UAE Renewable Energy Commitments

Mehmood-Ul-Hassan Khan

United Arab Emirates being the second largest economy and hub of digital revolution and mega infrastructure is now leading the region in the pursuits of renewable/green energies and technologies. Renewable energy gears the pace of development. It guarantees the survival of humanity on this planet. It protects the dreams of socio-economic prosperity, stability and sustainability. It provides essential inputs of industrial productivity, generation of employment, reduction of poverty and above all promotes qualitative life and renewable/alternative energy is a value-addition.

Moreover, renewable energy stands for prosperity, progression, productivity and protection because we all need interpreted inflows of save energy for our survival, development and industrial production.

UAE has been supplying energy for the development of global economy for over five decades. The United Arab Emirates has the 10 percent of the world’s oil reserves and 3.3 percent of the world’s gas reserves which are depleting with the passage of time. Currently, the UAE has the world’s largest per capita carbon footprint because of power needed for desalination and air conditioning. But now, UAE has become a global hub for renewable energy and clean technology innovation and development.

Nevertheless, UAE is committed to develop renewable energy and reducing the amount of carbon emissions emitted into the airs that is why its leadership has already initiated diversified renewable energy policies for securing better future. According to International Energy Agency (2011), the UAE will increase its renewable energy up to 7 percent by the year 2020. The UAE Foreign Minister, Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan stated that the UAE will be a world leader in renewable energy. The UAE has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), for further strengthening of its pursuits of renewables. The goal is to increase the growth of renewable energy on a daily basis.

Undoubtedly, the UAE is leading the GCC and Middle East and North Africa (MENA), in the development of renewable energy. Its sincerity levels can be judged through its comprehensive renewable energy policies and diversified initiatives not confined to Masdar City, the world’s first carbon neutral zero waste city, the annual World Future Energy Summit, IRENA’s headquarters, the annual Zayed Award for Future Energy, creation of Department of Energy and Climate Change Affairs and environment-friendly legislations.

Climate change, energy security issues, depleting of oil and gas reservoirs (the UAE demand for gas will reach to 6 billion cubic feet a day by 2020 which means that, even with the supplies from the Dolphin gas project, the UAE will struggle to meet demand), diversification of macro-economy, export of green energy & technologies in the future and the last but not the least to meet the ever-increasing demands of power to support the socio-economy of the country, all compelled the leadership of the UAE to adopt saver, cheaper, sustainable and green solutions in shape of renewables.

Many regional research studies strongly indicate that UAE must excel and speed-up its clean energy education and empowerment women’s initiative, the clean energy solutions centre, the carbon capture use and storage action group, and the multilateral working group on wind and solar technologies for the further development renewable energy in the country.

MAJOR PROJECTS

(a) Masdar City

Masdar City

Masdar City (solar energy project) is a key element of the “Abu Dhabi 2030 Plan” and the government of Abu Dhabi’s strategic policy framework. Its projected cost is US$22 billion resulting in savings of US$2 billion in oil over 25 years.

It includes projects targeting solar, wind power and hydrogen fuel and reduction and management of carbon emissions. It aims to be the first zero carbon emission and car free city in the world, housing 50,000 inhabitants and 1,500 companies. It integrates the R&D, energy production, and commercialization efforts. The ultra modern city will be completed by 2015. It is claimed that, when complete, it will use 70 per cent less electricity and 60 per cent less water than a conventional city. It was launched in April 2006.

Its Masdar Carbon unit offers comprehensive Carbon Management Solutions and specializes in developing energy efficiency and clean fossil fuel projects that reduce carbon emissions while creating additional value through carbon monetization under international policy.

Masdar City: An International Brand

During 2011, it has achieved many international recognitions including ‘Best Carbon Markets Renewable Energy Project Developers, Middle East 2011’ Award from the prestigious World Finance magazine. Even World Bank endorsed its viability and importance. It succeeded to expand its overseas exposures in different countries. Details are given bellow as:

Projects Names Types of Renewables Countries
London Array offshore Wind United Kingdom
Thermal power plants Solar Spain
Carbon-Tri-Ocean Ocean Egypt
6-megawatt offshore Wind Seychelles
280 MW of thin-film Solar Eastern Germany
Source: Different Research Journals
Most recently, it has completed its joint venture with Torresol Energy, the world’s first commercial scale plant (CSP) in Spain which will help to reduce carbon emissions by over 30,000 tonnes a year. It will fulfill the requirements of 25,000 homes throughout Spain’s Andalusia. It will produce round 24/7 electrical power from renewable sources of energy i.e. 19.9 megawatt. The technology behind the plant allows solar power to be stored and electricity produced from it even during hours of darkness or poor daylight in winter.

