The Abu Dhabi Department of Energy (DOE) has outlined nine initiatives to help accelerate the UAE's sustainable economic growth while supporting the country's Net Zero By 2050 strategic initiative.
The projects were outlined during the UN's Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow, where world leaders are meeting with the aim of reducing global warming.
Earlier this week, the UAE announced its intention to reach net zero carbon by 2050 – the first country in the Gulf to make this commitment.
The Dh600 billion ($163.3bn) pledge was hailed by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres as “ambitious” and “important".
The nine existing and planned projects have the combined potential of reducing emissions associated with power generation and water production by at least 50 per cent in the next 10 years.
This would drive total emission reductions of more than 29 million tonnes per year by 2030.
The UAE initiatives include:
- Noor Abu Dhabi solar PV plant projected to avoid up to 1 million tonne of CO2 emissions per year
- Barakah nuclear power plant to avoid 21 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year
- Al Dhafra 2GW single site solar PV plant which could reduce 2.4 million tonnes of CO2 emissions
- Two additional solar projects with a combined capacity of 2GW and potential to avoid 2.6 million tonnes of CO2 emissions
- Two waste-to-energy plants in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain expected to help reduce 2.4 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.
Awaidha Al Marar, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy, said Abu Dhabi was committed to leading the transition to renewable and clean energy.
“Building on a 15-year track record of climate innovation and on the UAE’s enduring support for the  Paris Climate Agreement, our commitment is underpinned by a strategic shift to low-carbon technologies with large-scale investment in solar and nuclear energy to drive down emissions,” said Mr Al Marar.
“For instance, Abu Dhabi has developed a world-class sustainability investment vehicle through the launch of Masdar City in 2008 as one of the world’s first carbon-neutral developments.
"Since then, we’ve taken the lead regionally in deploying renewable energy.”
The transition to renewables
The emission-reducing policies include clean energy generation from solar and nuclear sources and the electrification of the water production system through reverse osmosis (RO) technology.
Mr Al Marar said energy production in Abu Dhabi has already pivoted towards renewables.
“Our 1.2-gigawatt Noor Abu Dhabi solar PV plant has increased the share of renewables in our energy mix to 6 per cent of the emirate’s total installed capacity in 2021 and the launch of the first reactor of the Barakah nuclear energy plant in 2020 has also increased the share of carbon-free energy production in the emirate’s energy mix to 7 per cent in 2021,” he said.
Once Abu Dhabi’s 2GW Al Dhafra solar PV project in completed in 2023 and the Barakah plant is working at full power, the total clean power generation capacity in the emirate will reach 8.8GW in 2025.
This will increase the share of clean energy capacity in the energy mix to 31 per cent by 2025, from 13 per cent in 2021.
“With these solar and nuclear projects, it is predicted electricity generation by 2025 will be 7 per cent produced from solar PV sources and 47 per cent from nuclear,” Mr Al Marar said.
“This means 55 per cent of Abu Dhabi’s electricity in 2025 will be generated from clean sources and is expected to cut power generation emissions from 40 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2020 to approximately 20 million tonnes in 2025,” he added.
The production of water in the UAE creates high emissions, so Abu Dhabi is introducing reverse osmosis (RO) systems to help decarbonise the water sector. RO systems use relatively less energy compared to distillation.
Mr Al Marar said DOE intends increase the amount of water produced via reverse osmosis from 24 per cent now, to 43 per cent by 2025, thanks in part to the Al Taweelah facility coming on stream.
This has the potential to avoid 1.2 million CO2 emissions per year.
Further projects are also expected to be introduced through 2030 with the aim of increasing the share of RO in Abu Dhabi’s total water production to 80 per cent, reducing 4 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.
The DoE also intends to improve energy efficiency in its systems.
The Abu Dhabi Demand Side Management and Energy Rationalisation Strategy aims to reduce electricity consumption by 22 per cent and water consumption by 32 per cent by 2030.
If this is implemented, it will avoid the emission of more than 9 million tonnes of CO2 emissions from the atmosphere – the equivalent of removing 1.5 million vehicles from the road for an entire year.