Two leading think tanks have created a blueprint to enhance the UAE's global leadership position via renewable energy diplomacy that will support access to affordable and sustainable sources of power for millions of people in developing countries around the world.
Trends Research & Advisory and Washington’s Stimson Center have co-produced the UAE Energy Diplomacy report on exporting renewable energy to the ‘global south’, building on the investment in the sector that the country has been making over the last decade through institutions like Masdar, the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development.
“The story is yet to be complete” regarding the UAE’s leadership on the world stage in renewable energy diplomacy, said Brian Finlay, the Stimson Center’s president and chief executive, at the launch of the report in Abu Dhabi on Monday.
“If staged wisely, UAE innovation in renewables has the potential to both fundamentally reorder global energy markets while promoting sustainable development across the Global South,” he said. “This report provides an early roadmap upon which policymakers and industry may choose to initiate smart pilot ventures.”
Dr Ahmed Al Hamli, Trends' president and founder said that "the UAE will remain committed to clean energy at home and will use its knowledge and skills to support the globe through clean energy diplomacy".
Underlining that commitment, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, on Sunday set out four economic objectives to prepare the emirate's economy for the future which included supporting projects in the renewable energy sector.
Dr Al Hamli cited the example of record-setting low prices for solar-generated electricity set by projects in the Emirates “removing any remaining doubts that solar power can compete with fossil fuels and put the UAE front and centre in discussions of renewable energy”.
Masdar has been deploying renewable energy technologies in a number of countries beyond the UAE, including Jordan, Afghanistan and Mauritania. Irena and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development have collaborated to support renewable energy projects in Rwanda, the Marshall Islands, the Caribbean and elsewhere.
According to the report, most developing countries still lack the financial, technical, and human capacity to effectively expand their energy sectors while simultaneously limiting carbon emissions in line with globally agreed targets. As a result, renewable energy could prove to be a critical solution to these challenges. There is also a leadership vacuum in this area after the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, which the UAE and other nations can strategically fill.
The biggest opportunities for the UAE in this regard are in Southeast Asia where the IEA estimates that energy demand will rise approximately 67 per cent through to 2040, requiring an estimated 565 gigawatts of installed capacity compared to the current 240GW. Within this region, the Mekong Delta area, encompassing Vietnam and Cambodia, which is experiencing its own issues related to the inefficiencies of hydroelectric power projects there, is the best illustration of where renewable energy could have a significant impact, said Mr Finlay.
By utilising criteria for the selection of projects that combine commercial considerations, the aim of sustainability and the ability to improve the quality of life for the local population, the UAE could create a new model for renewable energy investment that strategically supports the greatest possible impact on a country, said Richard Burchill, one of the authors of the UAE Energy Diplomacy Report and the director of research and engagement at Trends.