Our nation is preparing for the honour of hosting the 24th World Energy Congress, which will bring together the world’s leading minds in energy development, production and sustainability over the course of the next few days in Abu Dhabi, starting on Monday. This gathering is of strategic importance to the UAE energy sector and so the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, or Enec, is proud to host the congress here in the UAE capital, alongside our national energy and policy leaders.
This edition of the congress has a very important theme: energy for prosperity. Government and leaders in the energy industry, academia and civil society will be analysing the primary role energy plays as the fundamental backbone of human development, with the perspective that the energy sector must work to power the world in a sustainable manner.
Electricity generation is of particular importance to our future. According to the International Energy Agency, it is the fastest-growing source of final energy demand from end users, attracting more investment than oil and gas combined.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution will require abundant amounts of electricity to power the delivery of new technologies that will shape the world. This electricity will have to be provided in a safe, reliable and viable form, but also in a sustainable manner that does not contribute to global warming.
With this in mind, nuclear energy really does represent energy for prosperity and our work at Enec is contributing to enabling a better world, right here in the Al Dhafra region of Abu Dhabi.
Nuclear energy is thriving and stands to empower our people, our planet and our prosperity. This proven technology is growing as a provider of safe and reliable source of emissions-free electricity: last year, for example, nuclear contributed 11.2 gigawatt hours of additional capacity across the world, the largest increase in emissions-free electricity in 30 years.
Today nuclear energy provides about 11 per cent of the world’s electricity from about 450 power reactors. It is the world’s second largest source of low-carbon electricity, accounting for 30 per cent of all sources in 2016. Along with hydropower, it is the only proven technology capable of powering countries with abundant electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Nuclear energy is also an engine of economic growth and job creation. According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, nuclear energy plants have been found to create more jobs than any other type of energy generation facility.
In the UAE it is already bringing prosperity to bright dedicated and capable Emiratis, who work with the best international partners in what is truly a global workforce at the Barakah nuclear energy plant, as well as our headquarters in Abu Dhabi.
Together with UAE companies, we are shaping the future of our nation’s industrial and engineering capability to create a strong support industry for the Barakah plant.
Looking to the future, the technology is becoming more safe and versatile through advanced designs that can play an increasingly complementary role to renewable sources, including wind and solar. Small modular reactors will be able to power remote villages off the electrical grid for decades with little maintenance. Even spent fuel from power plants could be repurposed.
Growth in nuclear-generated electricity today is coming from a combination of new plants coming online, improved reliability of existing plants and power uprates – approvals to produce more electricity using new fuels and more advanced equipment. With 52 reactors under construction around the world, including the four units at Barakah, new nuclear capacity will continue to grow in the coming years.
That is the very definition of a prosperous industry.
We need clean and reliable electricity, provided in a sustainable manner, if our planet is to continue to grow and prosper. Few technologies today can provide a proven track record in emissions-free electricity like nuclear energy can. This is why nuclear energy is supported by some of the world’s brightest minds and environmentalists.
The nuclear energy sector still needs to win over public support. This is its Achilles heel and an area where Enec is driving the pace in public education and engagement in nuclear energy.
Platforms such as the World Energy Congress are essential for the nuclear energy industry to engage with the wider energy community as well as the general public to address misconceptions and put forward the strong case for nuclear energy as an energy for prosperity and a sustainable provider in the electricity sector.
In the UAE, we stand by our commitments to reduce emissions and support global efforts such as the Paris agreement on climate change and the World Nuclear Association’s Harmony programme, which sets the goal for emissions-free nuclear energy to provide a quarter of global electricity by 2050.
But to truly decarbonise electricity to power a prosperous, sustainable future, we must look at how we can electrify transportation, manufacturing and other industrial sectors that traditionally rely on fossil fuels. Just look at cars. The International Energy Agency found that electric mobility is growing rapidly. Last year the number of electric cars globally surpassed five million, up two million from the previous year. An important part of decarbonising this sector involves using clean energy sources to generate the electricity needed to power electric vehicles.
The UAE’s leadership has laid out a vision that includes a forward-thinking energy industry with a balanced mix of nuclear and renewables while looking ahead to exporting our last barrel of oil. We look forward to highlighting Enec’s contribution to the achievement of this vision during the congress.
Finally, I am proud that Enec is the youth sponsor of the congress. Our young people hold the key to our future prosperity and we look forward to hosting those from the UAE and around the world in our youth theatre, where we will offer a range of activities and talks aimed at those wishing to pursue a career in the energy industry. This sponsorship aligns with our commitment to developing a next-generation workforce to ensure the sustainability of the UAE’s nuclear energy industry for decades to come.
Mohamed Al Hammadi is the chief executive officer of the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation