A huge increase in GCC population to just under 55 million by 2020 will force the region to develop new and more sustainable energy sources. Even in the Gulf, where the six states have some of the largest reserves of hydrocarbons in the world, it is not sustainable for this valuable resource to be simply burned away in order to support the energy-profligate lifestyles of most of the Gulf’s inhabitants.
The need to switch to more sustainable energy habits was a dominant feature of a recent report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which was right to spell out the urgent need for the GCC to invest in renewable and clean energy to satisfy domestic consumption and to conserve its valuable energy reserves.
“By 2020, the GCC population is forecast to reach 53.5 million, a 30 per cent increase over the level in 2000,” the report said. At the same time, the report noted how the GCC nations are undertaking a variety of measures “to ensure long-term sustainable growth, introducing energy-efficiency measures, investing in clean fuel and renewable energy supplies, improving water efficiency, investing in new water desalination capacity and buying or leasing agricultural land abroad”.
The focus on renewable energy is the long-term answer and the GCC is right to invest in developing these technologies. Projects like Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City are a significant part of the worldwide effort to find technologies that will be able to produce enough energy to satisfy the demands of modern society.
However, there is a major gap between the forecast demand for energy and what renewables will be able to provide. The answer to this is not to burn more hydrocarbons, which will be both a criminal waste, but also continue shunting tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air, speeding up the dangerous effects of global warming.
The answer is nuclear power, which is highly efficient and also carbon-clean. The important new site at Al Baraka in Abu Dhabi is a major development in GCC’s search for clean and long-term sustainable energy.