UAE hailed for 'leading by example' with Dh200bn renewable energy push

Head of International Renewable Energy Agency says plan to triple output by 2030 can be catalyst for global action

The Shams 1 solar power plant near Madinat Zayed in Abu Dhabi's Al Dhafra region. Photo: Shams 1
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The UAE has been praised for turning “promises into tangible action” after setting out plans to triple its renewable energy output by 2030.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, on Monday set out an updated national energy strategy involving investments of up to Dh200 billion to meet the increasing demand for energy as the population grows.

The plans, approved by the UAE Cabinet, also include a new hydrogen strategy, a national network for electric vehicle charging stations and the regulation of the electric vehicle market.

The ambitious targets set a “strong precedent” on the road to Cop28, said Francesco La Camera, director general of the International Renewable Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organisation that supports countries with their transition to sustainable energy.

“I applaud the UAE's commitment to triple its renewable energy capacity by 2030, aligning the country’s national strategy with our World Energy Transitions Outlook,” Mr La Camera told The National.

“By transforming promises into tangible action, the UAE is leading by example and setting a strong precedent ahead of Cop28. We hope this announcement motivates other countries regionally and globally to set higher ambitions this year.”

UAE's green journey

A previous strategy, launched in 2017, aimed to increase the contribution of clean energy in the total UAE energy mix from 25 per cent to 50 per cent by 2050. More details are expected but the development is part of a long-standing move by the UAE to boost renewables.

It also comes amid the UAE’s drive to achieve net-zero emissions – no longer adding to the total amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – by 2050 and as the country prepares to hosts the crucial climate summit, Cop28, later this year.

Here are some of the milestones on the UAE’s journey to a greener future:

UAE’s commitment to boosting renewables

Despite historically being a fossil fuel producer, the UAE has ramped up the construction of solar plants over the past few years. Noor solar park in Abu Dhabi began operations in 2019. At the time it opened, it was said the plant could offset C02 emissions by 1 million metric tonnes, effectively taking 200,000 cars off the roads.

Also in Abu Dhabi and launched by Masdar (Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company) in 2013, Shams 1 solar plant provides clean electricity to 20,000 homes.

“The inauguration of Shams 1 is a breakthrough for renewable energy development in the Middle East,” said Dr Sultan Al Jaber, at the Shams launch in 2013, when he was chief executive of Masdar. He is now Masdar’s chairman, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, UAE Special Envoy for Climate Change and Cop28 President-designate.

“Clean energy is aligned with the legacy of conservation instilled in us by our Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.”

And in Dubai, the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park aims to generate enough solar energy to power 800,000 homes by 2030. Dubai Electricity and Water Authority said the solar park now accounts for 15.7 per cent of the emirate's energy capacity.

Nuclear power for tomorrow’s energy

The UAE has also introduced nuclear power to ensure a stable energy supply for years to come. The nuclear power programme was launched in 2008; construction of the Barakah plant in the country’s Al Dhafra region began a few years later and it was generating electricity by 2021, just a year after the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation awarded the first licence.

Barakah is the Arab world’s first nuclear power facility and, once fully operational, will supply about 25 per cent of the UAE’s electricity needs.

The plant already powers more than cent 80 per of the clean electricity of Abu Dhabi emirate.

UAE’s plan for hydrogen

The UAE has been drawing up a comprehensive road map to become an exporter of hydrogen and harness its potential.

Hydrogen, which can be produced using renewable energy and natural gas, is expected to play a key role powering the economies of tomorrow. Blue and grey hydrogen are derived from natural gas while green hydrogen is produced using renewable sources.

The UAE's renewable energy company, Masdar, for example, has signed a preliminary agreement with four companies from the Netherlands to explore the development of a green hydrogen supply chain between Abu Dhabi and Amsterdam.

UAE’s Masdar boosts renewables across the globe

Masdar was founded in 2006. More than 15 years on, the Abu Dhabi-based renewable energy company has become a global renewable energy powerhouse operating in at least 40 countries.

It has helped to start wind farms in Texas, waste-to-energy plants in Australia and solar projects in Afghanistan.

The electricity generation capacity of Masdar’s projects, which are either fully operational, under development or secured, is over 20GW, enough to power more than 5.25 million homes.

Altogether, they displace nearly 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, equivalent to removing 6.5 million cars off the road. Masdar is targeting a portfolio capacity of 100GW by 2030, with ambitions to double that in the following years.

Cop28 and the road to net zero

The UAE will host the Cop28 climate summit later this year, where leaders will gather to tackle the escalating climate emergency. The summit will provide a platform for countries to agree on measures to alleviate the crisis and scale up climate financing.

It will also ultimately aim to ensure countries stick to limiting global warming to 2ºC above pre-industrial levels and try to keep it to 1.5ºC as envisaged by the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

The UAE in 2021 declared its intent to become a net zero emitter of emissions by 2050. It was the first Middle Eastern state to do so.

The road to Cop28 – in pictures

Updated: July 05, 2023, 3:00 AM