THE GREEN TOUCH

Sharjah 2020 | ENERGY & GREEN ECONOMY | INTERVIEW: NEW SUSTAINABLE MINDSET

With ambitions to create a truly green economy, Sharjah is leading the UAE with sustainable energy projects and eco-friendly innovations.

The UAE is a global leader in implementing environmentally conscious policies, spurring technological innovations in its green energy sector while encouraging the development of sustainable solutions to combat climate change. Yet, among the Emirates, Sharjah, a district just north of Dubai, has proven to be a frontrunner by implementing an eco-friendly agenda through a multitude of ambitious green economy projects, forging a path to sustainability for other nations to follow.

In March 2019, Sharjah and its government officials established the Emirate's pioneering role in the green technology future by finalizing plans for a AED2-billion (USD544 million) sustainable city powered entirely by solar energy. Managed through a public-private partnership between the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) and Diamond Developers, the state-of-the-art 668,902sqm city will be built over the next three to five years.

The sustainable city includes 1,120 residential buildings furnished with rooftop photovoltaic solar panels laid out on a smart grid equipped with the latest energy-efficient technology. The goal is to create a net-zero energy community designed to encourage walkability and the use of clean public transportation. This innovative project integrates green building regulations to create a model urban environment fully outfitted with traditional amenities such as schools, shopping centers, mosques, sports facilities. and even urban farms where residents will be able to cultivate their own vegetables and fruit.

“In recent years, the standards and criteria of social development have seen remarkable change. Sustainability, natural resources and environment preservation, public health protection, and greenhouse gas reduction are development priorities. These new standards are instrumental to sustainable development. They are an urgent global requirement that cannot be ignored," said Marwan Al Sarkal, the executive chairman of Shurooq, when speaking of the sustainable city development.
Another noteworthy project breaking ground in Sharjah is a USD220-million waste-to-energy plant, which is being managed by the Emirates Waste to Energy Company, a joint venture formed by Masdar and Bee'ah. Expected to be open in 2020, the plant will help reduce waste levels in the Emirates by incinerating trash, which would have otherwise ended up in landfills, and turning it into energy to serve the regional electrical grid. The plant will process more than 37.5 tons of municipal solid waste an hour and is expected to help the UAE move closer to its target of diverting 75% of waste from landfills.

The task is no small undertaking, as the average person in the UAE generates roughly 2.7kg of waste per day, more than double the average European, who produces 1.2kg of waste per day. The Sharjah waste-to-energy plant will treat more than 300,000 tons of municipal waste each year with the capacity to generate 30MW of electricity.

Speaking on the strong financial support for the green energy project, Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, chief executive officer of Masdar, said, “the region's first commercial waste-to-energy project, and one of the largest of its type, not only illustrates the bankability of advanced renewable energy technology and the renewables sector's growing appeal to both the local and international investment community, but it is also a testament to the attractiveness of Sharjah as an investment destination."
In addition to laying out the plans for a 21st century green urban community and pioneering waste-to-energy solutions, officials in Sharjah have also been implementing the green technologies to help citizens practice environmental consciousness in everyday life. In 2016, the Sharjah municipality introduced Wi-Fi-enabled smart trash bins that are programmed not just to compact trash, but also to notify waste operators when individual receptacles have reached capacity. After a successful trial run, Bee'ah, which is overseeing the project, is installing hundreds of smart bins on street corners in Sharjah, as well as throughout the UAE.

A similar innovation, forged at the intersection of convenience and environmental sustainability, includes the reverse vending machines being installed in Sharjah. Also operated by Bee'ah, these vending machines serve as collection points for pedestrians to deposit plastic bottles and aluminum cans in exchange for lottery tickets. Participants are given lottery codes that can help them win prizes, such as Apple TVs and Nespresso machines.

By making recycling fun, trash collection efficient, and designing the cities of the future, Sharjah is staking its claim as model green economy with its all-encompassing approach to sustainable development.