The Paris climate summit where world leaders agreed to a historic framework on climate change seems to be accelerator of initiatives on governmental, expert and business level worldwide. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), the center for regional debate and cooperation on sustainability issues, hosted the first Abu Dhabi Global Action Day, an international forum calling on public and private sector leaders to drive forward the commercial ventures and technology breakthroughs needed to deal with climate change and the global sustainability goals adopted in 2015. The high-level event, which hosted several countries’ presidents and state officials, was part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), one of the world’s largest gatherings on sustainable development, held from 16-23 January. It included a series of panel sessions that focused on immediate actions to support the Paris climate agreement.
The forecasts for Middle East solar market predict that 2016 will be characterized by increasingly lower leveled costs of solar electricity, as the region’s solar energy market will be spurred on, rather than slowed down, by low oil and gas prices. It is estimated that entire MENA (Middle East and North Africa) solar market has currently over 400 MW of solar capacity under construction or in developing stage, offering new opportunities for solar experts, innovators, producers, suppliers and potential buyers. The Middle East Solar Industry Association (MESIA) has predicted that the region will tender up to 2000 MW of solar energy projects in 2016.
The Middle East market represents an important solar market for G-Solar representatives that recently visited Emirates. Established in December 1971, United Arab Emirates are federation of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah and Umm Al Quwain. Although the 7th country in the world in the oil reserves and 17th in the reserves of natural gas, Emirates have big plans in the field of renewable energy sources.
Dubai, the fastest growing emirate, shows therefore a strong interest in sustainable development. DEWA (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority) in its preparations to host the World Expo in Dubai 2020 has launched a variety of initiatives, allocating over $700 million to boost electricity, water and renewable energy projects according to the highest international standards. To emphasize its commitment to sustainability, DEWA focuses its efforts on setting up an energy infrastructure that meets the emirate’s developments targets set by Dubai Plan 2021 to make Dubai a smart, integrated and connected city. It also assigned a large part of the budget to clean energy related projects in support of the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 to provide 25% of electricity needs from solar PV by 2030 increasing to 75% by 2050. Most prominent of these projects is the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar park and the Shams Dubai project to encourage building owners to install PV panels to generate electricity from solar energy and connect it to DEWA’s grid. Dubai’s rooftops solar program looks particularly ambitious. The government will establish $27 billion Dubai Green Fund, to provide low-cost finance for rooftop PV. It is estimated that there are some 115.000 buildings in Dubai and if all are to be equipped PV it could amount in total capacity of 1.5 GW. Moreover, Dubai is maintaining to be a huge building area with tall skyscrapers which would be ideal for building integrated PV technology. Dubai will also seek to encourage solar companies and research projects to set up shops and subsidiaries, with the launch of the Dubai Green Zone. It will provide a base for solar companies in the region with an accompanying Innovation center looking to house solar technology research and solar desalination projects. An additional $150 million will be provided for smart grid, energy efficiency and solar generation research projects.
In the emirate of Abu Dhabi, Shams 1, 100 MW concentrated solar power plant started operations in 2013 enabling generation of clean energy for 20.000 homes in the UAE. Shams 1 was designed and developed by Shams Power Company, a joint venture of Masdar, Total and Abengoa Solar. With the addition of Shams 1, Masdar’s renewable energy portfolio accounts for almost 68 percent of the Gulf’s renewable energy capacity and close to 10% of the world’s installed CSP capacity. Near Abu Dhabi is also located Masdar City, a project launched in 2006 as a model for a green mixed-use urban landscape and a global hub for the clean-tech industry, with 50.000 residents and 40.000 commuters. The project was interrupted in 2008 when Abu Dhabi had to support Dubai in huge loss of Dubai World project. Followed by world economic crisis, the development was slowed down and many compromises were made in accomplishing the most ambitious urban project, whose completion date has been pushed back to 2030. However, this remains to be the first real sustainable city project in the world with zero carbon emission and use of latest technologies in lowering air temperature by modern urban planning. As such, it attracted many international companies and organizations to plan the relocation of their headquarters to Masdar City.
In the similar situation as surrounding countries with favorable natural resources, Qatar is the world’s largest exporter of liquid natural gas. It is one of the reasons for solar switch being so slow but the focus on renewable energy is starting to be more visible. Various initiatives have been launched over the past couple of years including 200 MW government-backed scheme in 2013 by Qatar’s energy distributor Kahramaa. In country’s capital Doha there was inauguration by Qatar Solar Energy of a 300 MW module production facility. More recently, Qatar Petroleum and Qatar Electricity and Water Company signed the Memorandum of Understanding to develop solar power generation capacity by setting joint venture worth approx. $ 500 million.