Within a few years, the UAE has become one of the world’s leading hubs, producing and developing alternative energy sources, especially after the country won the right to host the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) and the establishment of Masdar City in Abu Dhabi.
Thus, it has turned into a global centre that contributes effectively not only to producing and financing alternative energy projects, but also develop and devise technologies related to this industry, including a reduction in production costs. In this regard, the country’s strategy has been based on two main pillars.
The first is to locally develop alternative energy sources to account for 50 per cent of its energy needs by 2050 through implementing several projects, including generating electricity via nuclear power, which is expected to happen quite soon in Abu Dhabi.
The world’s largest concentrated solar power plant is being built in Dubai and other projects in the various emirates are being — or will be — implemented, making the UAE third in the world when it comes to production of concentrated solar energy. Such a transition is not only associated with importing technologies, as it used to be in the past, but also in developing new ones.
Our country, thereby, had a remarkable accomplishment in November last by reducing the cost of solar energy production by 5.84 cents per kilowatt/hour. This rate is indeed lower than that through producing energy using natural gas, which will, therefore, encourage and speed up the use of solar energy across many countries.
The other pillar of such a futuristic strategy is helping other countries develop projects to tap alternative energy, even in advanced economies such as the United Kingdom, Spain and Austria, which have signed a cooperation agreement with the UAE in the environment protection and alternative energy fields.
Meanwhile, the UAE has also helped develop ones such as Jordan, Oman and Malawi through the United Nations programmes or by enhancing bilateral cooperation. Since 2013, it has allocated more than $750 million (Dh2.75 billion) to UN programmes to help develop alternative energy sources, including solar, wind, water and waste resources.
It has also earmarked $50 million to implement 11 projects in partnership with Pacific Ocean countries. The UAE’s efforts, in this regard, have not been limited to cooperation with public sector, but also created opportunities for the private sector through providing investment opportunities worth $100 billion for countries to invest in the alternative energy.
This will provide 100 per cent clean energy sources for more than 1.3 billion people by 2030, and bring about a paradigm shift in producing energy, especially as the private sector has a great deal of resources to contribute substantially in this field. However, this is to be achieved through having a conducive environment, and this is what the UAE is seeking to achieve.
The country’s approach has gone beyond financing projects to include contributions to creating scientific and technical infrastructure for alternative energy. The Zayed Future Energy Prize was launched for that purpose, offering awards worth $4 million — not to mention the establishment of Zayed Solar Academy in Malawi.
These efforts signify the UAE’s comprehensive vision, which will definitely lead to providing cheap and permanent energy resources. This will bolster all-round development approaches, achieve energy security, reduce harmful emissions and protect the environment.
This clearly vindicates the UN’s choice of the UAE as a centre for Irena, and has proved within a short time its competence and gained the international community’s trust. Its renewable energy strategy will help, within the next three decades, change the structure of the global energy balance, providing one of the most important elements in sustainable development and improving living standards.
Such a humanitarian and development achievement is to be added to the country’s record of accomplishments.
Dr Mohammad Al Asoomi is a UAE economic expert and specialist in economic and social development in the UAE and the GCC countries.