Solar Middle East is the most comprehensive gathering of solar technology suppliers in the region and provides you with an unrivaled opportunity to see the latest developments in MENA’s solar industry. Here we talk to Ms. Anita Mathews, Group Director of Informa Energy Group, the organizer of Solar Middle East, on event’s background, objectives, progress and future plans.
- What prompted the concept of Solar Middle East? Was it the burgeoning demand of renewable energy in the Middle East sector? Or were there other reasons?
Anita: Various factors contributed to this decision, the most important being the emergence of renewables and specifically solar in the energy mix across the region and the wider world. Solar has always been an integral part of Middle East Electricity and we decided to create a dedicated platform for this sector to ensure that visitors and attendees to the event are able to easily source these products within the show. This move has been a great success since this sector has been steadily growing since its inception both in terms of exhibition space and also visitors.
- Could you describe in detail the experiences and learnings from the first event?
Anita: When we first launched Solar Middle East, the region was still exploring the various options surrounding solar power. The Middle East, though blessed with sunshine, has been traditionally slow to consider renewables as an energy source due to the abundance of oil reserves. While the market was excited with the concept of solar power and its benefits, the challenge was to get more clarity on the regulations and standards for the sector.
- What strategies have been employed to increase international visibility for the show and ensure increasing footfalls?
One of our greatest strengths at Informa is our global reach – I like to say that the world comes to Dubai during our events. We invest in building our regional and international databases and ensure that we reach out to them to promote our events either directly or through our partners and industry associations. Solar Middle East also benefits from a captive audience from its co-located power event, Middle East Electricity, where we traditionally see that around 40% of our visitors are interested in renewables.
- Could you provide some testimonials gained over the years from exhibitors?
“We’re getting the right kind of clients asking the right kind of questions and have sourced a number of enquiries directly for our PV products so we’re very happy. We will definitely participate next year.” Shyam Yadav, Projects Engineer, ABB
“It’s really important to be here, we’ve found this year that the Dubai government and GCC governments are showing a lot of interest in solar products.’ We have had so many visitors from governments, I think we will have many projects to do with Dubai and the GCC.” Abdulrahman Al Nounou – Managing Director, Back to Back Group
“The strongest point of this exhibition is that we meet contacts not only from UAE and the Middle East area but Africa and the Eastern part of Europe as well. As we saw from the surprise visit of His Highness the Ruler of Dubai, Dubai is very, very focused on the renewable and solar markets.” Manuele Ceccarelli, Business Development Manager – Ingeteam
- What is the importance of Solar Middle East in today’s energy scenario in the Middle East and neighbouring regions?
The MENA region show high potential for growth. The cost of solar systems in MENA has dropped dramatically, compared to the steady increase in the price of producing energy from oil & gas. We have seen a rapid increase in the average number and size of solar projects awarded year on year. 2015 alone saw tenders with a combined worth of up to 1,500MW.
There is a huge drive in many Middle Eastern countries to increase the share of renewables in their energy mix. The UAE plans to exceed its target of 24% renewable energy by 2021 and Jordan could see 1,000MW of solar power connected to the gird by 2020. Solar Middle East provides direct, established access to this rapidly-expanding market and 86% of our exhibitors consider the event essential or important to their business.
- What is your vision for the forthcoming shows? What are the new elements that you plan to add to the show?
Today, the landscape for solar events in the region is very fragmented with many conferences and events taking place. My dream is to ensure that we build one strong and successful B2B event that caters to the industry. Our vision is to invest in the knowledge and content platforms that can help us grow the event and in our own way give back to the industry.
- What is your opinion about the future of renewable energy and, in particular, solar power across the world?
I feel the future is bright for solar power. The decreasing cost of solar power generation and technological advances are making this sector a very attractive option for utilities. Aside from the affordable technology, the operational costs seem also to be marginal compared to conventional power generation through hydrocarbons, making solar power a preferred choice. Even though Solar Power may not fully replace hydrocarbons as a primary energy source, many governments in the region are relying on it to diversify the power mix.
- What kind of response and footfalls do you expect from this year’s show?
We have already had a tremendous response from our exhibitor stakeholders and this year’s show has to date posted a growth of 14% compared to the 2016 edition, with over 3 months left until the event. We expect around 7000 attendees in 2017.
- What will be the highlights of this year’s show? For e.g.: seminars, producer-buyer meets, etc.?
The theme for this year’s Middle East Electricity is ‘Smart Cities’, an idea that has become a huge focus within the industry and will be one of the goals driving future growth. As a zero-emission, low waste method of generating electricity, solar power is likely to play a large role in the movement towards Smart Cities, and is therefore highly relevant to our exhibitors at Solar ME. Our conference programme on ‘Energising the Smart City’ will cover a wide range of the challenges and opportunities around providing innovative urban energy solutions, from regulation to alternative materials. This year also sees the creation of the ‘Smart Cities Innovation Zone’, which will feature the industry’s leading names presenting their latest technologies and case studies on building-integrated smart energy systems.
The fourth edition of the Future Generation Competition will also be taking place, giving students from UAE universities a platform to present their own projects and technologies around the theme of ‘Smart Cities’. The shortlisted entries will have the opportunity to present their projects to the public, as well as a panel of judges including an expert from Masdar Institute who support the competition. The judges will make an award to their top entry during the official MEE Awards night, and a ‘People’s Choice Award’ will awarded on the final day of the event.
We are striving to make this year’s show more accessible than ever, with a segmented floorplan, making it far easier for visitors to connect with the companies they need to meet. Guided product tours will also be offered for the first time to ensure our visitors can make the most of the event, introducing them to the best suppliers of cables, switchgear and panels, transformers and energy management systems.
In response to feedback from last year’s event we have also created improved networking opportunities. The Consultants Arena will see engineering consultants discuss key concepts and regulations such as projects management tools and the UAE’s green guidelines and regulations, as well as giving our exhibitors more opportunity to network with world-class consultants. We will also be running a VIP Meetings Programme for our exhibitors to meet with representatives from utilities and municipalities across the MENA region as well as our B2B Meetings Programme. This will facilitate our exhibitors in making essential connections across the industry and the region.
Salman is a prolific environmental writer, and has authored more than 300 articles in reputed journals, magazines and websites. He is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on renewable energy, waste management, sustainability and conservation all over the world.
Salman can be reached on email@example.com.
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