#UAENationalDay45: WAM Report – Sustainability and the Environment

ABU DHABI, — On the occasion of the 45th National Day celebrations of the United Arab Emirates, the Emirates News Agency, WAM, has issued a series of reports regarding the achievements of the state over the past year. In part eleven, we examine the UAE’s achievements in the field of sustainability and the environment.

The UAE’s commitment to the environment and sustainability goes far beyond that of other countries. The nation hopes to provide a global model for energy and environmental stewardship. It is implementing ground-breaking renewable energy and energy efficiency programmes and is committed to reducing carbon emissions.

In accordance with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UAE is a ‘non Annex 1’ country, and not obligated to reduce its emissions. The state has, however, chosen to implement actions to slash its carbon emissions, including monitoring and tracking greenhouse gas, GHG, emissions and assessing policies for reducing them.

In addition, the UAE is committed to expanding the role of low-carbon technologies in the economy and investing in renewable energy and nuclear power. At the COP21 United Nations Climate Change Conference in December 2015, the UAE affirmed its plan to generate 24 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2021.

In order to reduce its carbon footprint, the UAE monitors the emission of gases that lead to the greenhouse effect and has reduced its per capita carbon emissions.

Due to concerns about climate change, the UAE commissioned international studies to assess the effects of rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the resultant changing weather patterns.

The UAE is also committed to reducing emissions from flaring, which involves burning off waste gas or oil during petroleum testing or production. Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, ADNOC, now has zero-flaring as a strategic objective.

The UAE has launched several innovative programs to increase energy efficiency. In 2014, Dubai launched the “Smart City” strategy, focusing on 1,000 government services and development in six main areas including transportation, infrastructure, communications, financial services, urban planning and electricity. The strategy lays out steps toward optimising energy, smarter transport and recreational areas. Demand-side management of electricity will play a role, as will increased public transportation.

The Dubai Government has issued a set of “Green Building Regulations” for private sector construction in order to reduce energy and resource consumption as well as improve public health and general welfare. The code is mandatory for all new buildings.

The UAE’s largest emirate, Abu Dhabi, has committed more than US$15 billion to renewable energy programmes through the Masdar Initiative. Masdar underscores twin commitments to the global environment and diversification of the UAE economy. It focuses on the development and commercialisation of technologies in renewable energy, energy efficiency, carbon management and monetization, water usage and desalination. Reflecting the UAE’s commitment to sustainability, the International Renewable Energy Agency opened its permanent headquarters in Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City in June last year.

The initiative’s partners include some of the world’s largest energy companies and elite institutions: BP, Shell, Occidental Petroleum, Total Exploration and Production, General Electric, Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Rolls Royce, Imperial College London, MIT and WWF.

With the prospect of clean technology as a motivator, Swiss engineer and businessman, Andre Borschberg, and Swiss psychiatrist and aeronaut, Bertrand Piccard, co-piloted the Solar Impulse 2 to make the first circumnavigation of the Earth by a piloted fixed-wing aircraft using only solar power to draw the world’s attention to clean technologies.

Abu Dhabi was Solar Impulse’s host city for the ground-breaking adventure, and the Solar Impulse team was hosted by Masdar, the UAE’s clean energy firm, for testing, training, and community engagement ahead of the trip.

Masdar also supported the flight team’s community outreach campaign, welcoming more than 2,000 students to the plane’s hangar at Al Bateen Executive Airport.

On 9th March, 2015, Piccard and Borschberg began their quest, departing from Abu Dhabi. The aircraft was scheduled to return to Abu Dhabi in August 2015 after a multi-stage journey around the world. By June 2015, the plane had traversed Asia, and in July 2015, it completed the longest leg of its journey, from Japan to Hawaii. During that leg, however, the aircraft’s batteries sustained thermal damage that took months to repair, and Solar Impulse 2 resumed the circumnavigation in April 2016, when it flew to California. It continued across the US until it reached New York City in June 2016 and later that month, the aircraft crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Spain. It stopped in Egypt before finally returning to Abu Dhabi on 26th July, 2016, more than 16 months after it had left, completing the approximately 42,000 kilometre (26,000 mile) first ever circumnavigation of the Earth by a piloted fixed-wing aircraft using only solar power.

