Andrews Kurth participated in the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) in Abu Dhabi in January, which highlighted the increasing investment in renewables projects across the Middle East and North Africa. The four-day event, held during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, connected senior figures from the technology, finance and government communities and explored the rapid scale-up of renewable energy across the region.

Andrews Kurth partner Mark Thurber chaired a panel session on accessing development capital through innovative business models, partnerships and new sources of finance. Panelists included senior executives from Sunedison, Vestas, Centuria Capital, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, First Solar, RWE Innogy and Deutsche Bank. The session explored topics including workarounds to historical market barriers and structural hurdles; managing financial, regulatory, operational and other risks; innovations in project financing; and avenues for finance.

The development of wind and solar power is a fundamental strategy for many countries in the Middle East and North Africa because it supports energy security and creates lasting economic and social opportunity. Several governments in the MENA region have made significant pledges to renewable investment. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has committed US$109 billion to the development of 41 gigawatts of solar energy as part of a broader plan to deploy 54 gigawatts of clean energy by 2032. In Morocco, a US$9 billion solar power project, accounting for 38 percent of country’s installed power generation by 2020, is currently underway. Jordan has targeted 10 percent of power from renewable sources and expects to invest up to US$2.1 billion by 2020 while the Egyptian government will invest US$1billion in solar energy as it looks to increase the country’s share of renewables to 20 percent by 2020. Meanwhile, renewable energy investments in sub-Saharan Africa – particularly in South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia – are expected to grow to more than US$7 billion by 2016.

Thurber concentrates his internationally focused practice on transactions across a wide range of energy sectors, with particular emphasis on the renewable and alternative energy industries. He has been active in solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and gas to liquids projects, and was an original lawyer on the seminal Sweetwater wind project in Texas.

In addition to renewable and alternative energy, he has also practiced extensively in the traditional upstream, midstream and downstream oil and gas industry. He has led the legal side of project development in the areas of thermal generation, coal to liquids, gas to liquids, LNG, CO2 and refineries. His experience includes construction, equipment purchase, fuel supply, fuel transportation, crude and refined products storage, power purchase, and operation and maintenance agreements. He also has represented a range of development companies in negotiating private equity and debt arrangements at all stages of project development, as well as in purchasing and selling projects under development.

Thurber said: “Despite the impressive growth of the renewables market, financing renewable energy projects remains a significant challenge. The panel I chaired examined new investment strategies, financing mechanisms and ownership models that have successfully mobilised investment into renewable energy markets. As renewable projects represent a growth market in the Middle East these issues were of particular interest to developers that are looking to bid into this market.”