Green energy growing in Arab World (32)
“Even with the lack of viabilities on short-term economic impact, we managed to adopt the best technologies for our environment.”
By Thani Al-Zeyoudi
In the United Arab Emirates, we believe in realizing our potential.
This belief is why we’re striving to become one of the best countries in the world, part of our national UAE Vision 2021 strategy. It’s also the driving force behind our pioneering efforts to build a green economy.
In achieving this sustainable development, both environmentally and economically, the UAE is facing unique challenges. Our harsh desert climate means heavy energy usage for air-conditioning and water desalinization, which we rely upon for 99 percent of our fresh water consumption. And given our exponential population growth, national electricity demand has risen 500 percent over the last twenty years. Also, our industrial structure and production capacities are very energy intensive. We have to build roads, bridges and infrastructure, elements that are already in place in other developed nations.
Nonetheless, we find inspiration in the challenges we’ve overcome, and the potential that lies ahead. That is precisely why the UAE is transitioning from a resource-based to a knowledge-based economy, bringing to life new ideas that test, build, and scale the diverse energy mix necessary for a sustainable society.
We believe economic diversification is the surest path to sustainable development in a future less reliant on oil.
While the UAE is indeed blessed with tremendous energy reserves, our founding father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan instilled upon us the responsibility of preserving our natural resources. And it is the benefits of these oil and natural gas reserves that we are now leveraging in order to bring about the additional resources the world will need to meet future demand.
We see renewable energy as a natural extension to our existing energy expertise, a logical step forward in maintaining our prosperity and safeguarding our environment. Here in the UAE, we’re implementing a long-term approach to ensure sustainable national development.
Our northern Emirates have an urban planning strategy in place for 2030. And in our major cities, among the most advanced in the world, we have strict efficiency codes for new buildings, public lighting, air conditioners, and water usage. Additionally, new energy-efficient technologies will harness the UAE’s pioneering role in the green revolution and reduce its carbon footprint.
The UAE has been recognized as a leader in the energy sector, and leadership entails responsibility. As part of a growing, international movement, we’re collaborating with other like-minded nations to continuously learn, build upon our progress, and create a sustainable future for all.
Through our commitment to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative, the UAE is improving clean energy access through projects in Afghanistan and Tonga. Also, our country’s commercially-driven enterprise Masdar is helping build the UK’s London Array, the world’s biggest offshore wind farm, eventually reducing carbon emissions by 1.4-million tons each year. And our partnership in Torresol Energy is creating ground-breaking renewable energy storage in Spain, solar plants that are able to run at capacity even at night.
Also, the UAE is a participant in the Clean Energy Ministerial, a high-level global forum promoting policies and programs that advance clean energy technology. Through these meetings and discussions, we’re better able to share lessons learned and best practices, more effectively encouraging the transition to a global clean energy economy.
Ideas and initiatives like these are helping the UAE bring game-changing innovations to life through our international partnerships.
While our country does possess vast energy reserves, we recognize that we can’t rely on an endless supply of hydrocarbons. So we’re positioning our economy to capture developing trends and adapt to changing global realities, investing in measurable goals to achieve sustainability objectives with real-world impact.
Our capital city, Abu Dhabi, has a 7% renewable energy target set for 2020. And Dubai, our international business hub, a 5% renewable energy target by 2030. To achieve these goals, we’re now finalizing the installation of Shams 1, the first utility-scale commercial solar power project in the Middle East. And next year the first stage of the 1,000-MW Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park will be complete. The UAE’s extreme climate conditions present unique challenges to widespread solar deployment, but we’re taking active steps to improve its use and identify the technologies that best meet our needs
Additionally, we are driving the clean energy sector through our leadership in forging international partnerships. The Global Green Growth Initiative, led by South Korea, selected Abu Dhabi to be home to its regional office, driving green growth across the Middle East and North Africa.
The UAE also houses the global headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). And through this alliance, our contribution to the agency’s Global Solar and Wind Atlas is serving as a model for developing countries and those with similar climatic conditions to design clean energy polices and procure financing and partners.
Falling renewable energy technology prices mean that renewable energy is becoming the financially rational choice for global power generation. And the UAE is using our energy expertise as a foundation for innovating and advancing clean technologies.
In our country, wind energy has already achieved grid parity in the northern emirates, and solar energy is close on its heels. When you factor in the opportunity costs of consuming our valuable hydrocarbons domestically instead of exporting them, the case for clean energy becomes even more compelling.
Looking forward, it’s clear that the revenue potential for renewable energy technology is vast. And our country is investing extensively in clean energy technologies to safeguard our economy and environment.
While the UAE is a major oil-and-gas producing nation, we do not have an endless supply.
Our nation was among the fastest-growing in the world over the last ten years, and the UAE population has more than tripled since 1995. And just like any country, the UAE takes very seriously its commitment to raising public awareness about responsible energy consumption, continually educating our citizens about their role in initiating sustainable change.
Energy-tariff reform has resulted in lower consumption rates. But because almost all of our new electricity demand is fueled by natural gas, cleaner-burning than oil or coal, this remarkable growth has transformed us into a net importer of natural gas. We realize that balanced growth must be fueled by a sustainable range of energy resources.
Along with our commitment to relying more heavily on solar energy in the years to come, the UAE is striving to diversity our generation mix and improve our energy security. And to achieve this, we are relying, in part, on South Korea.
Through our partnership with KEPCO, the UAE will deploy 5,600MW of safe and secure nuclear capacity between 2017 and 2020, enough electricity to meet about 25% of our national demand. Our nuclear program is uniquely international, as it doesn’t require fuel enrichment or processing. We will have validation from international organizations and governments, and the International Atomic Energy Agency will monitor our program.
Without rivers for hydroelectricity or seismic activity for geothermal energy, peaceful nuclear energy is among the most viable, carbon-free base-load energy sources available to our nation as we try to minimize the current environmental impact of our growing cities.
A Green Economy
As you can see, the UAE is using its energy expertise as a foundation for innovating and advancing clean technologies.
Our Green Growth Plan will implement policies in energy, agriculture, investment, and transport to build an economy that protects the environment, supports economic growth and enhances our global competitiveness. And through game-changing clean technology
innovations, international partnerships, and investments in measurable sustainability goals, the UAE is already making great progress toward a green economy.
All of these actions are proof of the UAE’s proactive role in ensuring a sustainable future for all.
Dr. Thani Al-Zeyoudi is the Head of the Directorate of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) within the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), where he leads the country’s development of sustainable foreign and domestic policy. He is also the UAE representative for the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) within DECC, acting as the focal point for the UAE on issues relating to IRENA, including participation in the initial bid process.