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New Research to Unearth UAE’s Renewable Energy Potential

Photovoltaic panels. Credit: IPS

ABU DHABI, UAE, Jun 2 2017 (IPS) - A report by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) states that supplying the world with 95 per cent renewable sources by 2050 will not only reduce 80 per cent of GHG emissions from the energy sector but also save four trillion euros annually.

Plans to boost clean energy and reduce dependence on natural gas in generating power are at the core of UAE’s new energy policy for the next three decades, resulting in savings worth Dh700 billion (approximately 170 billion euros).

The UAE Energy Plan 2050, announced earlier this year, aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 70 per cent, increase clean energy use by 50 per cent, and improve energy efficiency by 40 per cent by the middle of the century.

“In the UAE, renewable energy is a principle pillar in our National Vision 2021 and Green Growth Strategy, and we have recently witnessed the launch of the world’s largest independent solar power station in the capital Abu Dhabi,” stated Dr. Thani Al Zeyoudi, minister of climate change and environment in a statement following the announcement of the plan. “Through this, we aim to bolster the country’s leading position as a global hub for the latest economic, environmental and technological practices,”

The UAE ratified the Paris Agreement in December 2015 which pledged not to just keep warming “well below two degrees Celsius”, but also to “pursue efforts” to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C by 2018 and has been making efforts to combatting climate change including efforts in increasing the share of renewable and nuclear energy in its total energy mix.

“If we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change we must limit global temperature rise to well below the 1.5°C threshold agreed to in Paris. To achieve that we must significantly scale up the roll out of renewable energy,” commented Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, head of WWF International’s Climate and Energy Practice, at the World Future Energy Summit, held in Abu Dhabi just after the announcement of the UAE Energy Plan 2050.

Last year, Climate Action Tracker, an independent scientific analysis that measures government climate action, stated that UAE’s NDC required more clarity, particularly in terms of its renewable energy target.

UAE’s recently established 2050 policy targets for the source of energy for local consumption have been set at 44 per cent from renewable energy, 38 per cent from gas, 12 per cent from clean fossil and 6 per cent from nuclear energy. The integration of renewable, nuclear and clean fossil energy will be funded with investment of Dh600 billion over the next 33 years, equating to an annual spend of more than Dh17 billion.

Besides aiming to accelerate the move to efficient energy consumption and ensuring stable sources are maintained to diversify energy sources, a significant part of the strategy will focus on research, development, innovation, and creativity in the supply of sustainable energy.

Investments in graduate education for sustainable energy development have already begun- such as with the establishing of the Masdar Institute for Science and Technology in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Just recently, the Emirates Wildlife Society in association with WWF (EWS-WWF), in research partnership with Masdar and Baringa, announced its plan to assess the feasibility of up to a 100 per cent renewable energy in the UAE in a bid to facilitate enhanced energy security through diversification of domestic energy supply.

The project, known as the ‘100% Renewable Energy Vision for the UAE – 2050’ aims to assess the feasibility of transitioning to 75-100 per cent levels of renewable energy for power generation in the UAE as the country prepares for a post-oil era.

“Masdar Institute has conducted extensive research on the potential for renewable energy in the UAE, particularly solar energy, and with consideration of both the technologies and policies that the country can implement to achieve tangible results,” said Dr Steven Griffiths, vice president for research, interim associate provost at Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in a statement.

The climate and energy director at EWS-WWF, Tanzeed Alam, further elaborated that the project will build upon that research to test the boundaries of what the UAE can sustain in the advancement of renewable energy.

“Given the unlimited sunshine levels that we enjoy in the UAE, we believe that much more implementation of renewable energy is possible, but, where do we start? Which energy sources should we prioritize to achieve an optimal response? That’s precisely what the research aims to address.”

The project will work with energy authorities, utilities, private sector and government bodies to ensure the resulting action plan is effective and realistic as falling renewable energy technology and infrastructure costs continue to fall and drive up investment and employment in renewable energy globally.

“By setting out some clear and actionable recommendations, we believe that the UAE will be better equipped to move towards a climate-resilient future which will benefit UAE society, its economy and the environment,” added Alam.

This is the UAE’s first nationwide energy strategy reaching 2050, with previous national energy targets looking to generate 30 per cent of power from clean sources by 2030.

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