Dubai’s clean energy transition gathers pace

Published on December 18, 2022

Dubai last month announced a roadmap to make its public transport emission-free by 2050, taking its ambitious strategy to transition to the green economy another step closer to reality. Featuring infrastructure, circular economy and green mobility initiatives, the implementation of the roadmap will bring AED3 billion worth of savings and eliminate 8 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of planting 132 million trees, over the next three decades.

The roadmap forms part of a series of initiatives driving the emirate’s Clean Energy Strategy 2050 and the Dubai Net Zero Carbon Emissions Strategy 2050 that aim to generate 100% of Dubai’s total energy production capacity from clean energy sources by 2050. Already one of the world’s leading cities in clean power infrastructure, Dubai is moving rapidly to achieve this target. 

Green economy hub

Dubai has set its sights on becoming a green economy hub with a five-pronged strategy focused on infrastructure, legislation, funding, capacity building and creating an environment-friendly energy mix. 

Dubai’s plans are aligned with the UAE Energy Strategy 2050 and UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategy, which aim to significantly replace traditional energy production with renewable resources. Next year, the UAE will play host to the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), more commonly known as COP28. The conference, to be held in Dubai Expo City, will provide both the UAE and Dubai an opportunity to showcase their unique clean energy projects and achievements in reducing reliance on non-renewable energy sources.  

DEWA’s mega infrastructure projects

Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) is leading the charge to create a diverse infrastructure base for Dubai’s green energy transition. The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the largest single-site solar park in the world based on the Independent Power Producer (IPP) model, is set to produce some of the most cost-effective clean electricity on the planet. On completion in 2030, the AED50 billion Park will have 5,000 MW production capacity. The fifth phase of the project, currently being built, will be fully commissioned in 2023. It is adequate to serve more than 270,000 homes, eliminating 1.1 million tonnes (MT) of annual carbon emissions. Upon the Solar Park’s completion, it will reduce more than 6.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually.

The Solar Park will build on DEWA’s current power generation assets, which include the Jebel Ali Power and Desalination Complex, a key pillar of Dubai’s clean energy infrastructure aimed at meeting the needs of its growing daytime population estimated to expand to 7.8 million people by 2040. The Complex is the world’s largest single-site natural gas power generation facility and the largest single-site water desalination plant. 

Another project powering the emirate’s clean energy transition is DEWA’s Green Hydrogen Project, which has been built in cooperation with Expo 2020 Dubai and Siemens Energy at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park over an area of 10,000 square metres. The first initiative that uses solar power to produce hydrogen in the Middle East and North Africa region, the project is key to the UAE’s aim to acquire 25% of the global green hydrogen market by 2030. A high-value export commodity, green hydrogen, dubbed by many as the fuel of the future, has a variety of uses including power generation, transportation, feedstock for the chemical industry, reducing agent for the steel industry, and gas for residential heating and cooking.

Green Ammonia

In yet another major green energy project announced last month, Dubai’s leading oil and gas player ENOC Group signed an agreement with Japanese heavy-industry manufacturer IHI Corporation to establish a first-of-its-kind manufacturing unit for green ammonia, often dubbed as a ‘fuel of the future’. The produced fuel will be exported to Japan and supplied within the UAE and the region.

Produced by combining green hydrogen and nitrogen at high temperatures and pressures, green ammonia can help reduce global carbon emissions and be used within the transportation, power generation and industrial sectors. 

Complementing these projects is the pumped-storage hydroelectric power station that is being built by DEWA in Hatta, which will have a production capacity of 250 megawatts (MW), and a storage capacity of 1,500 megawatt-hours. The first station of its kind in the GCC region, the AED1.42 billion project is almost halfway through to completion. 

Another unique project that adds to Dubai’s renewable energy mix is the Dubai Waste Management Centre (DWMC), the largest waste-to-energy project in the world, being built by Dubai Municipality. The facility, which will be fully operational in 2024, has the capacity to process 5,600 tonnes of solid waste per day, converting 45% of Dubai’s municipal waste into renewable energy, feeding the grid with 215 MWh of clean energy capacity.

Legislative framework

Underpinning Dubai’s clean energy transition plan is a regulatory framework designed to encourage the private sector, global investors and developers to participate in clean and renewable energy projects, using the Independent Power Producer (IPP) model. DEWA has attracted investments of around AED40 billion through this model, which encourages value-added partnerships between the public and private sectors.

Talent and innovation

Capacity building in the green economy is another vital pillar in the clean energy strategy. The emirate seeks to develop its pool of professional talent and industry expertise through various learning and training programmes conducted in cooperation with global institutions. It is also working with global organisations like the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to develop the specialised capabilities needed to boost research, innovation and excellence in this field.

Leading by example, DEWA has created an R&D Centre at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park to offer a global platform for emerging sustainability technologies.  The Centre aims to contribute to enhancing Dubai’s position as a global hub for R&D in solar power, smart grids, energy and water efficiency and capacity building. Projects launched at the R&D Centre include a pilot project for energy storage using Tesla’s lithium-ion battery solution. In July this year, the DEWA R&D Centre filed a patent for a redox flow battery stack with an improved electrolyte distribution that offers better battery performance and lower manufacturing costs.

The abundance of solar energy sources in Dubai, its massive infrastructure projects and the city’s emergence as a preferred destination for talent and expertise in the green energy sector, are set to make the emirate a global leader in transitioning to clean energy.

Source: Press release