Palestine International Banking Conference 2016 Convenes Under the Title Renewable Energy and Finance Opportunities Hamdallah: Conference Cornerstone of Gradual and Measured Transition towards Renew
Under the Auspices and With Participation of Prime Minister Dr. Rami Hamdallah
Under the auspices and with participation of H.E. Prime Minister Dr. Rami Al Hamdallah, and with participation of H.E. Governor of the Palestine Monetary Authority, Azzam Shawwa, and H.E. Minister of Energy, Dr. Omar Kittaneh, the Palestine International Banking Conference 2016 convened this morning in the city of Jericho. The conference, titled “Renewable Energy and Finance Opportunities”, is organized by the PMA in partnership with the Palestinian Energy and Natural Resources Authority (PENRA), in collaboration with the Association of Banks in Palestine (ABP), the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the European Palestinian Credit Guarantee Fund. The conference was attended by Governor of Jericho and the Governor of the Governorate of Jericho and the Jordan Valley, Majed Al-Fitiani, representatives of the banking system in Palestine from regional and general managers, representatives of specialized lending institutions, chairmen of chambers of commerce, economic experts, academics at Palestinian universities and representatives of international organizations.
The Prime Minister conveyed President Mahmoud Abbas’s greetings and appreciation of the concerted endeavors and efforts to convene this important conference intended to establish the renewable energy sector and lay its institutional, legislative and technological foundations so that it meets the needs of the Palestinian people, while simultaneously meeting international standards. The Prime Minister praised the efforts made by the PMA to organize this important conference, which he believed was the cornerstone for the gradual and measured transition towards renewable energy.
Dr Hamdallah said that the government hopes that the Palestinian banking sector will serve as a pillar for the building and development of renewable energy, so that adequate supplies of sustainable energy can be provided in the most cost-effective manner; both more independently and more efficiently. He added that he anticipates additional cooperation and coordination with both national and international scientific and research centers to provide us with recent and advanced research in the fields of environment, energy and sustainable development.
The Prime Minister expressed his confidence that, given the expertise and spirit present here today, this conference will produce a set of important recommendations to support our combined efforts. The Prime Minister also hoped the conference will culminate in the formation of a team to work on setting a national strategy for the use of renewable energy and solidify initiatives and projects that can be supported and developed by our banking sector.
In his opening speech, PMA Governor Azzam Shawwa welcomed the Prime Minister, the ministers, the high-ranking officials, the speakers and guests, pointing out that the goals of the conference were to discuss the role of raising social awareness of the importance of renewable energy use; highlight the requirements necessary for the creation of an enabling environment for renewable energy use; discuss the importance of incentives for launching initiatives for renewable energy projects and present suitable tools and mechanisms to finance renewable energy projects.
Governor Shawwa explained that the robustness of the Palestinian banking system and the completion of the financial infrastructure of systems and programs have paved the way and created the appropriate investment environment for creditors to launch quality developmental projects that meet the needs of citizens. The Governor noted that banking system total assets have reached around USD 13.7 billion and total investments in the various economic sectors reached about USD 6.5 billion, while the default ratio was less than two percent, the lowest in the region. He added that on these grounds and given the capital adequacy of the banking system and the liquidity available to lenders, the PMA will be making efforts to create appropriate incentives and guarantees to direct banking investments towards the development and upgrade of renewable energy projects that are in line with relevant international best standards and practices.
Governor Shawwa expressed his high regard for both official and unofficial participants for helping to steer investment in Palestine in the right direction. Consequently, he added, we should all take responsibility towards our country and create the necessary investment environment and climate for finance sources and existing and potential investors to move forward and achieve their investment objectives, which ultimately helps realize the government’s vision as per its economic plan for the coming years. Finally, the Governor announced that next year’s banking conference will address women’s financial inclusion.
Representing the ABP, Mr. Joseph Nesnas praised the conference organizers, adding that the conference addressed an issue that was important both globally and locally. Mr. Nesnas stressed that renewable energy was at the center of global attention as it contributes to push humanity forward and bring about economic and social development. He pointed out that ABP encourages the provision of a local investment-friendly environment for renewable energy finance by joining the efforts made in this area, which will reflect positively on future economic and investment projects in Palestine.
IFC resident representative Yousef Habesch thanked the organizers of the international conference on renewable energy; noting that investment in this kind of energy was gaining significance in view of climate change that is slowly becoming more discernible in the Middle East. Noting that renewable energy can change reality, Mr. Habesch added that opportunities are unprecedented for investors particularly in the area of solar energy and environmentally-friendly projects, calling for encouraging the private sector to invest in renewable energy; become acquainted with available opportunities; forge partnerships with clean energy manufacturers and for raising awareness of the relevance of renewable energy. He also called upon the banks to finance such projects.
In his speech, Minister of Energy Authority, Dr. Omar Kittaneh, said that Palestine has become aware of the importance of solar energy as a safe source of energy over which the Israeli-occupation has no control, noting that dependence on this from of energy is growing in Palestine, presently a leader in the use of solar panel water heaters which constitute a key installation in every Palestinian home. Dr. Kittaneh acknowledged government efforts to encourage private sector investment and motivate financing of alternative energy projects, affirming that the Palestinian National Authority supports all related initiatives; both individual and collective.
Jonas Blume, representing the German Representative Office in Palestine, expressed his delight at the convening of this important conference, noting that, having supported vital projects in Palestine since the establishment of the National Authority, Germany encourages this trend toward renewable energy.
Martin Dasek, senior specialist in climate financing, reviewed the state of affairs in the field of renewable energy regionally, while Eng. Ayman Ismail, renewable energy expert, reviewed the state of affairs locally. Experts Dr. Riccardo Ambrosini and Ladislav Dvořák presented a review of international experience in renewable energy finance, while Jonas Blume presented a review of the competitive advantage of renewable energy and the importance of renewable energy financing.
During the conference, a short film was screened that showed a related experience of an Arab bank. The film was followed by a debate session that was chaired by Dr. Samer Haj Yehia with the participation of experts Dr. Samir Abdallah, Issam Khayat, Eng. Ayman Ismail, Eng. Hisham Omari and Dr. Hasan Abu Libdeh. A second session was chaired by Xavier Reille with the participation of experts Ali Faroun, Hashem Shawwa, Jamal Hourani, Joseph Nesnas , Ladislav Dvořák, Hanna Sahhar and Hussein Habbab.
The conference recommendations, announced by Ali Faroun, Director of Consumer Relations and Market Conduct Department at PMA, included review and update of available studies on renewable energy in Palestine; the launch of an awareness-raising campaign on the importance of renewable energy use and harnessing support for the creation of an enabling environment for the use of renewable energy by addressing the issues of local standards, linkage to networks and the regulatory and legal environment. Recommendations also included the provision of appropriate incentives for the finance of renewable energy projects within an approved incentives basket tackling for example the required reserves, loan guarantee and taxation; the provision of technical support for finance sources to enhance their capability to manage renewable energy finance programs and the formation of a national committee with the membership of the various stakeholders to follow up the implementation of the conference aforesaid recommendations.
Attracting notable attention of both the media and economists alike, the conference was attended by a large number of banks and institutions in Palestine, including the Bank of Palestine, Arab Bank, Cairo Amman Bank, Palestine Ijara Company, Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute-MAS, Palestine Investment Fund, Jerusalem District Electricity Company, Gaza Electricity Company and the Federation of Renewable Energy Industries, among others.