How the UAE can tap into its solar assets to change the future of energy

More than 90% of the Emirates' landmass has the capability to produce solar energy

Al Dhafra Solar Photovoltaic will be the world’s largest single-site solar power plant once operational. AFP
Powered by automated translation

The UAE has the best solar power potential in the world. More than 90 per cent of the country’s landmass has the capability to produce solar energy.

Solar has the potential to entirely transform how we generate energy. In recent years, the discussion has rightly focused on the energy trilemma — the need to find balance between energy reliability, affordability, sustainability and its impact on everyday lives.

How we balance security, affordability and sustainability across the energy sector is one of the biggest challenges the world is facing. And despite the best intentions, it presents a set of trade-offs between three competing priorities. We cannot ignore this and we must all address this issue.

As our recently released Statement of Future Capacity Requirements 2023-2029 report states that Emirates Water and Electricity Company (Ewec) is driving forward the energy transition while continuing to ensure an efficient, sustainable and reliable supply of electricity for the country.

With a rise in industrial activity and growing population leading to an approximate 30 per cent increase in gross peak power demand by 2029, the report recommends a workable, practical and essential road map to meet growing demand and prepare for Abu Dhabi's and the UAE’s future needs — sustainably.

Ewec will continue to drive the development of major strategic projects to create a sustainable future for Abu Dhabi and the UAE and make it a global role model for sustainable and efficient water and electricity production.

Our solar-power capacity will increase by more than 600 per cent to 7.3 gigawatts by 2030. And in that timeframe, we will lower our average carbon dioxide intensity from electricity generation by more than 40 per cent.

We will also be increasing low-carbon reverse osmosis (RO) desalination water production significantly, with four new plants under various stages of development, resulting in our water production emission intensity falling by approximately 88 per cent.

Abu Dhabi is currently home to the world’s largest single-site solar power plant, the 1 gigawatt Noor Abu Dhabi, and the under-construction 1.5 gigawatts Al Dhafra Solar PV, which will be the world’s largest single-site solar power plant once operational.

The 1.5 gigawatts Al Ajban Solar PV is our third utility-scale solar PV project, and once commercially operational, it will generate enough electricity for about 160,000 homes and reduce Abu Dhabi’s carbon dioxide emissions by more than 2.4 million tonnes per year — on par with its predecessor Al Dhafra Solar PV.

Our growing portfolio of renewable and clean energy projects is significantly accelerating the decarbonisation of the country’s energy sector in line with the UAE Net Zero by 2050 strategic initiative, while also supporting the achievement of the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy’s clean energy strategic target 2035 for electricity production in Abu Dhabi.

An increase in solar-power generation is at the core of our plans.

Ewec has been tasked with adding significant solar capacity every year for the next 10 years. We have the solutions and our latest report is the route to implementing them.

Through innovation and collaboration, we will make solar energy a cornerstone of the UAE’s energy mix and contribute to the realisation of the UAE’s net zero goal.

Othman Al Ali is chief executive of Ewec

Inside Dubai's new net-zero house

Inside Dubai's new net-zero house
Updated: March 22, 2023, 6:20 AM