The Arab world, and those nations located along the same lines of latitude, should move to embrace and lead the global clean energy revolution as the region is set to benefit the most from limiting climate change.
The region is home to some of the key global hotspots that will be impacted by the very real impacts of climate change. Ignoring climate change will lead to more frequent and unprecedented disruptions, as well as extremes periods of heat, which are detrimental to human, animal and environmental health – more so in the Arab world than anywhere else. This is the sobering conclusion of a recently published scientific report on the impacts of climate change in our region.
The good news, however, is that we can do something about this now. We don’t have to wait for new technology to be invented and can use the proven technology available today.
Where do we start? A growing group of climate and energy experts agree that one of the most efficient ways to address this is by decarbonizing the electricity sector. We believe that clean electricity, generated in a safe and reliable manner, will change the game.
For example, think of the electric car and imagine if all the cars in the Arab world were electric and that they were powered by energy plants that do not emit greenhouse gases. This is called decarbonizing road transportation and it can be achieved in just the next 10 years. Even more positively, we have the opportunity to decarbonize other energy intensive industries.
The potential pay-off is incredibly worthwhile. If we start by decarbonizing the electricity sector, we take 27 percent of emissions off the table. With the electrification of industrial processes that produce steel, cement and plastics, we can take a further 31 percent of emissions off the table. Add to this electrifying transportation or using energy produced from electricity, such as green hydrogen, and we take 16 percent of emissions off the table. That’s over three quarters of global emissions, or 39 billion tons of emissions, removed. And it all starts with the decarbonization of the power sector, using existing technologies based on hydropower, nuclear and renewables.
This transformation is possible and is already happening in the United Arab Emirates. The UAE has already installed 80 percent of all renewable energy projects in the region and, combined with its latest addition – Unit 1 of the four-unit Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant – the nation is leading the biggest decarbonization effort of any industry in the UAE and the Arab world to date.
As the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant’s Unit 1 commences commercial operations, the UAE joins a group of more than 30 countries around the world already benefitting from electricity produced with zero emissions by peaceful nuclear energy.
Nuclear energy is an important factor in achieving sustainability – eight out of the top 10 most energy sustainable nations already use nuclear energy, studies by the World Energy Council have shown. Nuclear energy provides abundant, continuous, emissions-free electricity, complementing intermittent, lower capacity renewables to create a formidable energy mix.
The UAE has long held its position as a major global energy producer, and the transition to cleaner energy sources only solidifies this further. Indeed, Barakah signals the beginning of a clean energy future for the UAE, an ambition envisioned over a decade ago to help the country diversify its energy mix and achieve its long-term sustainability goals through a significant reduction in carbon emissions. Today, clean electricity from nuclear energy is a ground-breaking step forward towards a carbon free future.
Operating at 100 percent power, Unit 1 of the Barakah plant is now the largest single source of electricity in the UAE. The four Units of Barakah, once fully operational, will provide up to 25 percent of the UAE’s electricity needs for the next 60 years ahead.
Located in the Al Dhafra region of Abu Dhabi, the Plant is generating 24/7 emissions free electricity that is reliable and efficient. When all four units are operational, the plant will prevent the release of 21 million tons of carbon emissions every year, equivalent to removing all the cars, buses, and trucks on the UAE’s roads.
The benefits of this clean energy strategy are enormous, and inspire hope and positivity for our future. Not only will we be able to sustainably meet our requirements for cooling, and desalination, but we also enhance our ability to sustainably supply the electricity and water needed for advanced agricultural techniques, such as hydroponics and aquaculture to enhance food diversity and security. And we will have the electricity needed to power the increasingly digitalized jobs and automated industries of the future.
The UAE’s oil and gas industry will continue to thrive – we simply cannot exist without many of the products and services we enjoy today without hydrocarbons. In Abu Dhabi, the industry is taking bold steps to ensure its products are more sustainable, and the greatest value is derived from this precious natural resource.
As a country that is committed to transparency and the sharing of lessons learned, the UAE is open to share this know-how in achieving a greener grid with nations across the Arab world and ensure we can all enjoy the benefits of decarbonized electricity. We believe that, as one of the regions most affected by climate change, we have a duty to deliver a more sustainable Arab world to the generations that will come after us.
As the first nuclear new-build in more than 30 years, it is our hope that the UAE’s peaceful nuclear energy program demonstrates that nuclear energy can, and must, be part of the climate change solution.