Masdar City is also proposing to build the Gulf’s first geothermal energy facility. The US$11 billion project will be partially built by the Icelandic company Reykjavik Geothermal. When complete, the geothermal project will be used to power the city’s 5- MW air conditioning system in the future.

(b) Shams 1

Shams-1 is the first full scale renewable energy plant in the Abu Dhabi and largest CSP plant in the world. It will generate 100 MW covering an area of 2.5 km², with plans to increase capacity to 2000 MW in the future. It is estimated to cost US$600 million, and is being developed by Masdar alongside Spain’s Abengoa Solar and France’s Total S.A. It consists of 768 parabolic trough collectors. It will be completed by 2012. According to Masdar claims it would displace approximately 175,000 tonnes of CO² per year, which is the equivalent to the planting of 1.5 million trees in the days to come. The Shams II plant will be completed in mid-2013.

(c) Hydrogen Power Abu Dhabi (HPAD)

It is a 60:40 joint venture between Masdar and BP to construct the world’s first commercial scale hydrogen fuelled power plant, utilising fossil fuel feed stock and CCS. The project will require a total capital investment of about AED 7 billion i.e. US$2 billion. The project will take natural gas from the grid and convert it to hydrogen and CO². The hydrogen power plant will generate approximately 400 MW of low-carbon electricity, and could provide more than 5 per cent of all Abu Dhabi’s current power generation.

(d) Private Sector Solar-Grade Poly-Silicon Plant

A lot of new projects have been carried out in the UAE by its private sector which is taking steps to promote sustainable, cleaner and greener technologies in the country. In this regard, MBM Holdings has recently announced the formation of MBM Solar Holding Inc of worth US$400 million. It will build a solar grade poly-silicon plant in the country. The project will be the first upstream plant and is the largest planned solar plant in the region, anticipated to cover a total area of approximately 250,000 square metres. The planned plant will have a total capacity of 2,500 tons per annum of high quality solar-grade poly-silicon product and is expected to start production in early 2012.

(e) Dubai Solar Power Plant
Dubai Water and Electricity Authority (DEWA) plans to build the first solar power plant in Dubai. Its capacity will be ranging between 10 and 100 MW. It will be UAE’s second solar power station Masdar’s Shams 1 solar power station in Abu Dhabi being the first solar plant in the GCC region. The plant will use either photovoltaic or thermal solar technology. Construction is scheduled to commence in 2011.

(f) Different Ongoing Projects/Efforts

Other than, these mega renewable energy projects the UAE’s government tried hard to develop a 30 MW wind energy project but wind would not play a key source as it had initially anticipated. Notwithstanding, sincere efforts are still going on in this field. UAE also dig into geothermal energy and drilled two, 2.5 kilometer test wells. The end result was not up to the mark. But the resource could be enough to run heat exchangers to run air conditioning and pipe the cold air throughout homes and offices in a district-wide network.

Diversification of Energy Mix

More than big and small 17 projects of the better conserve energy and drive sustainable development are being carried out throughout the UAE. It includes the Department of Municipal Affairs (DMA) and the three regional municipal administrations: Abu Dhabi Municipality, Al Ain Municipality, and Western Region Municipality projects of the renewable energy which also showed the gradual lessen reliance of the UAE on more traditional forms of energy. Moreover, adoption of the International Energy Code, use of LED technology, anti-plastic bag legislation and massive plantation are the few prominent features of the UAE government towards the further development of renewables by increasing public awareness.

Opportunities

The UAE is one of the largest consumers, per capita, of electricity, cars, fuel and water in the world which urgently needs transformation from fossil fuels to renewables. UAE by investing so heavily and responsibly in renewable energy has become the renewable energy hub in the region. Its strong political commitment and substantial funds allocation in renewable energy mix to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and stem global warming shows the way for other countries.

