Interview with ROMAIN RICHE – MESIA International Business Director

MESIA Middle East Solar Industry Association

Can you tell us a bit more about MESIA, its goals and how it plans to achieve it?


MESIA – Middle East Solar is a non-profit organization that has currently around 80 members, companies of the solar sectors. Its core mission is to promote the growth of the solar industry in the Middle East Region. 

MESIA role is to help connecting solar industry professionals, facilitating networking, providing useful contents on the latest trends in the market and are one of the voices of the solar professionals in front of organizations, government entities or regulators.

In order to do so, MESIA is offering webinars and physical events to facilitate connections between the main actors of the solar industry.

Knowledge-sharing is as well provided through market reports and whitepapers.


Please share a bit about your background, expertise and Role in developing Middle East Solar 

I am an engineer in mechanics and energetics and I’ve been working in the renewables energies business for over a decade. Started off with 7 years managing O&M of Renewables plant in France. Then, in 2017, I’ve moved to the UAE for the construction, operations and maintenance of the world largest PV Project at that time, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park Phase 3. 

I am an elected Board Member of MESIA and take care of International Business

Currently I head the Asset Management, Operation and Maintenance of the renewable’s portfolio of EDF Renewables in the Middle East.

I have both a managerial background and technical expertise in renewables technologies.

Romain Riche

Elected Board Member – MESIA


What is the current installed capacity in GCC and how much do you manage?

In the GCC, there are currently around 5 GW of renewable capacity online, most of it being in in UAE and Saudi Arabia. 

I am currently in charge of 1.3 GW which will grow to 4 GW next year, after completing the construction of South Jeddah North and Al Dhafra PV projects.

What are your goals for the industry and for yourself?

My goal towards the industry is to support its development and growth in order to transition into a better CO2-friendly world for the generations to come. This support is materialized by my involvement into MESIA.

In today’s world, I find it very important to be purpose-driven. My purpose is to make sure that at my level and in my capacity, I can bring new ideas to contribute to a better and cleaner world when it comes to environment and energy.

What is your read on the ME & GCC for renewables?

The region is offering great opportunities for the development of renewables, especially for solar.

Lands are largely available, solar irradiance levels are some of the highest in the world, and renewable projects in the region are extremely competitive, continuously breaking world records.

The policies are being put in place to support its development but we are still at an early stage, we need to remember that a few years back they were almost no large renewable plants in the region.

When it comes to storage trough green hydrogen, knowing that around 60 to 70% of its cost comes from the renewable energy electricity prices, this makes sector very promising. 

Adding to this the high experience of major O&G companies to handle gas, this make the region a very favorable environment for its growth. 

With the current commodity price increase across the entire supply chain, how do you see this affecting the rollout of renewables in GCC?

According to IAE, prices for many raw materials and freight costs have been on an increasing trend since the beginning of 2021. Compared with 2020, many estimates that the overall investment costs of new utility-scale PV and onshore wind plants are from 15% to 25% higher in 2022. 

Despite the continuation of pandemic-driven supply chain challenges, construction delays and record-level commodity prices for raw materials, annual renewable capacity additions broke a new record in 2021, increasing 6% to almost 295 GW.

Although it is too early to assess the medium- and long-term implications on the deployment of wind and solar PV, so far governments have made no major changes in their policies or cancelled auctions, both of which are crucial to ensure the continued deployment of renewables. 

Solar PV and wind costs are expected to remain higher in 2022 and 2023 than pre-pandemic levels However, while significant in absolute terms, their competitiveness actually improves, due to much sharper increases in fossil fuels and electricity prices. 

Should commodity and freight prices moderate in the near future, the cost reduction trend of wind and solar PV would continue, and the long-term impact on the demand for solar PV and wind may be minimal. However, there is a risk of a prolonged period of high commodity prices, inflation and rising interest rates increasing the cost of clean energy transitions and slowing the pace of wind and solar PV capacity expansion.

Image Credit: DroneBase

How many GW do you see being installed in this year?

Global renewable capacity is set to break another record in 2022 (+8%) pushing through the 300 GW mark for the first time. Solar PV shall play the major role accounting for 60% (200 GW) with about 200 GW (accounting for 60%), 80 GW Wind and about 50 GW of Hydro and other technologies.

Utility-scale projects account for almost two-thirds of overall PV expansion in 2022, mostly driven by a strong policy environment.

What is your opinion about wind in GCC? Capacity and installation wise?

Wind power has been slow to develop in the Gulf region with only 2 projects online so far : the 50 MW Dhofar Wind Farm in Oman in 2019 followed by the 400 MW Dumat Al Jandal in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Wind technology deployment in the region had to fight for legitimacy among more fully established alternatives. It requires adapted wind resources that are not present in all areas such as solar. 

What do you think about the policies for renewables in GCC and which is the policy that is the best for the region for the rest to follow?

GCC ambitions must be translated into actions via defined policies and regulations that reflect regional context, and thus have the highest likelihood of achieving success.

The policy framework most relevant to low cost renewable power, particularly at utility-scale, is auctioning.

Utility-scale renewable energy auctions with well-established IPP models are catalyzing renewable energy deployment in the GCC countries.

But this can be very limiting with regard to private sector engagement as small firms tend to be left out. For this reason, hybrid policies that include both FiTs and auctions have been implemented. 

For instance, distributed solar power has become very popular in Dubai, under Shams Dubai initiative, with the implementation of a net metering policy and lease-to-own model. This procurement option allows customers to benefit from renewable generation without an upfront capital investment and benefitting from the warranties provided by knowledgeable industry players arranging the financing and taking the project execution risk. 

With this implementation, the emirate of Dubai stands out as one of the few GCC markets where distributed solar power will likely see significant deployment in the coming years

What is the future for renewables in GCC according to you?

The current global energy crisis has added new urgency to accelerate clean energy transitions and, once again, highlighted the key role of renewable energy.

Renewable energy is the fastest growing of all electricity sources, but there are significant challenges to bringing more renewable energy online at scale.

How the industry is tackling those challenges will define how rapidly renewables can substitute fossil. 

I’d like to name 3 important ones:

Intermittency: Providing power on demand – even when it’s not sunny or windy, is a clear challenge. To tackle that, storage equipment (batteries, hydrogen) competitiveness will play a key role.

Power grid reliability: Power grids made in the past were not designed to meet the energy demand of today and more robust transmission system is required for the energy of tomorrow. Solutions could be the implementation of smart-grid systems and to create ‘supergrids’. The basic idea is that if energy is shared over a wider area, there is more chance that the sun will be shining or the wind will be blowing in one part of a supply network, if not another.

Policy support and making the economics work: Strong polices are required to ease the installation of renewables energies.

In my view, for the Gulf region, this decade will mostly be with solar PV and wind, associated with storage system (batteries or hydrogen) and enhanced smart grid support.


About Ritesh Pothan

Ritesh Pothan, is an accomplished speaker and visionary in the Solar Energy space in India. Ritesh is from an Engineering Background with a Master’s Degree in Technology and had spent more than a decade as the Infrastructure Head for a public limited company with the last 9 years dedicated to Solar and Renewable Energy. He also runs the 2 largest India focused renewable energy groups on LinkedIn - Solar - India and Renewables - India
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