Diversifying energy sources in the UAE is important, both for economic and environmental reasons. This is why the government has been investing in efforts to develop the first nuclear-power plant at Barakah and Shams 1, the solar-power plant in Abu Dhabi’s Western Region.
But a switch to solar also needs the right level of encouragement from the authorities. As The National reported yesterday, experts have praised the new resolution passed by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai and chairman of the emirate's Executive Council, which allows Dubai residents to obtain the licences and approvals they need to install solar panels on the roofs of their homes and businesses. They could also, if they wanted, sell any extra energy generated back to the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority.
This is good news and in line with developments in Germany, Australia and the US, for example. In the region, Jordan runs a similar programme to the one proposed for Dubai. Rooftop solar panels on private homes and offices in Dubai – the most populous of the seven emirates – would undoubtedly be a significant development. They would be the first such scheme in the Arabian Gulf and a powerful statement of the UAE’s commitment to renewable energy.
In any case, it makes good sense to harness the sun’s rays, which are so plentiful in the region. The move comes at exactly the right time, as solar panels have become significantly cheaper – by as much as 75 per cent – over the past five years. The UAE has already started to take small but significant steps to build its solar energy network. This includes solar-powered street lights and Mawaqif parking machines in Abu Dhabi. A solar-powered plane will stop over in the capital next month, demonstrating the versatility of renewable technology. Small and scattered though these initiatives may seem, they are a big indicator of the way to go in terms of reducing the country’s dependence on traditional sources of energy.
What will start on rooftops in Dubai must continue well beyond the emirate’s borders.