World Energy Forum host UAE leads sustainable energy investment

At the World Energy Forum 2012 in Dubai, which ended Wednesday, the host country United Arab Emirates (UAE) aimed to present itself to the global community as an oil-state on the way to a new energy-mix model, albeit huge challenges.

The three-day forum, which was held for the first time outside the United Nations headquarters at New York, dealt with the challenges of how the world can tackle growing energy demand and how to reduce global warming.

The UAE used the platform to present its current projects in the field of solar, green and nuclear energy to the over 2,000 delegates from more than 100 countries. However, UAE officials refrained from unveiling new mega-projects.

In his opening speech on Monday, Sheikh Maktoum Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, said that “although the UAE is an oil exporting nation, it seeks seriously to reduce the causes of climate change and to achieve a sustainable energy equation in diversifying the sources of generating power.”

The UAE currently satisfies 99 percent of its domestic electricity consumption from oil and gas sources, according to the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA). Until 2020, the UAE government targets a 7-percent green energy share of the country’s total energy consumption, while 12 percent shall come from nuclear energy.

Its fast growing population, which doubled to the current 8.5 million within five years, put the UAE under pressure to find new ways of satisfying the growing demand for power.

Vice chairman of the Dubai Supreme Energy council and DEWA CEO Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer said at a round-table discussion Wednesday that, still lots of energy is wasted. “Because window air conditioner systems are still widely in use, some 40 percent of Dubai’s cooling energy used by them is wasted. To tackle this challenge, the vast majority of new buildings will be connected to efficient district cooling systems.”

District cooling plants supply entire areas of a street or area of a city with cooling energy being generated with heat pumps that exploit thermal energy from purified sewage and waste water.

Besides increasing energy efficiency, new sources of energy are in Gulf state’s pipeline to contribute the country’s energy mix for tomorrow. Earlier in January this year, Dubai unveiled a 3.3- billion-US dollar solar park. It will be located in the southeast of the emirate and is named after the ruling family Al- Maktoum. “The first phase of Dubai’s solar park will be in operation by the end of 2013,” Al Tayer said.

In order to diversify the sources of energy further, Dubai’s neighboring sheikhdom Abu Dhabi, which is also the UAE’s capital, currently builds four nuclear reactor plants in the Western region of Al-Gharbia. The nuclear plants will cost 20 billion dollars and is constructed under the lead of Korea Electric Power Corp., known as KEPCO.

“Until 2030, Abu Dhabi plans to satisfy 25 percent while the entire UAE plans to generate 12 percent of its electricity needs from nuclear energy. By using nuclear energy, every year more than 12 million tons of carbon emissions will be saved,” said Abdulhamid Nassouri, chief commercial officer of Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC).

Nassouri denied media reports from earlier in the year that four additional nuclear reactor plants are planned. “We heard such rumors were reported in the press but these reports were false. We do feasibility studies on the question if more reactors could be build and useful, nevertheless. As of now, no decision to build more than the four reactors has been taken.”

Asked about security issues, which are globally lively discussed after the tragic nuclear meltdown at Japan’s plant in Fukushima last year, Nassouri said “The concrete we started pouring in the earth is double the size than that of the sister reactor in Korea. The UAE reactor can stand earthquakes as a well as Tsunamis. Tsunamis are actually quite impossible to hit the coastal site near Beraka where the nuclear plant is built, because the Arabian Gulf waters are very shallow.”

Despite alternative energy solutions mushrooming worldwide, five Arab energy ministers agreed that fossil fuels will dominate global energy sources in the near and far future.

According to the latest International Energy Agency (IEA) World Energy Outlook, the global demand for electricity will surge 2.2 percent annually through 2035. The cumulative investment needed in the global oil and gas supply infrastructure is estimated at 19 trillion dollars over the next 25 years in order to satisfy the rising energy demand.

The UAE, home to some 10 percent of the world’s known oil reserves and 3.3 percent of global gas reserves, boosted this year oil production capacity by 3 million barrels per day.

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