Just as Solar Impulse 2 highlighted the potential benefits of clean energy, solar power in the UAE has the potential to provide most of the country’s electricity demand. While being a major oil producing country, the UAE has taken steps to introduce solar power on a large scale and is planning to generate the vast majority of its electrical energy by 2050 from solar and nuclear sources.

Abu Dhabi’s Shams solar power station, a 100-megawatt (MW) concentrated solar power (CSP) plant near Abu Dhabi is the largest CSP plant outside the United States and Spain and is expected to be followed by two more stations, Shams 2 and Shams 3.

Masdar City in Abu Dhabi is designed to be the most environmentally sustainable city in the world. The city relies entirely on renewable energy. Power is generated by a 10 MW solar PV power plant located on site and 1 MW of rooftop solar panels. Originally planned to have all rooftop panels, it was found easier to clean the sand off ground mounted panels at a single location.

The Dubai Clean Energy Strategy aims to provide 7 percent of Dubai’s energy from clean energy sources by 2020. It will increase this target to 25 percent by 2030 and 75 percent by 2050.

The first phase of the proposed 1,000 MW Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park was the 13-megawatt (DC) solar farm constructed by First Solar in 2013. It uses 152,880 FS-385 black CdTe modules and generates about 24 gigawatt-hours per year.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is one of the world’s largest renewable project based on an independent power producer (IPP) model.

Besides the three phases that consist of solar farms using PV technology, the long-term project will also include concentrating solar power (CSP). The total capacity of the entire project is planned to reach 3,000 MW.

The 200-megawatt second phase of the project attracted worldwide attention, as the winning bid of the tender set a new record-low tariff of only US Cents 5.89 per kilowatt-hour. This is about 20% lower than any previous, unsubsidised power purchase agreement the world has seen before. The PPA is set to a 25-year time frame.

In parallel to the utility-scale projects of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, DEWA, launched a net metering scheme to encourage companies and private individuals to install solar power on their roofs. While the scheme is currently voluntary, solar panels are to be made mandatory for all buildings in Dubai by 2030.

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, ENEC, is working to deliver safe, clean, efficient nuclear energy to the United Arab Emirates – energy that is needed to support the UAE’s social and economic growth.

Energy demand in the UAE is growing at an annual rate of about 9 percent, three times the global average. Developing a reliable supply of electricity is critical to the future growth of the nation, and ENEC is taking on this challenge, with a target of delivering electricity to the UAE grid in 2017. By 2020, it is projected that nuclear energy will produce nearly a quarter of the nation’s electricity needs.

In August 201, ENEC announced the successful installation of its Unit 3 Steam Generators, SGs, marking another milestone in the development of the UAE’s first nuclear energy plant. Steam Generators play a key role in the conversion of energy generated by nuclear fission into electricity which will eventually power homes and businesses throughout the UAE. The heat generated from the nuclear reaction turns water into steam, which is then used to spin a turbine and generate electricity.

In September, it was announced that the most recent marine environmental survey off the coast of the Barakah nuclear energy plant showed the presence of several marine species as a result of the artificial reef which was created there in 2014.

A diverse and abundant marine ecosystem has taken root there, including more than 63 marine species utilising the breakwater habitats, and 35 marine species utilising the artificial reef habitat. In the breakwaters, these marine organisms including a variety of species of algae, invertebrates, species of fish, and one species of marine mammal.

A restriction on marine activities, particularly fishing, means that the breakwater provides a favourable habitat for priority species such as the orange-spotted grouper, locally known as the hamour, the near-threatened Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphin, and the critically endangered Hawksbill Turtle. These at-risk species were all observed in the protected area off the coast of Barakah.

The construction of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant commenced in 2012 and all four nuclear reactors will be operational in 2020. At its full operational capacity, the facility will deliver up to a quarter of the UAE’s electricity needs and save up to 12 million tons in carbon emissions every year. The project as a whole is now over 66% complete.

In July 2016, the Environment Agency- Abu Dhabi, EAD, was advised by the Indian Ocean and South East Asia, IOSEA, MoU Secretariat, of the inclusion of Bu Tinah shoal in the IOSEA Marine Turtle Site Network as an important site for marine turtles. The Secretariat is part of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific based in Bangkok, Thailand.

Of the seven species of marine turtles in the world, two can be found in Abu Dhabi’s waters: the critically endangered Hawksbill turtle, and the endangered Green turtle. In Abu Dhabi, turtles nest on at least 17 offshore islands from mid-March to mid-June and EAD’s aerial and field survey findings indicate that about 5,750 sea turtles inhabit Abu Dhabi’s waters during the winter season and 6,900 during the summer season.

The Bu Tinah shoal and its surrounding waters are strictly protected from human activities such as fishing. In spite of the harsh temperatures and high salinity, its habitats and species, including coral, seagrass, mangroves, Green and Hawksbill turtles, dolphins and many species of birds, continue to thrive, making the island an important location and a living laboratory for climate change studies. The shoal is also home to one of the most charismatic but endangered marine mammals, the dugong.

In March, Earth Hour 2016 achieved outstanding results across the UAE, and in Dubai, Earth Hour activities saw a 222MW reduction in the consumption of electricity, and a reduction of 96 tonnes in carbon dioxide emissions. This reflects Dubai’s commitment to protecting natural resources and reducing the country’s carbon footprint.

Government organisations, private companies, universities, schools and individuals also took part in a host of family and entertainment activities to spread environmental awareness.

The Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 aims to transform the emirate into an international hub for clean energy and green economy, making Dubai the city with the lowest carbon footprint in the world by 2050.

To celebrate World Wildlife Day on March 3rd, Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, TCA Abu Dhabi, teamed up with Emirates Park Zoo to organise special activities to boost awareness about wildlife amongst the emirate’s schoolchildren as well as UAE society in general.

World Wildlife Day is a special initiative of the United Nations to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. This year it ran under the theme, ‘The Future of Wildlife is in our Hands’, and promoted understanding of conservation on a local and global scale.

Agriculture and the practice of farming in the UAE: In July, the Al Gharbia Region in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi proudly hosted the 12th edition of the world renowned Liwa Date Festival, an annual gathering to celebrate the date harvest, Emirati heritage and the agricultural riches of Abu Dhabi. Since its launch, the Festival has been instrumental in transforming the date and palm tree into a symbol of Emirati perseverance in the past, a source of wealth in the present, and a guarantee of prosperity for the future.

As food security becomes even more important in the region, the UAE leads the way in alternative farming methods, such as hydroponics, and is actively involved in organic farming. This year, it was announced that the UAE is now producing almost 10 percent of national requirements, including tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce, aubergines, peppers, cucumbers, melons and mangos.

The UAE is firmly committed to research and studies that will contribute towards agricultural innovation, and in 2016 re-launched the Khalifa International Award for Date Palm and Agricultural Innovation. The award puts emphasis on innovation and offers prize money of AED1 million.

Jose Graziano, Director-General of the United Nations Agriculture and Food Organisation, FAO, attended the launch ceremony and praised the UAE for its diligent efforts in providing food security for its citizens and residents, as well as its worldwide contributions.

The initiative is aimed at supporting scientific research and development in the agricultural and date palm sector, and to showcase the UAE’s efforts towards that goal.

Each year, on the sidelines of the World Future Energy Summit, the UAE hosts Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week to addresses the interconnected challenges that affect the widespread acceleration and adoption of sustainable development and clean energy, to seriously address the global energy challenge, the relationships between economic development, poverty eradication, energy security, water scarcity and climate change.

The event is the largest gathering on sustainability in the history of the Middle East, and encourages actionable outcomes to carve a pathway toward sustainability worldwide. In 2016, ADSW welcomed over 35,604 participants from 170 countries.

Source: Emirates News Agency