Exploring Renewable Energy Opportunities with the Middle East Institute

by Fatema Alsaffar

This Summer, I had the opportunity to volunteer with the Middle East Institute (MEI) on
the Energy and Economics Program. MEI is a Washington DC based think-tank focused on
Middle East policy analysis, founded in 1946. From June until September, I was engrossed in the
vast world of renewable energy talk, and space with the increased influence of the Gulf Arab
States as decision-makers, lenders of capital and position in the geopolitical sphere this was
highly relevant.

Specifically, I was tasked with developing a research database on outstanding projects in
the Gulf states, monitoring news outlets and developing an interview tracker list for stakeholders
analysis. The project sparked my interest in the energy sector, specifically with its growing
influence on the global economy and the transition to renewable sources. A huge puzzle is the
Gulf Arab states as major exporters of oil and natural gas. Moreover, the region’s climate
characterized by high temperatures and prolonged sun exposure makes it an incredible solar
power supplier.

One of the key challenges was navigating around sector-specific terminology and
rhetoric. Since, I had no previous experience in such a field. Thus, the learning curve was
substantially high for me. Also, getting to know the global players facilitating the energy
transition like International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and evaluating their annual
reports and country-specific analysis from a local perspective. The firm-specific equivalent,
RISE Energy Services and their country ranking system on evaluating the regulatory framework,
readiness for employment of renewable energy and any barriers to entry relevant to firms aiming
to set up shops in their country of choice.

All in all, the outcome of my summer experience was gaining practical experience on the
research process a think-tank policy report has, gaining knowledge on a new topic which I will
keep following with the goal of developing expertise in such a field as an aspiring Gulf Political
Economist curious about diversification and state-led sustainable development efforts beyond oil.

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