a range of multinational companies in the technology, energy and financial sector to develop their marketing and communications approach to the region. He’s currently based in Dubai but can often be found at Dubai International Airport flying back home to Bahrain or some other (hopefully exotic) destination.


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