The solution to the nation's renewable energy requirement is literally beating down in abundance. And today, requisite investment in cutting-edge solar power has placed Dubai center-stage in the global green energy arena.

The Emirate of Dubai is not known for going small, be it in commerce, tourism, or the architecture that accommodates the two. Yet in one vital arena, energy, the name of the game is reduction.

Facilitating a green economy

Dubai today imports 99% of its fuel requirements, the bulk in the form of natural gas through the Dolphin Pipeline, while surplus demand is traditionally met through liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports. Yet renewables are the future, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has championed Dubai's bid to become a global hub of the green economy by setting the pace. At the turn of the decade, clean energy is targeted to account for 7% of total power output, rising to 25% by 2030, before reaching the 75% target of the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050.

Energy realities

In achieving this, there are fundamental sources of energy demand that the authorities need to address. Economic performance alone is a factor, and over the coming five years or so, we will see annual energy demand growth of 4-6%. This totals up to consumption of 9.6GW by 2020—a staggering 50% rise from 2012. Tourism, too, is a major factor, and back in 2013 it was announced that 20 million annual visitors were targeted by 2020, virtually doubling the number as of that year. The estimated USD7-billion infrastructure spend will of course spark a concomitant rise in electricity consumption.

Mean more volts on the way

For Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) to meet the estimated 3GW growth in peak demand by 2020, it will need to install an additional 1.15GW of new capacity to maintain its current 11% minimum spare capacity threshold. Indeed, Dubai foresees total additional capacity of 1.65GW and related CAPEX of roughly USD2 billion in power. Moreover, should DEWA opt to continue ensuring spare capacity at the 30% level, the highest anywhere in the world, 2.9GW will be required by 2020, with a price tag of USD3.5 billion. The Emirate's overall installed capacity from renewables and non-renewables is estimated at around 13,000MW, a quarter deriving from a gargantuan solar park.

Expo 2020: Ingenuity on show

Another potential drain on the grid is World Expo 2020, a prestigious event that should bring an additional 25 million visitors to the Emirate, the population of which is just 2 million. A staggering, yet predictable, 60% of total electricity consumption in the UAE stems from air-conditioning. Meanwhile, the total area of the Expo site equates to around 900 football pitches. Yet lateral solutions mean that the event's toll on the grid will be greatly reduced; it will be staged during the cooler period of October 20th to April 10th. More importantly though, the use of renewables a the Expo, an exemplar for the Emirate as a whole, is estimated to slash electricity consumption from 350,000MWh to 250,000MWh over its six-month duration. A full 50% of energy needs will be generated on site from renewables including high-efficiency photovoltaic (PV) solar panels on roofs and wall-mounted building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) systems. Roughly 200,000 solar panels are planned over an approximate area of 350,000sqm. Indeed, organizers are rightly proud to note that this will be the world's first event on such as scale to be 100% renewables powered.

Green milestones

Dubai's Green Fund, launched in 2016, is 100% owned by the Investment Corporation of Dubai, the Emirate's sovereign wealth fund. Its function is to extend soft loans to green enterprises, fostering innovation in the renewables sector. By late 2017 DEWA had raised Dh2.4 billion through the fund, in collaboration with national banks. and ultimately the fund value is estimated to reach AED100 billion.
Even halfway through the year, 2018 has confirmed brisk energy policy implementation. January saw publication of the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy's (DSCE) State of the Green Economy Report 2018 in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Dubai Carbon Centre of Excellence (Dubai Carbon). DSCE is mandated to develop policy and coordinate involved bodies engaged in realizing the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030 (DIES), which saw activation in 2011. The strategy sets the Emirate on the path of sustainable energy supply, also taking into account such areas as water conservation, green lighting, and electric vehicle quotas. Regarding the latter, DSCE's 45th Meeting in 2017 issued directive 1 of 2016 stipulating that new vehicle fleet purchases of government bodies comprise 10% hybrid or electric vehicles. The 2020 target is 2%, rising five-fold by 2030 to curb Dubai's overall carbon emissions by 19% by 2021.