Dubai has long accepted the importance of energy diversification and environmental responsibility as a means of economic development. With over 300 days of sunshine a year, solar energy presents itself as a clear candidate to substitute traditional sources of power, but it is not the only renewable to play a part in Dubai's clean energy goals.
Dubai does not set small goals for itself; instead, it has demonstrated its capacity for achieving great feats through hard work and sheer determination, such as the tallest building on the planet, the only indoor ski slope in the Middle East, and the first Minister of Happiness in the world. Right now, Dubai’s new goal is to become the city with the smallest carbon footprint in the world by 2050. This aspiration lifts more eyebrows when it comes from the country with the second-largest oil reserves in the world.
Located in one of the hottest areas on the planet, the Emirate uses vast amounts of energy to cool its buildings and to desalinate water for its residents. For a city to be sustainable it needs to cover the three pillars of sustainability, namely economic, environmental, and social . The Emirate intends to provide residents with the highest quality of life as well as the lowest environmental footprint. The UAE has one of the highest population growth rates in the world, hence the development of a sustainable city is seen no longer as a choice, but a necessity.
Already, Dubai’s diverse investments and strategies in renewable energy have helped the Emirate lead global efforts in this area. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched, in November 2015, the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050. The aim of the strategy is to increase the use of renewable energies to power Dubai’s electricity demands at the same time as it gradually reduces fossil fuel, starting with a target of 7% of total power output from clean energy by 2020, 25% by 2030, and 75% by 2050. In order to support this strategy, the Dubai Green Fund, worth AED100 billion, has been established to provide financial support to investors in the clean energy sector.
New green projects have been unveiled recently, with many others in the planning process as well as ongoing ones. One of the best examples of a project underway is the AED50 billion Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park at Al Marmoum Area in Dubai. Currently going through the second phase of its completion, the solar park is considered the largest in the world with the capacity to produce 5,000 MW by 2030. However, if that was not enough, Dubai Water and Electricity Authority (DEWA) announced in June 2016 the world’s largest concentrated solar power (CSP) project to be operational within the next five years. The CSP site will generate 1,000 MW of power by 2030, surpassing the power generation of the existing largest CPS site in Morocco. These two solar projects are expected to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 6.5 million tons.
Furthermore, during 2Q2016, the Dubai Municipality unveiled a number of green projects including a network of six-meter deep sewage tunnels designed to last 100 years, an 11ha scrap and bicycle market, a 100-hectare safari golf project, and Dubai Steps, a cultural and sports project consisting of 500 steps that people can climb and use to view the city. With so many opportunities arising in the energy sustainability industry, it is no surprise that the UAE is keen to look for people who can transform ideas into reality. Anticipating the arrival of international companies in the field of clean energy and R&D centers, Dubai will establish the Dubai Green Zone, a new free zone to serve as a base to those involved in sustainability practices.
There is no doubt that Dubai is fully embracing renewable energy by supporting economic growth without polluting the environment. The Emirate is taking an active role to help the UAE meet its commitment to keep global warming temperature increases below 2 degrees this century in accordance with the Paris Agreement. Dubai likes to lead by example, and it will certainly do so in the near future by establishing a sustainable model in energy conservation that will eventually be exported to the rest of the world.