Analysis: Green dream

The UAE displayed its solar credentials at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week

A deal for phase two of Mohammed Bin Rashid Solar Park, Dubai, has been signed
A deal for phase two of Mohammed Bin Rashid Solar Park, Dubai, has been signed

January’s Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week showcased the progress that GCC states are making in attempting to meet some pretty ambitious renewables targets.

The concept of going green no longer seems like an ardent environmentalist’s plea, but an embraced way of thinking for governments and the majority of their citizens. Nowhere is this truer than in the GCC, where there are greater sensitivities over the long term impact of fossil fuels dying out.

A string of rules and regulations have been introduced across states with a view to providing incentives for companies to focus on reducing energy usage and embrace solar technology.

Yet until very recently, many in the renewables sector had argued that it was still far easier to carry on guzzling cheap energy, with little or no incentive to adopt solar technology.

Thankfully, this is set to change. Last week, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) revealed a set of standards for installing photovoltaic (PV) panels to produce electricity from solar power in buildings in Dubai.

A new government resolution allowed customers to install solar PV panels and connect them to the grid, selling any excess power back into the network to gain discounts on their power bills Dewa said the ruling made it the first city in the Middle East to put a regulatory network in place to offer this type of incentive to panel buyers.

“We call upon all manufacturers of solar power equipment and tools to register their products as eligible for Dewa so that customers have a reference to start installing the solar systems as soon as possible, according to the highest design qualification standards,” said Dewa’s CEO Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer.

At the recent Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, solar power was a key focus – from the launch of the Solar Impulse 2 round-the-world solar-powered flight to a new car endurance project known as Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge.

At the event, Al Tayer revealed that Dubai had trebled its target to increase the share of power generated by renewables by 2030 – increasing its benchmark from 5% to 15%.

“Even though some people were worried that the latest drop in oil prices would affect the renewable and clean energy sector, in the UAE we are determined to continue our efforts to build and develop a greener economy,” he said.

Sustainability Week ran from 17-24 January and was hosted by Masdar, whose own institute also signed a collaboration deal that could result in the world’s first fully solar-powered desalination plant being built in the UAE.

The programme included a four-day exhibition at ADNEC where 800 companies from 40 countries displayed their environment-friendly offers.

“Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week is committed to tackling the timely challenges of climate change, energy security and sustainable development,” said H.E. Dr Sultan Ahmad Al Jaber, chairman of Mubadala-owned sustainability group Masdar and UAE minister of state.

“The international platform facilitates the cross-sector partnerships – where risk and rewards are shared – that advance commercial solutions and encourage a sustainable future.

“The UAE is a true energy leader committed to advancing both traditional and new forms of energy,” said Al Jaber.

“Through platforms like ADSW, and companies like Masdar, the country is accelerating clean technologies to market, supporting the diversification of the global energy mix and ensuring markets have long-term access to power.”

Luc Graré, senior vice president, solar sales and marketing, at Norway-based solar panel manufacturer and distributor, REC, which was one of the companies taking part at the event, said: “I think the awareness [of solar] is increasing and also the sense of urgency of it is also increasing.”

REC is currently working with the UAE government on a test site situated out in the desert, where 140 different models of solar panels are being monitored.

“They can test what the impact is of the enormous heat and dust, and all these circumstances,” explained Graré, adding that the exact angle of the panels is an integral aspect of their efficiency.

“If you put the module perfectly vertical, yes there will be no dust or sand hanging on the module, but on the other hand, you don’t have the best angle for the sun. But if you put it horizontal, which is ideal for the sun, then you’ll have lots of sand kept on the surface. That is the sort of thing they want to test and find out.”

The project is testament to the UAE’s commitment to becoming more sustainable, and Graré says the rest of the region is not far behind.

“You see many countries in the region where there is an increase in electricity consumption from five to 10%,” he said, adding that when planning for electricity provision, this must be taken in to account.

“I think many [GCC] countries realise this and what you see now is activities happening here in the Emirates. You see it here in Dubai – they are building big solar plants – and they have also introduced a solar roof programme for commercial and residential roofs.

“I think those initiatives are catalysts for the whole region and I think it will come very quickly in the rest of the region.”

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