The UAE and other GCC countries can achieve significant benefits from renewable energy by creating thousands of jobs, saving millions of barrels of oil and billions of dollars in discounted fuel savings over the next decade, says a new study.
By 2030, the GCC countries can create 220,500 jobs, save 354 million barrels of oil equivalent in regional power sectors, $46-$76 billion in discounted fuel savings, cutting water withdrawals in power sector by 11.5 trillion litres and 136 million tonnes of carbon dioxide if the region successfully meets its sustainable energy targets, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency's (Irena) 'Renewable energy: Market analysis GCC 2019'.
Under current plans, the Gulf region will install 7 gigawatts (GW) of new power generation capacity from renewable sources by the early 2020s, Irena said, adding that each GCC country has different targets in terms of electricity generation through clean energy.
As per latest available data, the region had some 146GW of installed power capacity, of which renewable energy accounted for less than one per cent - 867 megawatts. The UAE accounted for 68 per cent of the total installed capacity in 2018, followed by Saudi Arabia (16 per cent) and Kuwait (9 per cent). The UAE hosts close to 79 per cent of the installed solar PV (photovoltaic) capacity in the GCC and has managed to attract some low-cost solar PV projects without offering subsidies.
According to Irena's projections, solar technologies could account for 90 per cent of renewable energy job in the region by 2030. Sharing the breakdown, Irena sees 50,000 jobs to come from concentrated solar power (CS), 124,000 from photovoltaic (utilities), 23,000 from photovoltaic (rooftop), 11,000 from wind renewable energy and 12,000 from waste-to-energy.
"The GCC is among the most attractive regions in the world to develop large-scale solar and wind energy projects as a result of resource abundance and a favourable policy environment, a fact that is backed up by record low prices," said Adnan Amin, director-general, Irena.
"As a fossil-fuel exporting region, the GCC's decisive move towards a renewable energy future is a signal to global investors and to the energy community that we are experiencing a step-change in global energy dynamics and a true energy transformation," he said.
"The UAE's commitment to diversifying the energy mix is central to our long-term economic growth and sustainable development objectives. As we look to add generation capacity to serve growing populations and expanding economies, renewables will increasingly serve as central pillar of low-carbon development," said Suhail bin Mohammed Faraj Faris Al Mazrouei, Minister of Energy and Industry.
By end of 2018, the UAE led the GCC for installed renewable energy capacity with two per cent share of renewable energy in total electricity capacity followed by Kuwait and Oman at 0.4 per cent and 0.2 per cent.
"We have placed our natural resources at the centre of our wider plans to diversify our national sources of income, and today, we are better prepared than ever to celebrate exporting our last shipment of oil by 2050," Awaidha Murshed Al Marar, chairman, Department of Energy in Abu Dhabi, said.
He said through the launch of UAE Energy Strategy 2050, the aims is to increase individual and corporate consumption efficiency by 40 per cent, boosting clean energy's share of the UAE's energy mix to 50 per cent, which would save nearly Dh700 billion dirhams by 2050.
"The Strategy relies on a mix of renewable, nuclear and clean fossil energy to strike balance between economic needs and environmental objectives."
Khalid Al Falih, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Energy, Industry, and Petroleum Resources, said the kingdom is rich in multiple sources of energy - from oil and gas to solar and wind, as well as abundant uranium resources.
"When it comes to our own energy mix, we are optimising it dramatically by switching to cleaner fuels, improving the efficiency of our power sector, and introducing renewable and nuclear energy. Over the coming decade, liquids burning in our utilities will be virtually eliminated, while the share of gas capacity will grow from around 50 per cent currently to nearly 70 per cent, which will be the highest among the G20," Al Falih said while addressing Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week on Tuesday.
"Over the next decade, we will create, in the Kingdom, a global hub of renewable energy capability upward of 200GW, spanning the entire value chain from local manufacturing to project development, domestically and abroad. In fact, in the next 10 years, we will develop domestically close to 60GW of renewable energy capacity, of which 40GW will be photovoltaic solar power, 3GW will be concentrated solar power, and 16 GW of wind," the Saudi minister said.
Speaking about the deployment of renewable energy projects in Saudi Arabia, Al Falih said that in 2019, no less than 12 projects will be tendered to stimulate investor, manufacturing and developer activity across the entire value chain. "This will be coupled with the citizens' uptake of rooftop solar in addition to various other giga-scale projects on the horizon," he added.
In addition, Saudi Arabia will begin to introduce nuclear power into the mix, initially with two reactors in the next decade, with a combined production of 2 to 3.2 GW, he added.
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