Although oil giant Saudi Arabia shows no signs of slowing down its oil exports, its far tinier neighbors Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are diversifying their economies and energy portfolios. While Qatar is banking on its hosting of the 2022 World Cup to showcase its transformation, the UAE has been ahead of the game with its experimental Masdar City in Abu Dhabi. Masdar’s promise of becoming a carbon neutral city has been fitful, but another project in Dubai, the UAE’s capital of decadence, has ambitious clean energy plans on the drawing board.
One of Dubai’s goals is to launch a large solar plant as part of the emirate’s grand plan to net five percent of its electricity from renewables by 2030. Specifics are still hazy at the moment, but in an announcement last week, Dubai’s energy council claimed that solar power would provide most of the energy derived from non-fossil fuel sources.
The announcement from Dubai’s Supreme Council of Energy comes at a time when Dubai is still overcoming rapid overdevelopment and the financial problems that accompanied it. The building of large chains of man-made islands, seven star hotels (pictured), and massive commercial and residential complexes have led to huge spikes in the demand for energy. Currently much of that fuel comes from natural gas. So far the promise is that a “very big” solar farm is in the works. Of course, some observers may ask that in a region which is slathered in sunlight and a landscape that reflects it . . . what took so long? Then again geography is key: the UAE may be a huge global oil exporter, but most of the black gold is in Abu Dhabi, not Dubai.
Five percent of energy from renewables in 2030 may pale in comparison to targets that other regions including the European Union, California, and Korea have set. But in the long run it is smarter to set modest goals and hopefully exceed them. The setting of ambitious goals makes politicians look progressive, but most likely they will not be around years later when bureaucrats and political leaders scramble to meet tough mandates that an earlier generation piled on years before. What is interesting is that while governments in the Americas and Europe struggle to shift towards clean energy technologies in an era of austerity and budget cuts, the UAE will be one gulf country that becomes a thriving laboratory for both renewable energy and advances in clean technology.
Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons.