In September 2021, elections were held to appoint a new International Development Director board member. Based on votes by MESIA members, Romain Riche, Head of Asset Management, Operations and Maintenance at EDF Renouvelables won the election and is now a part of MESIA’s family. To know more about his solar journey within the industry, an exclusive interview was held this week.
How did your story in solar begin and in the region?
My solar journey started in 2009 with BP Solar where I was handling the solar O&M for French overseas departments and territories (Reunion, Caribbean, African countries). One year later, I joined EDF Renewables team. By this time the EDF group started developing utility – scale solar projects in France. I was therefore managing the solar rooftop Operations and Maintenance (O&M) for Commercial and Industrial (C&I) clients, then enlarged my scope to C&I & Utility-scale solar projects.
Following closely the energy market worldwide, back to 2015 at Milan Expo, I was amazed by the Mohammed Bin Rashid (MBR) Solar Park displayed inside of the UAE Pavilion. It was the world’s largest solar park by this time. Few years later, in 2017, the construction of MBR Phase 3 started in Dubaï. This is where my Middle East journey began.
What do you think has changed the most since then?
Solar sector has changed so much over the last 10 years!
The list is long, but few of the most important changes are:
- The project economic viability has improved. A decade ago, projects were costly and needed to be subsidized.
- The solar competitiveness has increased as never before (solar being now the cheapest energy in most of the countries, reaching a tariff close to 10$/MWh)
- The project sizes became larger than ever, we are now speaking about Gigawatts
- The quality of all value chain has strongly increased due to:
- professionalization of the entire supply chain
- all project Stakeholders (Developers, Banks, EPC, Operator,…) are more and more experienced
- framework set up, best practices & standards implementation.
- The market dynamic and the fast changing economy providing a large portfolio of big energy players moving to Renewable’s sector.
- The public opinion improvement : Today’s renewable sector has a proven track record, and customers are more confident about investments.
- The digitalization and use of AI/Data analytics to benefits solar systems.
How do you perceive solar to evolve in the next 5-10 years ?
The Renewable Energy sector has a bright future in all segments (large scale, off-grid, C&I, residential area and many more). Despite the current increase in some prices linked to high demand in polysilicon & some Covid-19 effects, the trend in the near future is to continue to be more and more competitive.
In order to tackle energy intermittency, developing hybrid and storage solutions (batteries, hydrogen) will continue to evolve positively, supported by the ongoing R&D progress and scaling effect.
CSP has good advantages, such as better capacity factor and storage capabilities. However, cost improvement will be likely needed to compete with PV.
Solar capacities (currently close to 200 GW yearly) are expected to reach 300 GW by 2030.
We will reach a moment continuous growth will become more flat because of limiting factors such as land availability or grid capacity.
While the sector is on good track to reach its objective in many countries, their development needs to be accelerated and solar shall be developed in conjunction of other sources of electricity.
Efforts on other sectors needs to be promoted as well (energy efficiencies, transportation, and others) to reach global net zero by 2050.
How would you describe solar adoption in the MENA region over the years? How do you see it evolve?
The Middle East region is historically a region with a strong oil & gas dependency.
However, these countries have an amazing potential of granted solar resource available.
With the increase of competitiveness of solar energy, governments have launched their transition to clean energy sources with ambitious long-term plans (UAE Energy Strategy 2050, KSA Vision 2030)
We are spectators of the solar industry being well adopted in the region and creating a lot of jobs, often switching from conventional to renewable energies.
As per my experience, the employees working in solar sector are very happy and proud to build a brighter future for our planet.
How did you discover MESIA and why did you want to be a part of its board?
When mobilizing to UAE in 2017, I’ve discovered MESIA trough professional social media.
I’ve been following the content you were providing in order to always be aware of the latest market trends. Over the first years, I focused on working with the local actors and stakeholders in order acquire the local market knowledge and understanding.
Few years later, in addition to my current responsibilities, I was willing to bring the benefits of my experience to the solar industry and MESIA provided this opportunity.
Why do you think MESIA is important for the solar industry in the region?
MESIA is encouraging the growth of solar energy industry in the region and help solar professionals to connect. Moreover, it facilitates the networking, provides very useful contents on the latest market trends and are one of the voices of the solar professionals in front of organizations, government entities or regulators.
Nurture the solar industry is crucial to ensure its future growth.
By Dania Musallam
Research and Content Manager