Electricity Markets in MENA: Adapting for the Transition Era
Resource-rich economies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are pursuing two parallel strategies with regard to their electricity sectors: (i) increasing the role of renewables and integrating them into their power generation mix to mitigate the impact of rising domestic oil and gas demand on their economies and to boost their hydrocarbon export capacities; and (ii) conducting power sector reforms to attract investment in generation capacity and networks, remove subsidies, and improve operational efficiency. These goals imply that the design of power sector reforms (including regulations governing wholesale and retail markets and networks) needs to be carried out with a view to the possibility of a rising share of non-dispatchable resources. The lack of an integrated approach to simultaneously address these two strategies is likely to lead to several misalignments between renewables and the various components of future electricity markets, when the share of intermittent resources increases in the generation mix. The key challenge is that the ‘ultimate model’ that will reconcile these two goals (liberalization and integrating renewables) is as yet unknown, and is still evolving due to uncertainties around the development of technologies, institutions, and consumer preferences. We argue in this paper that resource-rich MENA countries can, however, move towards adopting a transition model of electricity markets, the individual elements of which can eventually be adapted to suit either centralized or decentralized future electricity sector outcomes. We outline the key components of this model for the wholesale market, retail market, and network regulation, considering the objectives of governments and the specific contexts of the region.