Just like rest of the GCC countries, the UAE is among the highest per capita greenhouse gas emitters. 80% of current energy needs are met through natural gas, much of which, since 2008 is imported from Qatar through the Dolphin pipeline. The UAE has proven reserves of 215 trillion cubic feet of natural gas however its high content of sulfur makes it difficult to process as it is highly corrosive. Currently it is used for reinjection into oil fields as part of EOR techniques.
Although renewable energy currently comes at a higher cost, both Dubai and Abu Dhabi have plans to satisfy local energy demands through solar power. Renewables are expected to help as part of diversifying the economy, reducing reliance on hydrocarbons and ensuring a competitive role in the energy market in the long term.
According to the National Human Resources Development and Employment Authority the UAE’s population doubles approximately every 8.7 years resulting in a higher demand for energy every year. Studies by a UAE government report that demand for energy is increasing at a rate of 9% per year and forecasts indicate it could reach and possibly exceed 50GW by 2030. Electricity and water consumption is currently subsidized as part of the social contract and considered necessary for development. Despite being rich in reserves there is an increasing struggle to keep supporting the subsidy.
An investment of a total of $73bn is expected in the next five years in the Gulf countries to increase power capacity and improve transmission which includes smart grids. Abu Dhabi has set a target of 7% electricity generated from renewables by 2020, a total of 1500 MW and Dubai of 5% by 2030, 1000 MW. With the win of the Expo 2020 and the subtheme on “Sustainability – Lasting sources of energy and water” Dubai has set an additional target to produce 50MW of electricity for the operation of the event using on-site renewable sources. This will be achieved through the installation of 200,000 solar panels worth $100m.
Concentrated Solar Power and Photovoltaics are the methods that have been constructed so far. Wind energy is also considered with a 28MW plant approved. Waste to Energy methods are also being considered. In addition to renewables, Nuclear Energy will play a role in a sustainable energy mix where 25% of the country needs will be met with this method.
Technologies that can be of interest to the UAE and the GCC region overall include, cleaning and dust removal, technologies that perform better at high temperatures, high humidity and high diffuse light conditions as well as receivers, pipes, insulation, thermal storage media for CSP.
Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority:
Dubai Electricity and Water Authority:
Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation: