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Middle East countries favour sovereigns in funding renewables

Speaking on the sidelines of the World Government Summit in Dubai, Societe Generale’s chief executive for the Middle East, Richard Soundardjee, said the bank is working on several large renewable energy financing deals and expects sovereigns to increasingly turn to green bonds as part of their funding mix.

Soundardjee told The National on Monday that the UAE is leading the way, and that Saudi is progressing, while Egypt is starting, “even Kuwait is a space we are watching”.

About 70% of the global power financing deals recently executed by Societe Generale, which has totally stopped funding coal-related power generation projects, are in the renewable space.

It is funding wind projects in Egypt and is currently working with Abu Dhabi clean energy firm Masdar, which is in a consortium with EDF Renewables that won the tender for Saudi Arabia’s 400MW Dumat Al Jandal wind farm.

Increasing portion of renewable energy

Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the two top economies in the six-member GCC, have ambitious plans to significantly increase the portion of renewable energy in their power mix.

Dubai is set to exceed its target of generating 7% of its energy needs from renewable energy by 2020, which is expected will hit 8% next year. Read more: DEWA to build solar-powered green hydrogen project

Saudi Arabia, under the National Industrial Development and Logistics Programme, aims to bring 60GW of capacity online by 2030 by executing 35 renewable projects.

It is offering private sector opportunities to invest in projects such as a 3.5bn riyals solar cells and modules plant and a 2.5bn riyals gas turbine manufacturing plant.

Execution of big-ticket projects and a continuous pipeline of deals will be key for the banks, enthusiastic about being part of the renewables growth story in the region, according Soundardjee.

More interest in sovereigns

Sovereigns in the broader region that weren’t even interested in speaking with banks in the past, today have become the largest users of bank financing, bonds and advisory services, Soundardjee noted. He added that access to bond markets is absolutely critical for government, government-related companies and the private sector.

“We have our dollar [deployment] capacity…. we have [bonds and advisory] mandates for this year,” he said.

“We also believe soon, issuers including governments will have to diversify away from dollar and the euro market is one of the avenues.”