During COP26 in Glasgow, the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy today confirmed key sector initiatives over the next decade to help accelerate the UAE’s sustainable economic growth while supporting its ambitious Net Zero By 2050 Strategic Initiative.

The DoE outlined nine existing and planned projects focused on clean energy generation from solar and nuclear sources, electrification of the water production system through reverse osmosis (RO) technology and enabling policies and energy efficiency measures which combined have the potential of reducing emissions associated with power generation and water production by at least 50% in the next 10 years.

H.E. Eng. Awaidha Al Marar, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy, reaffirmed that Abu Dhabi has been committed to leading the transition to renewable and clean energy in line with the UAE strategies to achieve sustainable economic growth over the next 50 years. He said: “Building on a 15-year track record of climate innovation and on the UAE’s enduring support for the Paris Climate Agreement, our commitment is underpinned by a strategic shift to low-carbon technologies with large-scale investment in solar and nuclear energy to drive down emissions. For instance, Abu Dhabi has developed a world-class sustainability investment vehicle through the launch of Masdar City in 2008 as one of the world’s first carbon neutral developments. Since then, we’ve taken the lead regionally in deploying renewable energy.

“Our 1.2GW Noor Abu Dhabi Solar PV plant has increased the share of renewables in our energy mix to 6% of the emirate’s total installed capacity in 2021 and the launch of the first reactor of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant in 2020 has also increased the share of carbon-free energy production in the emirate’s energy mix to 7% in 2021.

With more upcoming renewable deployments like Abu Dhabi’s 2GW Al Dhafra Solar PV project due by 2023, as well as the baseload nuclear energy expected upon full operation of the Barakah plant, the total clean power generation capacity in the emirate will reach 8.8GW in 2025, increasing the share of clean energy capacity in the energy mix to 31% by 2025 from 13% in 2021.”

Al Marar added: “With these solar and nuclear projects, it is predicted to influence electricity generation by 2025 to be 7% produced from solar PV sources and 47% from nuclear.

“This means 55% of Abu Dhabi’s electricity in 2025 will be generated from clean sources and is expected to cut power generation emissions from 40 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2020 to approximately 20 million tonnes in 2025.”

The DoE is a partner of the whole-of-country, whole-of-government UAE Net Zero by 2050 Initiative led by the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment which reflects the “Principles of the 50” – the UAE’s roadmap for accelerating development that was launched in September to mark the country’s Golden Jubilee.

The UAE Initiative comprises key existing and planned projects from Abu Dhabi’s energy sector that could drive total emission reductions of more than 29 million tonnes per year by 2030. These include:

  • Noor Abu Dhabi Solar PV plant projected to avoid up to 1 million tonne of CO2 emissions per year
  • Barakah Nuclear Power Plant to avoid 21 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year
  • Al Dhafra 2GW Single Site Solar PV Plant which could reduce 2.4 million tonnes of CO2 emissions
  • Two additional solar projects with a combined capacity of 2GW and potential to avoid 2.6 million tonnes of CO2 emissions
  • Two waste-to-energy plants in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain expected to help reduce 2.4 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. These clean energy initiatives alone

Additionally, Abu Dhabi is contributing new planned water production electrification projects to support the energy transition and ensure the UAE Net Zero ambition becomes a reality in the future.

Commenting on the importance of decarbonizing the water sector, Al Marar said: “Water is a vital resource and a national priority to cover the present and future water demands of our population, maintain our food security, and sustain our economic growth. We recognize the importance of reducing emissions associated with water production and capitalise on continued innovation in desalination technologies and new water demand management strategies.

“Four of our current desalination plants in Abu Dhabi utilize RO technology and represent 24% of the emirate’s desalinated water production in 2021. This share is expected to grow to 43% by 2025 as new RO projects are implemented including the Al Taweelah RO desalination facility which is expected to be the largest in the world with a combined production capacity of 200 MIGD and potential to avoid 1.2 million CO2 emissions per year.

“Additional RO projects through 2030 with approximate total capacity of 680 million gallon per day are expected to increase the share of RO in Abu Dhabi’s total water production to 80% and reduce 4 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.”

The UAE Net Zero Strategic Initiative also outlines a package of proposals to make the UAE’s energy, environment, industry, and transportation policies fit for enabling the necessary acceleration of greenhouse gas emission reductions in the next decade. “We will optimize our strategies, policies and regulations to enable the expansion of our clean energy capacity while maximizing the scope of our energy efficiency measures to ensure an effective energy transition that accelerates national climate mitigation and sustainable development goals,” said the DoE Chairman.

A notable initiative in this regard is the Abu Dhabi Demand Side Management and Energy Rationalization Strategy which DoE designed to addresses supply and demand issues through a 9-programme multi-stakeholder approach that aims to reduce electricity consumption by 22% and water consumption by 32% by 2030.

It is projected that the strategy implementation will avoid the emission of more than 9 mt of CO2 emissions from the atmosphere – the equivalent of removing 1.5 million vehicles from the road for an entire year.

Between 2019 and 2020 Abu Dhabi’s DSM initiatives have contributed to achieving 6,183 GWh of cumulative annual electricity savings and 230 Mm3 of annual water savings, which represent short-term costs savings in the order of AED1.1 billion, while avoiding the emission of approximately 3.2 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

The DoE announcement today highlights the UAE’s track record and ambition in progressive climate action as the country extends its offer to host COP28 in Abu Dhabi in 2023. The UAE is offering to host the 28th edition of the UN Climate Change Conference as it seeks to drive unified climate efforts through multilateral initiatives aimed at turning the climate crisis into an opportunity to advance sustainable development worldwide.

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