The UAE will miss its target to take 27 per cent of its energy from non-carbon sources by 2021, the Minister of Energy and Industry said yesterday.
Speaking to the Federal National Council, Suhail Al Mazrouei admitted that the country will not achieve the 27 per cent target it set in 2016 as part of its commitment to global efforts to fight climate change.
The lion’s share of the non-carbon energy – 25 per cent – was projected to come from nuclear energy generated by the Barakah power plant, which was due to open in 2017 but has been delayed until the end of this year, at the earliest, and possibly as late as 2021.
The UAE formally ratified the Paris Climate Agreement in September 2016 and set a clean energy target of 24 per cent by 2021, which it upped to 27 per cent a month later.
The energy minister said that the delays were “out of our hands”, while members of the FNC criticised the department for relying so heavily on one energy source to achieve its targets.
“Why did we assign 25 per cent of the energy to come from Barakah and not from solar power?” said Afraa Al Basti, director general of the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children.
The minister said that solar power had not been considered as a viable source of reliable clean energy at the time because it was “intermittent and available for only eight hours a day”.
The UAE primarily relies on solar for water desalination plants and a 2015 report by the International Renewable Energy Agency said the method has “significant untapped potential” for water heating.
Last month, Dubai announced that it plans to source 8 per cent of its over-all power requirements from renewable energy sources by next year and will invest Dh8 billion on energy projects this year, including the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park.
A large solar project is also under construction in Sweihan, Abu Dhabi.
At the regional level, Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in solar power and also hopes to build a nuclear plant, while Bahrain also plans to use solar to help it achieve its goal of taking 5 per cent of its electricity from renewables by 2025.
While Mr Al Mazrouei said that the “door is open” to investment in solar power in the UAE, the low price of electricity is a deterrent because the sector requires a lot of investment.
He said that the cost of energy per unit in the UAE is only seven fils, but it is Dh1.50 in Europe.
During the FNC meeting, Mrs Al Basti also wanted to know what was being done to educate UAE society on the need to lower household consumption of energy.
Mr Al Mazrouei said the ministry has a programme that installs water and power savers in homes to optimise consumption, although the ministry did not give details about what these devices were.
“We already implement [the programme] for water consumption in the houses of Emiratis and we expect consumption to drop to 20 per cent as a result,” he said.
The primary drain on energy resources is cooling, which accounts for 47 per cent – and as much as 60 per cent during the summer – of electricity use in Abu Dhabi, according to Irena.
Mr Al Mazrouei said that the Ministry of Energy had spoken to the Ministry of Education about adding a section to the curriculum that focuses on energy management.
However, he said the most effective way to cut consumption would be to raise electricity prices.
“But raising prices is our last resort,” he said.
The energy ministry did not release figures for the percentage of energy they expect to come from non-carbon sources by 2021, but according to Irena, the figure stood at less than 1 per cent in 2015.