The UAE has announced a bold energy policy decision, underscoring its seriousness to becoming Net Zero by 2050.

On February 3, 2022, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed, chairman of the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, announced that its flagship 2.4 GW Hassyan coal power plant will be converting to natural gas.

This decision is part of the wider UAE Net Zero by 2050 strategic initiative aiming to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, thus becoming the first country in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to do so.

The UAE Net Zero initiative is designed to align with the Paris Agreement, which calls on countries to prepare long-term strategies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5 C compared to pre-industrial levels.

When it was initially unveiled, the UAE’s ‘Energy Strategy 2050’ anticipated an energy mix consisting of “clean energy” (44%), gas (38%), coal [1] (12%) and nuclear (6%). However, following the announcement on February 3, 2022, natural gas will represent 50% of the total energy mix, with solar and nuclear making up the balance.

Based on current projections, the UAE’s production capacity of clean energy and nuclear, will reach 20 GW by 2030, exceeding its target of 14 GW.

To achieve this ambitious target, the UAE government will invest over USD 160B in different technologies. According to government sources, it has already spent over USD 40B in the clean energy sector, making it one of the hottest markets for clean energy technology providers.

The new hub for hydrogen

The country aims to reduce the carbon footprint of its power generation by 70%. Hydrogen will be one of the central pillars of this carbon footprint reduction strategy.

In November 2021, the UAE announced its Hydrogen Leadership Roadmap with the goal of transforming itself from one of the top 10 global producers and exporters of fossil fuels to a global leader in low carbon hydrogen production and export. Through this roadmap, the UAE is targeting a 25% share of the global low-carbon hydrogen market by 2030, a market that is expected to reach 50 to 75 million metric tons (mt) by 2030.

The country’s first green[2] hydrogen project, a 1.2 MW pilot facility in the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai, was commissioned in 2021 and is operated by DEWA.

Recently, Abu Dhabi government-owned Masdar signed an agreement with ENGIE to study the development of a 200 MW green hydrogen facility, to be operational in 2025 and supply Fertiglobe’s ammonia facility in Abu Dhabi. This followed a pledge from Masdar and ENGIE to invest USD 5B in green hydrogen production from at least 2 GW electrolysis capacity by 2030.

Masdar has also teamed up with Siemens Energy and Total Energies to co-develop a pilot plant in Masdar City aiming to convert green hydrogen to sustainable aviation fuel.

The UAE’s oil and gas heavyweight, Adnoc, is currently producing over 300,000 mt/year of hydrogen and plans to raise its output to 500,000 mt/year. The current production is mainly grey hydrogen, but ADNOC is planning to shift to green and blue[3] hydrogen.

There is also a blue ammonia project in the works. ADNOC is designing a 1m mt/year ammonia plant in Ruwais using blue hydrogen, with a target start date of 2025.

Another hydrogen project in the pipeline is the electrolyzer facility paired with a 2 GW solar PV plant in Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi. This project is being jointly developed by TAQA and Abu Dhabi Ports.

Controlling emissions

Whilst expanding clean energy production, the UAE is also adopting carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies. This is intended to curb emissions from continued fossil-fuel production and support its blue hydrogen production.

The potential impact of CCS in the global fight against climate change is very significant. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) expects that CCS could contribute up to 55% of the cumulative worldwide carbon mitigation effort over the next 90 years.

The UAE is implementing 14 projects for the purpose of reducing the emissions of GHGs under the umbrella of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects. The prospective total annual reduction of these projects is estimated at around 1 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2Eq).

One of the UAE’s CCS projects is being led by Al Reyadah Abu Dhabi Carbon Capture Company. It is the first in a planned series of CCUS projects in Abu Dhabi. The source of CO2 for this project is an off stream from the Emirates Steel Industries (ESI) factory in Mussafah, UAE. Similar projects are planned in Dubai and other regions of the UAE.

The UAE is also committed to reducing emissions from flaring, which involves burning off waste gas or oil during petroleum testing or production. ADNOC has a zero-flaring policy as its strategic objective. From 1995 to 2010, ADNOC reduced gas flaring by nearly 80%.

The country has joined the Global Methane Pledge, building on its position as one of the least methane intense nations in the world. The UAE will share its capabilities and experience in best-in-class methane performance with signatories to this EU-US led initiative, which aims to cut global methane emissions by 30% by 2030.

The big stage

These policy decisions and announcements have helped the UAE secure the hosting rights for the COP28 climate change conference, which takes place in November 2023.

Nearly 200 countries are expected to gather for this flagship event in Abu Dhabi and work towards taking concerted action to cap global greenhouse gas emissions and unite against climate change. After Egypt in 2022, it will be the second time the event takes place in the Middle East region.

Apricum joins the UAE’s campaign

In recognition of the growing renewable energy sector in the UAE accelerated by the UAE’s clean energy initiatives, Apricum has just opened its latest office in Dubai. Based in the Dubai International Financial Center, a local team of Apricum industry, technology and transaction advisory specialists are on hand to help implement the multitude of clean energy projects that are underway in the UAE.

For enquiries, please contact Apricum Managing Partner Nikolai Dobrott

[1] The UAE intends to couple its coal-fired plants with carbon capture and storage facilities

[2] Hydrogen produced through water electrolysis using electricity from renewable energy

[3] Hydrogen produced from natural gas via reforming coupled with CO2 capturing and utilization or storage (CCUS) to reduce the CO2 emissions of the process – the greenhouse gas balance of blue hydrogen can vary widely and depends on the capturing efficiency and the upstream methane leakage rate, hence blue hydrogen should not be considered a “low carbon” solution per se

Author:

Vahid Fotuhi

Senior Advisor

Vahid is a true MENA renewable energy expert with over 25 years of experience working in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia across the full spectrum of the renewables value chain from strategy, project origination and financing to construction and asset management. He has held senior management roles at SOURCE Global, Access Power and BP Solar among others. Vahid is the founder of MESIA, the largest solar trade organization in the Middle East.

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