Dubai is betting on a more “solar” and low-carbon future

With the advent of “renewable technologies”, many hope to reverse the impact of climate change, with initiatives such as the Mohammed BinRashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, located in the desert south of Dubai. It is the largest solar park in the world. It is equipped with millions of photovoltaic panels, capable of converting the sun’s rays into around 1,000 megawatts per hour and powering more than 320,000 homes. Majority-owned by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), the utility plans to double its power generation with its next phase of development, which includes the tallest concentrated solar power tower in the world. Standing about 260 meters tall, about 60 meters shorter than the Eiffel Tower, it will use about 70,000 heliostats to convert the sun’s rays into thermal energy and store it for about 15 hours. Created in 2013, the park is expected to reach its fifth and final phase of development within the next two years. It is estimated that it will help offset 6.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions per year. Achieving this goal requires an investment strategy from the start, which begins with the creation of human capital. Could you tell me what investments in renewable technologies look like? Is it just something economic or is there something else? Asks Euronews journalist Salim Essaid.

“When you educate young people from an early age, they basically become aware of the challenges that solar energy now faces and how they can ultimately overcome these challenges,” says Aaesha Abdulla. Innovation.

Speaking of what awaits young people in the future, what is the most difficult challenge you face in advancing renewable technologies? Salim Essaid wants to know.

“Today, if you look at how technology deals with dust, for example, there is robotic cleaning. But, its cost is high. There is also an antifouling coating based on nanotechnology. We have tried several of these options but, unfortunately, none of them work effectively in harsh conditions, so we need more research and innovation in this regard,” says Aaesha Abdulla Alnuaimi.

Thanks to practical solutions, such as photovoltaic leaf trees or solar-powered streetlights, the city is taking the road less travelled. While Dubai is betting on a more “solar” and low-carbon future, the UAE as a whole remains heavily dependent on traditional energy sources. However, they are taking big steps to pave the way, through strategic investments. In 2019, the solar park supplied 3% of Dubai’s total energy demand. Before that, the emirate was almost 100% dependent on natural gas. The UAE is still dependent on fossil fuels. However, the authorities intend to make more ecological changes with their unified “Energy Strategy 2050”, which aims to reduce their carbon emissions from electricity production by 70%. An objective that requires allowing more investment, possibly foreign, to move forward in the renewable energy sector.

“We need to deregulate the energy market and allow the participation of many players in the energy system. When they have the authorization, obviously, they will make investments”, explains Jagannathan Ramaswamy, independent analyst in energy and sustainability.

In Dubai, DEWA has already attracted some €9 billion in investments and public-private partnerships. In line with the 2015 Paris climate accord, the emirates use a mix of solar, nuclear and other renewable energy. This will create a future need for “smarter” technology to manage them.

“The mantra is decarbonization, decentralization and digitalization. So it is going to incorporate big data, data analytics, artificial intelligence and maybe blockchain technology,” adds Jagannathan Ramaswamy.

It is not yet known how this advanced technology will manage the “renewable societies” of tomorrow. But it is true that it is in the hands of today’s “innovators of the future”.

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