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Visitors at the model of a solar project of Masdar at the Masdar pavilion at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week during an earlier edition. The event is being held virtually for the first time this year. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The UAE is one of the lowest greenhouse gas emission producers of oil and gas in the world, which positions it well to achieve a clean energy transition. The country’s efforts in enabling renewable energy deployment have also been recognised by energy experts speaking at the ongoing Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2021.

The event is being held virtually for the first time and representatives from 133 countries and the European Union (EU) have been participating in high-level discussions since it kicked off on Sunday. The event runs until January 21.

“The UAE is a significant renewable energy developer and has played a leading role in driving costs down for renewable projects. By making green energy competitive, the UAE is setting an example for how to accelerate a transition to a cleaner energy system,” Frederick Kempe, chief executive officer of the Atlantic Council, an American think tank that focuses on international relations, told WAM.

“While it is quite possible there will be a decline in hydrocarbon demand over the next decades, the UAE is one of the lowest cost and lowest greenhouse gas emission producers of oil and gas in the world. As a result, the UAE is well-positioned for the energy transition and will be able to provide low-cost, low-carbon energy even as the world transitions to a greener energy system,” Kempe said, in response to the UAE’s discovery of new hydrocarbon sources and gas fields in 2020. He also alluded to the country’s many leading clean and renewable energy projects.

Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week includes a number of events designed to facilitate energy transitions and action against climate change. It kicked off yesterday with the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (Irena) 11th Assembly.

“Throughout the tough times posed by COVID-19, the UAE has remained dedicated to accelerating its transition to a green economy as part of its recovery plans, and has taken great strides along this path. We have moved forward with our renewables projects, launched the first reactor of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant, and submitted our second Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), where we pledge to increase our clean power capacity, including solar and nuclear, to 14 gigawatts by 2030 – a remarkable progress from 125MW in 2015. We also committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 23.5 per cent, compared to business as usual, by the year 2030,” said Dr Abdullah Al Nuaimi, UAE Minister for Climate Change and Environment.

“Renewable energy deployment should in fact be a key item on the global sustainability agenda, as it provides solutions to resolve both climate change and economic slowdown,” the minister urged during a press briefing on the sidelines of the Irena Assembly.

Irena, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, facilitates energy transition support. The intergovernmental organisation was established 12 years ago, and now boasts 163 member states and EU, with 21 others in the process of joining.

Francesco La Camera, Irena director general, said $2 trillion (Dh7.35 trillion) needs to be invested post-COVID into energy transition every year between 2021 and 2023, but that this will also create 5.5 million jobs in three years. “Our analysis shows that investment in renewables can cause three times the amount of jobs as the same amount of investment in fossil fuels. We also need to redirect investment in unsustainable energy sources like coal, redirect fossil fuel subsides to renewables — amounting to $450 billion a year, and get our policies right,” La Camera urged.

“We argued early on that renewables would weather the storm better than the rest of the energy sector. This has proven to be true. Electricity systems with high shares of renewables continued to operate effectively, and renewables remained the technology of choice during the downturn,” he added.

On Sunday, Abu Dhabi announced a new clean energy project, the Abu Dhabi Hydrogen Alliance, following an agreement between three major investors — Mubadala, ADNOC and ADQ. The Alliance will establish Abu Dhabi as a trusted exporter of hydrogen to emerging international markets, while also building a substantial green hydrogen economy in the UAE.

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“To date, we have invested more than $40 billion in clean energy projects locally,” Dr Al Nuaimi said.

UAE Energy Minister, Suhail al Mazrouei, said the UAE is a true believer in the need for transition, and is targeting 44 per cent renewables by 2030, as well as an additional 6 per cent from nuclear. The Minister notes that the country is currently updating their energy strategy and that he is ‘excited’ by the falling costs of renewables being witnessed in the UAE.

“I expect, given the prices that I am seeing, we may increase our targets for renewable energy,” Al Mazrouei said.