As the world grapples with climate change and growing environmental concerns, we see an unprecedented need to shift from conventional energy sources to renewables. The time is ripe to make the transition and as a nation committed to the Paris Agreement, we are moving towards a sustainable future by optimising conventional energy sources and investing in low carbon energy sources such as solar and nuclear power.
Clean energy is the cornerstone of sustainability and drives the UAE’s narrative to achieve a carbon-free future. The UAE has set out national targets to achieve 50 per cent clean energy capacity and to decarbonise the power and water sectors by 70 per cent in the next three decades as part of the UAE Energy Strategy 2050. For total power generation capacity by 2050, the strategy outlines targets of 44 per cent renewable energy; 38 per cent natural gas; 12 per cent “clean coal”; and 6 per cent nuclear energy, thereby improving energy efficiency by 40 per cent in all sectors.
Constant supply is a must
While driving the development of a cleaner energy mix, we need to ensure a reliable and secure supply of power to meet ever-growing needs and also create an energy value chain that is economically viable. We believe that leveraging and optimising our natural resources — such as solar irradiation — will go a long way in supporting non-petroleum dependent industries.
To this end, Abu Dhabi’s latest solar photovoltaic (PV) plant made a significant power contribution in 2019 to the capacity mix and bringing the emirate closer to its 7 per cent renewables target for 2020. Not only did the solar plant position the emirate on the global map as a leader in photovoltaic energy in terms of renewable capacity, it also generated power at a record low cost of just 2.94 cents per kilowatt per hour.
Another milestone in the clean energy segment is the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant in Abu Dhabi. Once operational it will offer nuclear power for electricity generation, in line with the UAE’s strategy for peaceful uses of nuclear power.
Hitching an electric ride
Yet another revolutionary step in moving away from fossil fuels will be a roll-out of electric vehicles (EVs). The move will also involve creating a reliable infrastructure around the same, complete with EV charging stations and regulatory aligned business model.
We are currently finalising a specific policy around EV’s to ensure a large-scale deployment of electric cars takes place without any glitches.
Get a fill of hydrogen
More recently, hydrogen is gaining traction globally as a clean alternative and substitute for natural gas. We see huge potential in “green” hydrogen from surplus solar PV generation, and “blue” hydrogen from natural gas as a sustainable fuel of the future.
While formulating policies and goals, we are mindful of the importance of mobilising community in achieving sustainability and promoting social well-being by creating a cleaner, healthier living environment. Raising awareness about judicious use of energy is also a key element in furthering the cause of reducing carbon footprint.
Focusing on small, incremental shifts towards demand side efficiency and developing skills of young professionals who will lead the charge of a greener energy system are top on our agenda.
Underlying these policies is our drive towards a digital economy. Across every touch point in Abu Dhabi’s energy value chain there is deep focus on integrated digitisation, which serves in boosting sector efficiencies and reducing environmental footprint. Digitisation serves as a key to addressing sectoral challenges as well as creating new benchmarks for a sustainable energy future.
I see digitisation as a vehicle to achieve the UAE Energy Strategy 2050 targets as well as playing pivotal role in establishing a more diversified economy. The UAE is well on its way to becoming a significant global partner in mitigating climate change and harnessing social, economical and health benefits of a more sustainable environment.
Awaidha Murshed Al Marar is Chairman of Abu Dhabi Department of Energy.