For the past 13 years, the UAE has left a clear mark on the renewable energy sector through developing multiple projects at home and abroad. The country has deployed the latest solutions, supported scientific research and played a vital role in mobilising international efforts to adopt sustainability and increase the utilisation of renewable energy sources.
Considering what the UAE has been able to achieve in such a short time span – we rank sixth globally in oil and gas reserves – it is evident that the transition to renewable energy is not an impossible feat, nor is it a secondary issue that can be addressed at a later stage. When a country like the UAE invests over $12 billion in 49 renewable energy projects in 25 countries, other nations need to think seriously about following suit.
The UAE allocated $350 million in development aid through the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena)/Abu Dhabi Fund for Development Project Facility, in addition to $50 million disbursed through the UAE-Caribbean Renewable Energy Fund and another $50 million expended through the UAE-Pacific Partnership Fund.
Some might ask why a wealthy nation like the UAE invests so heavily in these initiatives. Others may wonder what motivated the UAE’s leadership’s objective to increase the share of clean energy in the domestic energy mix to 50 per cent, or how the country managed to reduce the cost of solar power production by 80 per cent from 5.84 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2015 to 1.7 cents in the fifth phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, setting a new record in this field.
The UAE began to tackle these questions in 2006 through launching Abu Dhabi’s clean energy company Masdar that spearheads the development of renewable energy projects and the adoption of clean technologies. This was followed by the selection of Abu Dhabi to host the permanent headquarters of Irena in Masdar City.
Such bold, smart and forward-thinking steps are the result of a well-informed vision of the country’s leadership. On the local level, renewable energy projects – completed as well as ongoing – helped establish a promising sector that created an important market with new job and investment opportunities while building a robust energy ecosystem that leverages the latest technologies, including artificial intelligence, to ensure its security and sustainability.
In parallel with its local achievements, the UAE is also making an impact abroad in several developing and developed countries through implementing renewable energy projects with a wealth of socio-economic and environmental benefits. These ventures go a long way in improving the quality of life in small countries and island states that bear the brunt of climate change and suffer from water and energy deficiency.
The UAE’s passion for sustainability is based on economic, political, scientific and human principles. This has established the country as a prominent global player in the renewable energy sector. Furthermore, it has positioned it as a hub for major international events related to sustainability and the green economy, and a key destination for world leaders and experts seeking practical solutions to climate change. The UAE devises policies and strategies that boost the sustainability of the energy sector and ensures the security of the global energy supply through diversifying its sources.
The UAE has evolved into a global role model in sustainability and renewable energy. Its impact as a key driver of this growing sector regionally and globally is indisputable. The country has also become a source of industry expertise and technologies.
In January 2020, Irena will hold its general assembly on the sidelines of the annual Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week. At this meeting, the UAE will highlight its many achievements and introduce other member states to its existing projects and future plans that are poised to play a crucial role in shaping the sector in the coming years.
The UAE is firmly committed to supporting Irena’s endeavours and stepping up co-operation to achieve the agency’s goals that align with the country’s vision of a world that preserves its resources for the coming generations and promotes sustainable development that includes all segments of society.
Dr Nawal Al-Hosany is a permanent representative of the UAE to the International Renewable Energy Agency