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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 March 2019

Changing timelines will not diminish impact of shift to sustainable energy

FNC debate this week provides an opportunity to take stock of accomplishments so far

The Barakah plant in Al Dhafra. Arun Girija / AFP 
The Barakah plant in Al Dhafra. Arun Girija / AFP 

The UAE’s commitment in 2016 to produce 27 per cent of its power from sustainable sources by 2021 is a laudable goal that recognised the realities of the changing energy landscape. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, its capacity stood at less than 1 per cent in 2015 and at the end of last year this had more than doubled. Given this country’s clear desire to lead the way in sustainability and embrace a post-oil future there is little doubt it will reach its stated aim eventually. That is why the news that the UAE will miss the target – largely because of delays to the Barakah power plant, from which most of the non-carbon energy will be sourced – should not be misperceived as a setback. Rather, it provides an opportunity to take stock of what has been achieved so far and plan effectively for a renewable future. Regular updates on the progress of Barakah demonstrate that the plant, built in partnership with South Korea, will be online by 2021.

That process was on show on Tuesday at the Federal National Council, where members took part in an open discussion about renewables and their place in the country’s future. Just as the UAE is diversifying its economy, it can also share the energy load between nuclear, solar, wind and hydroelectric sources.

There is already plenty to comment on in the way of achievement. Dubai is on track to source 25 per cent of its power from renewable sources by 2030, following Dh8 billion in investments this year. A vast solar project is underway in Abu Dhabi’s Sweihan and the powerful Middle Eastern sun is already being tapped by the country’s water desalination plants. Meanwhile, UAE solar electricity is among the cheapest in the world, to the benefit of consumers.

The transition from oil to sustainable energy was never going to happen overnight but immense progress has been made. The critical element is secure, safe and sustainable energy sources for the future of this country. Changing timelines in projects of this scale and ambition do little to diminish the impact of the UAE’s shift to renewables, which will be felt for decades to come.

Updated: February 20, 2019 05:42 PM

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