Ewec invites bids for Abu Dhabi's first waste-to-energy plant

Company expects more solar power demand on the back of growing potential for green hydrogen in the UAE

Ewec is developing a 2-gigawatt solar power plant in the Abu Dhabi desert with Taqa, Masdar, France's EDF and JinkoPower. Wam
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Emirates Waste and Electricity Company is inviting bidders to build Abu Dhabi's first waste-to-energy power project as the emirate continues to diversify its energy mix and pursue its carbon emission goals.

The plant, which will be located near Al Dhafra landfill in Abu Dhabi, will have the capacity to process between 600,000 and 900,000 tonnes of waste annually.

It will generate enough power to meet the needs of about 22,500 households and will divert the equivalent of 1.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year, the company said.

"We are actually translating waste into fuel. So, we do something good with it," Rene Matthies, Ewec's chief financial officer, told The National in an interview.

"It will reduce that [landfill] site very significantly. It is so important that we really find a good way to deal with our waste in this country."

Ewec will work with the Abu Dhabi Waste Management Centre, or Tadweer, to develop the independent power producer project.

The winning bidder will own up to 40 per cent of the project while the remainder will be primarily held indirectly by the government of Abu Dhabi.

Bidders will need to register their interest by February 11, 2021.

"This facility will set the benchmark for [waste-to-energy] projects in the region, not only in terms of scale but also in terms of efficiency and environmental benefits," said Salem Al Kaabi, director general of Tadweer.

Ewec also expects more solar photovoltaic capacity to be added in the UAE on the back of growing demand for green hydrogen in Europe, according to Mr Matthies.

"We suddenly are operating on the global market, especially in Europe. Hydrogen production increases the growth, not only potential, but also the speed of adding new PV capacity to our portfolio in the UAE," he said.

The UAE, which accounts for 4.2 per cent of global crude output, has begun to prioritise the development of blue and green hydrogen as part of its green transition. Last year, the country pledged to lower its carbon emissions by 23.5 per cent by 2030, from a 2016 baseline.

Blue hydrogen is produced from natural gas while green hydrogen is developed from renewable energy.

Last week, key energy and industrial players came together to form a hydrogen alliance to transform the UAE into an export hub for the clean fuel.

Adnoc, Mubadala Investment Company and state holding company ADQ joined forces to develop critical capabilities to service a growing global demand for hydrogen.

Ewec, which is part of ADQ, can help the company become a significant exporter of hydrogen by expanding its solar power capacity.

European countries are showing an interest in the UAE's plans to produce hydrogen.

On Sunday, Teresa Ribera, Spain's Deputy Prime Minister who handles the environment portfolio, told UAE news agency Wam that her country was interested in the potential of green hydrogen, with the potential for storage offshore.

Ewec is also developing a 2-gigawatt solar power plant in the Abu Dhabi desert with Taqa, Masdar, France's EDF and China's JinkoPower.

The project reached financial close in December and construction will "start imminently", said Mr Matthies.

The solar power plant is expected to be commissioned by "summer next year", he said.

The developers are looking into a "battery solution" to meet the storage requirements for the project.

"And it is definitely always an option to also have them outside of Abu Dhabi," said Mr Matthies.