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How to build a post-Covid ‘green economy’ in the UAE

How to build a post-Covid ‘green economy’ in the UAE

To ensure the success of these ambitious green projects, a renewed emphasis should be placed on public-private partnerships

Waste to Energy Facility bee'ah

Around the world, Covid-19-related restrictions are beginning to ease. Here in the UAE, we can look back with pride at the way our communities came together to contain the spread of the infectious coronavirus.

Partial to full lockdowns have had serious economic implications, and governments are considering large-scale infrastructure spending and stimulus packages to kindle economic growth. But, we must ensure that the aim is not simply to return to ‘business as usual’.

New way ahead
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), an investment of $1 trillion (Dh3.67 trillion) will be needed over the next three years to ensure economic recovery sustainably and has formulated a three-year plan to cover a range of energy sectors.

It estimates that investments in low carbon electricity sources, such as wind and solar, could add 1.1 percent to annual global economic growth and create nine million jobs per year.

These plans also include the modernisation of electricity grids, sustainable transport systems, smart buildings and more efficient industrial equipment. It also wants to bring 270 million people to the electricity grid in developing countries, utilising modern infrastructure. The IEA estimates that these benefits would be compounded by a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 4.5 billion tonnes in 2023, and a 5 per cent decrease in air pollution.

Importantly, the plan isn’t calling for investments in untested technologies. Advanced batteries, clean hydrogen, recycling and solar photovoltaics have all proved themselves, while retrofitting and constructing more efficient buildings could yield huge sustainability gains and energy cost reductions.

Such investments would also be good decision-making. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has estimated returns of $3-$8 on every dollar invested in renewable energy.

Bee'ah Salim Al Owais
Salim Al Owais is the chairman of Bee’ah

UAE

To ensure the success of these ambitious green projects, a renewed emphasis should be placed on public-private partnerships (PPP). These are often the best solution when largescale planning and upfront investment is required, which governments are often best placed to do, along with the private sector’s ingenuity and flexibility.

This brings me to the UAE, which has been a global frontrunner when it comes to long-term investments in sustainable or renewable energy-powered infrastructure.

For example, Abu Dhabi’s Shams 1 is the world’s largest consolidated solar power (CSP) facility, and last year, the world’s largest single-site photovoltaic solar plant, the 1.17 GW Sweihan independent power project (IPP) was also commissioned.

Meanwhile, Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (MBR) Solar Park is already the world’s largest renewable energy project on a single plot.

Adding to the clean energy mix, the first of four reactors at Barakah, the Arab world’s first nuclear power plant, is due to become operational later this year, while Hatta’s hydroelectric power station will produce 250 MW of electricity upon completion in 2024.

At Bee’ah, we are on course to help Sharjah hit its target of becoming the region’s first zero-waste-to-landfill city by 2021, thanks to the Emirates Waste to Energy Company (EWTE), which we established with Masdar.

Next year, we will launch the UAE’s first Waste-to-Energy plant in Sharjah which deals with the issue of nonrecyclable waste while supplying alternative energy to the grid. This facility will process more than 300,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste each year, produce around 30 MW of energy, which will be able to power up to 28,000 homes and displace almost 450,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

Read: Bee’ah to launch Middle East’s first solar energy landfill project in Sharjah

These initiatives are guided by the UAE Vision 2021, the UAE Green Agenda 2015-2030, and the UAE Energy Strategy, which aims to increase the contribution of clean energy from 25 per cent to 50 per cent by 2050 and reduce carbon footprint of power generation by 70 per cent.

Sultan Al Mansoori, former UAE Economy Minister has said the “green economy” is a priority for the post-Covid-19 investments, as part of a broader vision for the future. Government support will therefore extend beyond renewable energy projects to areas such as smart transport, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering and biotechnology.

Circular economy
At Bee’ah we are a PPP and our work as an environmental pioneer is founded on the twin pillars of sustainability and digitalisation, as we believe the latter is the key to unlocking the potential of the former.

Through our Consultancy, Research & Innovation (CRI) division, we are researching the environmental space, and are also exploring trends in the sustainability sphere with our sustainable transport provider ION, and our digital venture, EVOTEQ, which delivers value-driven solutions in the public and private sector.

And finally, we are expanding this vision with recently signed contracts to bring our advanced waste management solutions to Egypt’s new Administrative Capital and Madinah in Saudi Arabia. In both these countries, we are delighted to partner on a shared vision for sustainable development.

Read: Sharjah’s Bee’ah waste management company expands into Saudi Arabia

And we support the growing regional and global consensus to invest in infrastructure and ideas that will reinvigorate the economy, create jobs and ensure that we secure a bright future for generations to come.

Salim Al Owais is the chairman of Bee’ah

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