Solar power is just one form of clean energy available in UAE and region. Wind, the power of ocean waves and currents can also be used to generate electricity in the UAE. Masdar is also assessing whether to build a wind farm of up to 30MW on Yas Island. Biomass could also be used as a good alternative to manage the huge amount of waste that the country produces. Prospects are bright even for replacing conventional fuel with hydrogen, which is a clean energy carrier and could be used to power cars.

Expected Benefits

It is estimated that the renewables would generate $6-8 billion, i.e. Dh22.02bn in alternative energy infrastructure development, which will incentives local as well as businessmen and investors to invest in the UAE. It seems that renewables is an excellent choice for economic diversification in the UAE. It is hoped that the Abu Dhabi based solar integrator, renewable energy and clean energy sector would help revive and protect nations’ environmental and economic health.

It is predicted that in the ongoing global economic recession millions of people may get jobs in the renewable energy sector around the globe and UAE is not any exemption.

Renewable Energy’s Multiplier Effects

It is predicted that alternative/renewable energy would have multiplier effects on humanity, society, business, economy, nature, and politics in the years to come.

(a) Reduction of carbon emission.
(b) Increase in agro-productivity
(c) Easy and smooth means of energy
(d) Decrease in cost of production
(e) Effective control on deteriorating levels of climate change
(f) Diversification of economy
(g) Generation of employment and creation of millions of new job.
(h) Transformation of labour based economy to a knowledge based economy.

Challenges

Renewable energy mix provides energy security, improves climate change conditions and facilitates sustainable development for matching the rapid growth of the country.

Solar energy is by all means the best. However, there are number of obstacles to its large scale deployment. Normally, the lifecycle of the PV cells is very short due to extreme heat. Solar thermal power which gathers solar energy though concentrators may be better solution for it in the UAE.

Challenges vary from country to country and from region to region. It is not confined to financial scarcity (research and development is very expensive, and there is no guarantee of success) technological backwardness (we do not have the systems, materials and parts necessary to harness efficiently the almost limitless available energy from sun, wind and waves and distribute it to homes, offices and factories) economic inadequacies (limited funds for the development of renewables, taxation, exemptions) administrative delays (bureaucratic systems, legislation), marketability (still limited marketplace for renewable) and the last but not the least human capital (shortage of skilled people, professionals). Future investment in the renewable energy sector faces challenges from policy development, regulatory frameworks and economic market forces.

State funding to support research and development for renewables, is needed to drive micro innovation that will refine efficiency and cost. Marketplace incentives such as feed-in tariffs payments for contributing power to the grid and renewables obligations will also be required to drive adoption of molten salt storage. Investment-friendly policies would encourage the funding necessary for these huge projects. Nevertheless, proper policy framework, financing and human capacity building are supposed to be main hurdles in the development of renewables.

Suggestions

The need for developing a global partnership on renewable energy, particularly solar and wind resources involving public and private sectors, to ensure availability of affordable energy to the common man is immense. UAE has demonstrated to the world that trade and commerce, innovation and invention, ideas and enterprise could make a desert bloom. It is now heavily investing in the fields of renewable energy mix particularly in solar energy.

The deteriorating global warming levels and drastic changes in the climates have compelled us to find new sustainable, renewable energy resources to power the planet without further damages to environment equilibrium. The exemplary role of the UAE is highly appreciated. Solar as well as the other renewable energy mix are key opportunities for energy diversification in the region, with UAE taking a regional leading role in these sectors.

(a) Governments must develop a well-designed, long term and consistent price support mechanism, which is able to adapt predictably over time to changes in technology and costs.
(b) Strong political will is urgently needed to bring changes and achieving desired goals of renewable energy resources and reducing levels of emissions.
(c) Urgent need for greater government involvement in moving things forward on renewable energy resources around the globe.
(d) More incentives for the private sectors to make huge investments in the renewable energy resources.
(e) Regional cooperation and collaboration must be promoted
(f) Organisations, institutions and all members of community projects to shift towards renewable energy technologies and clean energy solutions in order to further the use of these solutions and innovations to ensure the preservations of environment and contribute to reducing the impact on climate change
(g) More emphasize must be given to importance of nurturing the national talent and growing national capabilities in the development and implementation of renewable energy technologies in the UAE.

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