The increasing demand for energy in the MENA region in addition to the lack of indigos energy resources or the willingness to preserve hydrocarbon resources clearly address the need to further develop the use of renewable energies for electricity production in this area. Fully aware of this, the European Union is aiming at promoting initiatives to support the implementation of renewable energy technologies within the Mediterranean basin. DESERTEC and Mediterranean Solar Plan (MSP) are some examples of these initiatives. However, the high cost of renewable energy technologies, the lack of knowledge, and the lack of benchmark projects have reduced the deployment of such projects. In many cases, and in particular, in countries like Jordan, Egypt and Syria, the lack of capital investments and the lack of integrated vision and precise information about socio economic effects of RE systems did not encourage decision makers to take solid actions in what direction to move. Even within the renewable energy technologies, the lack of the socio economic studies about each technology affected the directions of decision makers.
Recent studies showed that the generated employment (in jobs-year), by every million ECU (Mecu) of total costs, is approximately twice higher in the wind and biomass projects than in the PV project. In addition to that, PV project requires very high imports, which amount to half of the total costs. In spite of that, we see countries that have almost equal potentials in these renewable energy resources, the projects driven by governments are higher for PV technology than other technologies. Pre-feasibility studies of a set of renewable energy plants should provide strategic support for a major market deployment of renewable energy technologies in the Mediterranean basin and, therefore, assist regional development. National and local authorities, research, development and demonstration institutions, manufacturers, utilities and users should participate in the subsequent project stages. The consideration of micro-economic impact of the renewable energy projects should be addressed. In general, the cost-benefit analysis tries to guide the decision makers among different possible actions by calculating the difference between costs and benefits of each alternative over a period of time. The consideration of both private and social cost-benefit should be raised and highlighted. It was shown in some projects that the social analysis produce better results than the private one, these results show the way to a successful integration of RE projects from the social point of view.
Delivering energy strategies requires the need for human and financial capitals. For example, Jordan requires financial investments of about 18-21 M$ up to 2020 to achieve its strategic goals in the energy sector. Moreover, Jordan energy bill is about 20% of Jordan’s GDP. To maximize the private and social benefits of energy projects, the socio-economic impact of these projects must be studies and addressed. These studies must be carried out for all possible scenarios that includes renewable and non-renewables. Even, among different renewable energy systems one can see different impacts of different technologies. Each country has can carry out different studies in these directions to priorities the needed technology in this sector. In some countries, their main interest may be to create more jobs, others they may aim to reduce the effect of changes in fossil fuel costs on its development plans, others environmental impact. Thus, performance indicators, studies in the socio-economic of energy systems in general and in Renewable technologies in particular are needed in each country. The dynamics of the socio economic effects of the sector requires continuous efforts that keep tracing the market and the technology changes. This requires an academic program that cultivates a group of researchers from different disciplines whom main responsibility is to achieve the abovementioned goals. Especially in these turbulent times, where political systems in the region are being challenged and questioned, there is a higher degree of risk aversion among policy makers towards disruptive policy choices, particularly in the energy and water sectors, e.g. energy subsides reform. More than ever, there is a strong need for transformative research agenda accounting for the complex socio-economic implications of business as usual scenarios versus alternative energy models taking into consideration local and regional realities and capabilities. Furthermore in the absence of strong evidence-based policy planning traditions in most countries of the region, the research contributes to better public policy dialogues on the required changes in the energy system through quality accounts of the socio-economic effects coupled with stakeholder engagement in setting priorities and trade-offs. The wider objective of the roject is thus to ensure that participating universities are placed in a position to offer quality education compatible with European standards and meets socio- economic needs of the emerging knowledge-based society by strengthening renewable energy teaching in order to graduate professional leaders who can meet market needs of the country. Specifically, the project aims at developing undergraduate studies with an appropriate modules and courses in socio economics and sharing experiences with EU universities, while extending services and training in collaboration with the local and regional industry and community.
Finally, quality research on the socio-economic effects of transitions toward sustainable energy systems is necessary for informing sound policy choices and mobilizing political and social acceptance.