Resisting the lure of living off large and lucrative oil and gas reserves may not be easy for many. But it is becoming seemingly effortless in a country that recognises supply is not endless, realises reckless energy consumption is linked to climate change, and actively cares about future generations.
The UAE is doing much to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, to diversify energy sources and to preserve natural resources. Although its role as one of the world’s economic leaders is comparatively recent, its rise as a responsible global citizen has been rapid.
The country is committed to building a sustainable environment while continuing to boost economic growth. This commitment is borne by many institutions and runs across multiple industries, and the results are beginning to show.
The Abu Dhabi 2030 Plan and the Dubai Integrated 2030 Strategy are strong pillars for the UAE’s sustainability platform. Both promote solar, wind, and waste-to-energy projects. Under the Abu Dhabi 2030 Plan, the capital will be powered by clean technologies and alternative sources of energy, with an initial target of achieving 7 per cent renewable energy generation capacity by 2020. Concurrently, the Dubai Integrated 2030 Strategy targets a 30 per cent reduction in power demand and total energy consumption by 2030.
The government backs these targets by supporting the provision and proving of various renewable technologies, and lowering costs by growing the market. It is also inspiring several government, quasi-government and private sector organisations to take up the baton. Masdar, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Government’s Mubadala Development Company, is a prime example. Masdar City is a low-carbon, low-waste city that aims to be one of the most sustainable cities in the world.
The four facilities at Phase 1 of Masdar Carbon’s ambitious Carbon Capture Sequestration (CCS) project aim to capture 5 million tonnes of CO2 every year. Masdar’s Shams 1 at Madinat Zayed has a capacity to generate 100 MW of electricity to offset 170,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
Other Masdar projects that are under study and in the planning process include Nour One, a solar PV park in Al Ain, and Sir Bani Yas Island, the Middle East’s largest onshore wind turbine farm.
Greening the economy
This January, the Green Economy Initiative, revived various plans in Dubai to make it a centre for the export of green products and technologies, and to maintain a sustainable environment that supports economic growth. The initiative includes six major fields: green energy, investment incentives, green economy, green city, climate change effects and green lifestyle; together they cover policies, programmes and projects promoting the production and use of clean, green or renewable energy.
This vision is being spearheaded by the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy (DSCE), which recently announced that the Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Seih Al Dahal will generate 1,000 MW of solar power by 2030. Dubai also develops and manages carbon-related projects through the Dubai Carbon Centre of Excellence, which aims to consolidate 1.7 million tonnes of emission reduction projects annually.
The green energy boom has led to numerous announcements of sustainable solutions. “Dubai Aluminium (Dubal) has implemented energy demand abatement directives issued to all DSCE member companies in April 2011, and has saved over 11,000,000 kWh in the 15 months to June 2012. These directives complement the energy-conscious culture within our organisation and support the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030 (DIES 2030),” says president and CEO Abdulla Kalban.
“Dubal is also playing an active role in other initiatives to fulfil DIES 2030, including an investment of Dh20 million in the Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, where Phase I will yield 10 MW by 2013,” says Kalban.
The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) is ready with the first green building in the country. Not just saving energy, the building can also generate 600 kWh of electricity using solar power. Telecom provider Du plans to increase the number of genset efficiency solutions at its mobile base stations to reduce fuel consumption, emissions and cost.
This month, Dubai-based Diamond Developers launched the Dh1 billion, 46-hectare Dubai Sustainable City, a zero-waste community with integrated systems for energy generation and sustainable transport. The developer says solar farms will cover 600,000 sqft and 50 per cent of its cooling energy will be generated from solar power. The Emirates Solar Industry Association (ESIA), a non-profit, non-governmental association, will conduct research and publish reports on standards and policies. The Emirates Green Building Council (EmiratesGBC) is working with industry partners to develop a finance scheme for green retrofit projects.
Analysts estimate renewable energy targets in Abu Dhabi and Dubai alone will account for 2,500 MW of clean energy projects, and these are open to overseas participation. The UAE continues to embrace a policy of openness to partner with international companies.
Siemens hopes to help the region realise its sustainability plans. Dietmar Siersdorfer, CEO for Siemens Energy in the Middle East, says: “A sustainable energy future depends on a wide range of technologies fitting together perfectly – from renewable energies, power highways and smart grids to energy storage devices and efficient solutions for conventional power plants, and energy consumption in buildings, transportation and industry.” He says such technologies are at the core of Siemens’ operations. In 2011, it helped customers around the world lower CO2 emissions by 317 million metric tonnes — equivalent to the annual emissions of Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Delhi, Istanbul, Berlin, London and New York City.
While Siemens is establishing its Middle East headquarters at Masdar City, GE is building its first Ecomagination Centre, and Schneider Electric will operate a Living Laboratory innovation centre. Switzerland’s École Polythenique Fédérale de Lausanne is working with local and international bodies to launch a clean technology cluster in Ras Al Khaimah. The Masdar Institute, developed with MIT, continues to act as an incubator for advanced alternative energy and environmental technologies.
A green energy leader
The UAE is setting the agenda by hosting global forums on alternative energy. Last year, it hosted the Clean Energy Ministerial, a summit of the world’s leading economies, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The Dubai Global Energy Forum focused on clean energy, while Abu Dhabi’s United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change workshop focused on carbon capture and sequestration. The country is also the annual host of the World Future Energy Summit.
The UAE believes renewable energy can mitigate conflict as well. In September, Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, CEO of Masdar and the UAE Envoy for Energy and Climate Change, addressed members of non-profit think tank International Peace Institute on the side lines of the UN General Assembly. He said, “Exponential population growth and increased demand for energy is placing a strain on our natural resources. Renewable energy will help improve energy security and offer economic development opportunities.
“The UAE is looking beyond hydrocarbons and is investing in new technologies and sources of power to diversify the local and global energy mix. Today, along with barrels of oil, our nation is exporting clean energy.”