World Future Energy Summit 2016: Middle East’s COP21.1?
“After the Paris climate conference in December, global focus is shifting from negotiation to action,” said Adnan Z Amin, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) at an event at the agency’s headquarters earlier this week.
Barely a month after the COP21 conference, Abu Dhabi became the next venue for the world leaders to meet for the cause of sustainable development and the adoption of renewable energy to show the world that the message has been delivered and the action has already begun.
Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, which encompasses the World Future Energy Summit 2016, the International Water Summit and EcoWaste, as well as the General Assembly of IRENA, began on January 18 in the capital city.
Renewable energy in focus
Almost all the nations agreed to keep global warming below 2˚C and committed to bring it down to 1.5˚C limit at the Paris summit.
IRENA says that the target is half achieved if countries determine to increase renewables to make them 36 per cent of the global energy mix by 2030.
The agency argues that it will boost investment across sectors to contribute as much as 1.1 per cent or roughly $1.3 trillion to global gross domestic product by 2030. It is estimated to provide 3.7 per cent more jobs with employment in the renewable energy sector topping 24 million from last year’s 9.2m.
Region takes it seriously
The countries in the region have rolled out their strategies to tap the opportunities in the market of what is being billed as the future energy.
The continuing volatility of oil has caused considerable damages to the economies in the region, which are heavily depending on revenues from hydrocarbon exports. The nations have announced several projects for sourcing energy from non-fossil resources.
According to IRENA, the region is set to attract $35 billion worth of renewable energy investments every year by 2020.
The UAE has been ramping up its efforts to diversify energy sources and has plans to invest $35bn in clean energy projects by 2021. Dubai launched the $27.2bn Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, which aims to provide seven per cent of the emirate’s energy from sustainable sources by 2020, raising that to 25 per cent by 2030 and 75 per cent by 2050.
Saudi Arabi and Qatar have also launched similar initiatives in the clean energy sector.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, while speaking at the summit stressed that his country seeks to achieve sustainable economic diversification as part of UAE Vision 2021.
He said the country is committed to contributing to meet the growing global demand for energy through the development and deployment of renewable energy technologies.
The Middle East and North Africa region is one of the most water-scarce places in the world and many of its countries use desalination to address a growing gap between water supply and demand.
But a white paper released at the event by American multinational conglomerate GE in partnership with the World Resources Institute (WRI) reveals that the countries are projected to use all of their current energy production for desalination by 2035.
The paper, called Water, Energy, Risks and Rewards – Challenges Opportunities and Ideas for Innovation at the Water-Energy Nexus, urges the players in the region to ensure energy efficiency and recovery in desalination. It further recommends to reuse water and to shift to clean energy sources.
It further says that among the many renewable energy sources available here, concentrated solar power (CSP) and solar photovoltaic (PV) suit the region the most as 22 to 26 per cent of all sunlight hitting earth’s landmass falls in the MENA.
Deb Frodl, Global Executive Director, GE Ecomagination, the cleantech arm of GE, says improved water management will be critical to reducing MENA’s water gap.
Frodl called on the governments in the region to create new partnerships and business models for a sustainable future in the region.
She said the company was planning step up investments to tap the region’s booming renewable energy market.
GE has already partnered with Masdar, the UAE’s renewable energy company and the organiser of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, to implement the first energy-neutral wastewater treatment process.
GE will also join hands with Goldman Sachs to identify new opportunities to deploy capital and develop innovative financing models for water projects around the world, Frodl said.
Zayed Future Energy Prize
Norway’s former Prime Minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland, was awarded the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award of the Zayed Future Energy Prize at the event.
Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, and Enrique Peña Nieto, the President of Mexico, spoke at the World Future Energy Summit.
The event, which will conclude on January 23, is expected to attract 33,000 visitors from more than 170 countries.