“We are serious about energy security, and we have a strategy for an energy mix that includes renewables,” said Suhail bin Mohammed Faraj Faris Al Mazrouei, UAE Minister of Energy and Industry at the opening of the UAE Energy Forum earlier this month. That decarbonisation plan would mean the country by 2050 will be producing 38% of its energy from gas, 44% from renewables, 6% from nuclear and the use of clean coal will drop to 12%.
In the rest of the oil-rich Gulf region, petroleum-based energy will drop from the current 91% to 41%, and renewables will go up from 9% today to 59% .
Of the UAE’s 10 million population, 90% are expatriates and the country’s per capita carbon footprint is 23 tons per year. Although a low carbon trajectory would reduce total emissions, the UAE will remain a major exporter of fossil fuels into the future.
Even so, the writing was on the wall in Abu Dhabi throughout January – conference delegates felt there is no option but to move from oil to more a more efficient fossil fuel like gas, and promote utility scale solar and wind.
Even oil industry executives called for a green approach. Raoul Restucci, Managing Director of Petroleum Development Oman says: “Rising energy needs … climate change pressures and technological innovation mean that national oil companies must gravitate towards renewables for longer-term competitiveness and sustainability.”
This year, Oman is commissioning a 100MW solar farm. Saudi Arabia is turning into ‘Solar Arabia’ by integrating Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) with its existing thermal plants to generate nearly 2GW. It is adding 300MW solar photovoltaic and a 400MW wind project, and is thinking big: generate 200GW of solar power by 2030.