Solar Rooftop Integration Initiatives and Challenges – Middle East Rooftop Solar Congress 2021
07 Mar 2021

Photo Credit: Hy-Energue, 2MWp Solar Rooftop parking at the Mall of the Emirates

The 2021 Middle East Rooftop Solar Congress took place on the 17th and 18th of February. The fully online virtual event gathered top professionals from the solar rooftop industry. It defined the latest industry needs, challenges and trends for the current and upcoming years ahead. 

On the first day of the conference, an interesting panel discussion titled “CEOs & Government Talk: Trends, Challenges & Opportunities in the New Era” gathered speakers from the MENA region. Karim Magrebi, Executive Director of EPDA moderated the session with a panel that included Ivano Iannelli, CEO of Dubai Carbon, Nurit Gal, Head of Energy and Infrastructure at EY, Eng Mohammed Al Taani, Vice Chairman of the Jordanian Renewables Energy Society, Ali Kanzari, Senior Expert in Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energies and President of CSPV, and Ayman Rasekh, Chairman and CEO of SolarSol EG. 

The discussion focused on the current and future plans of Tunisia, UAE, Egypt, Jordan and Israel. Ivano Iannelli highlighted the current successful rooftop scheme by Shams Dubai in the UAE. Commenting on the introduced policy changes in 2020, Cap of 2MW per plot, as a suitable approach to optimize the rooftop market. He said, “a lot of projects that were awarded [before 2020] at competitive rates did not see light because local banking did not support such projects”. As a result, aggressive pricing could take longer time for PPA approval and the cap introduced by DEWA controlled the process of approving larger projects with proper due diligence. 


Ali Kanzari, Senior Expert in Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energies and President of CSPV reflected on the infant solar rooftop situation in Tunisia. The industry is greatly affected by the constant change of electricity tariff and the country still has many subsidies. Therefore, to drive the solar rooftop market in Tunisia, establishing stronger communications between all parties in the value chain of the private and governmental sector will encourage the addition of more rooftop systems. Similarly, in Jordan, Eng Mohammad Eng Mohammed Al Taani, Vice Chairman of the Jordanian Renewables Energy Society highlighted that the country is still facing surplus. However, he mentioned that net metering is proven to be not bankable in the country so far.


Nurit Gal, Head of Energy and Infrastructure of EY also agreed that net metering is not bankable and explained a unique approach Israel is currently implementing to encourage the deployment of solar rooftop systems. She highlighted that “Israel used to have a net meeting system, however, tariff changes a lot during the year depending on the consumption..” As a result, the new “simplified system provides two options to implement rooftop. The first is to either provide energy generated directly to the grid or consume energy generated and feed the grid with excess energy”. Nurit Gal emphasized that this new approach has been very successful, and Israel shall potentially add 5GW of solar rooftop in the next coming years. 

On the conference’s second day, a critical panel discussion on Solar Rooftop Operation and Maintenance (O&M) was moderated by Ayman Rasekh, Chairman and CEO of SolarSol EG. The panelists included Laurent Longuet,CEO of Siraj Power , Leandro Bento, SVP of Operations at Yellow Door Energies, Steve Williams, Founder and Managing Director of Clean Solar Solutions Ltd and Ivano Iannelli, CEO of Dubai Carbon. 

The discussion focused on how O&M costs of rooftops are much higher than what people expected. Steve Williams mentioned “in the UK, the biggest cost of O&M is from labor that reaches 80% of the total cost”. Most panelists also agreed. He highlighted that in the near future, to decrease costs, the next generation of module cleaning should decrease human error due manual driven robots. Programmed robots, for example, knowing the layout of different plants, will significantly save on the amount of labor needed on site impacting the total O&M costs. Eventually, speed of cleaning will also improve.

Rooftop Solar and Storage is a topic that is not usually tackled. The conference had the panelists Karel De Winter, Founder of Hy Energie, Gorkem Soyumer, Head of New Business and Product Innovation at Siraj Power and Ahmad Ziada, Senior Solar Engineer at Danway Electrical and Mechanical Engineering LLC in a session moderated by Karim Magrebi, Executive Director of EPDA. 

Although panel and battery costs are decreasing, not all rooftop systems are able to include batteries due to restrictive regulations. In the UAE and particularly in Dubai, “the grid is acting like a battery” as highlighted by Karel De Winter. He added, “motivating consumers to add storage solutions to rooftop systems should have a reduction on electricity bills. However, with net metering, this is not possible.” To feasibly add storage into rooftops and also C&I systems, policies and regulations will play a major role in this adaptation. Panelists also discussed that the introduction of Time Of Use (TOU) rates in the MENA could also incentivize the public because money will be saved by using power from batteries when rates are high (if applicable). 

The two-day conference focused on different approaches to implement solar rooftop from one country to another. As solar rooftop is uniquely adapted, polices are the main drivers towards change. However, governments are also cautious about the current amount of electricity generated because smart grid solutions are still in their very early stages of implementation.