October 4, 2022
HONG KONG – As the United Arab Emirates’ energy transition gathers pace before it hosts the United Nations climate conference next year, it is looking to climate partners such as China to help it sustain the momentum, its climate change special envoy says.
Sultan Al Jaber, the UAE special envoy for climate change and minister of industry and advanced technology, said the UAE is seeing “record growth in renewables”, representing more than 80 percent of all new power-generating capacity last year.
However, he said, a transformative and pragmatic global energy transition is needed to deliver climate action, and while wind and solar accounted for the vast majority of all new power-generating capacity last year, this still only accounts for 4 percent of today’s energy mix.
“As the world’s energy needs grow ever larger, maintaining global energy security will require oil and gas to remain a significant part of the mix for decades to come,” Al Jaber said.
A successful energy transition must make progress with economic and climate action in tandem, he said. As part of this, “we know we must do more now” to reduce the impact of oil and gas on the climate, and in the medium term the UAE plans to increase its renewables portfolio to 100 gigawatts by 2030.
“I see many more opportunities for collaboration with China as we continue to build and adapt to clean energy solutions. We are constantly looking to the future and have allocated more than $1.5 billion in grants and low-interest loans for renewable energy innovation in more than 40 countries.”
Like China, Al Jaber said, the UAE is also investing in clean energy projects globally, with more than $50 billion across six continents, including in 27 climate-vulnerable island nations, which, he said, “is extremely important to us” and is one of the country’s key approaches for COP 28 UAE next year.
In 2017, the UAE launched Energy Strategy 2050, which is considered the first unified energy strategy in the country that is based on supply and demand.
It aims to increase the contribution of clean energy in the total energy mix from 25 percent to 50 percent by 2050 and reduce carbon emissions from power generation by 70 percent.
It also seeks to raise the consumption efficiency of individuals and companies by 40 percent, the UAE government says.
Furthermore, the strategy targets an energy mix that combines renewables, nuclear and clean energy sources to meet the UAE’s economic requirements and environmental goals, which are 44 percent clean energy, 38 percent gas, 12 percent clean coal and 6 percent nuclear.
The Australian aggregator Compare the Market’s Green Fuel Index ranks the UAE first among countries whose use of renewable energy has increased. Its renewable capacity has grown almost 20,000 percent in the past 10 years.
The UAE, it said, “has traditionally relied on its plentiful supplies of oil” but has recently made a big effort to shift away from fossil fuels, although just 7.2 percent of the country’s energy needs are met by renewable means.
Al Jaber praised China’s focus on excellence in all aspects of the renewable energy supply chain, from research and development to materials, manufacturing and installation, which he said “sets the standard for other countries to follow”.
“Solar, in particular, is an example of where the government has encouraged growth with supporting policies, resulting in China’s leadership in both solar power generation and manufacturing. There is much to learn from this example.”
China’s leadership in technology “is also helping the world take advantage of the commercial opportunities of the energy transition”, Al Jaber said, citing a consortium of Chinese companies that are partnering with the UAE to develop and build Al Dhafra Solar Park, 35 kilometers south of Abu Dhabi.
It will become one of the world’s largest solar plants, delivering more than 2 GW of clean energy, Al Jaber said.
China “is leading the world with respect to solar, in both manufacturing and supply chains”, he said.
The UAE, he said, has three of the world’s largest single-site solar plants. The Noor Abu Dhabi Solar plant has 3.2 million solar panels and has been developed with expertise and investment from the Chinese clean technology company Jinko Power.
“As we prepare for COP 28 UAE, there are many lessons we can draw on from China’s experience in practical, commercially viable clean tech development,” Al Jaber said.
“We intend to take a similar, pragmatic approach that promotes an energy transition that is based on scientific, economic and engineering facts, appreciates the multiple dilemmas and challenging trade-offs, and accelerates the deployment of practical solutions.”
COP 28 next year is the 28th session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties. COP 27 will be held in Egypt in November.