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UAE - Energy & Mining

Jesús Sancho

Director General Middle East, ACCIONA


Jesús Sancho holds a master’s degree of aeronautical engineering from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (Spain) and an Executive MBA diploma from IESE Business School (Madrid). He is the Middle East Director General for ACCIONA and has been based in Dubai since 2008. He started his career in the aerospace field with Boeing and Daimler-Benz Aerospace and in the airport infrastructure sector with Ferrovial. Later, he shifted to the general infrastructure sector and focused in the Middle East. He has developed largescale water and wastewater treatment and seawater desalination projects in the Middle East, Africa, and Australia. Sancho was included on the Forbes List of “Global Meets Local: Top 50 executives in the Middle East 2020” for the second time and was also part of the Construction Week’s “2021 ME Power 100 List.”

"The UAE is the base for ACCIONA’s operations in the Middle East."
As the number-one company in large-scale desalination projects, ACCIONA is playing a major role in helping the UAE mitigate the effects of climate change and global warming.
What is ACCIONA’s mandate in relation to a renewable future?

ACCIONA is an infrastructure and renewable energy solutions provider with a strong focus on sustainable projects that allow communities to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. We introduced our first Sustainability Master Plan (SMP) in 2010 and became a carbon neutral company in 2016. Our goals for 2025 are to further reduce our carbon emissions by 60% (from a 2017 base) and cut our water use by 50%, especially in places with severe water stress. With the SMP 2025, ACCIONA aspires to go beyond carbon neutrality and achieve a positive impact on our environment, with initiatives that regenerate natural habitats, reduce waste, and certify the use of 100% renewable energy in all our business projects. Our commitment to a renewable future means we are investing more in renewable energy projects, in building desalination and water treatment plants, and in sustainable urban infrastructure projects that improve the wellbeing of city dwellers, such as metros and other rapid transit systems. Our drive comes from being a family-led company.

How important is the UAE for ACCIONA’s global operations?

The UAE is the base for ACCIONA’s operations in the Middle East. We are here because ACCIONA shares the commitment of the UAE to economic diversification and to a technology-driven low carbon future. In 2021, the UAE became the first Gulf state to announce a net zero carbon commitment by 2050, and at ACCIONA, we are fully committed to helping the nation achieve this goal. The UAE has announced that it will invest USD165 billion in renewable energy by 2050, and ACCIONA has contributed to this goal by building two of the largest solar projects in the world for the UAE: 1GW in Abu Dhabi and 900MW in Dubai. The UAE also has the largest reverse osmosis desalination plant in the world at Taweelah, which produces 1 million cbm per day. ACCIONA is a global leader in large scale desalination projects and was recently nominated by the prestigious specialist International Water magazine as the number one company in the sector for the last 10 years. ACCIONA is also interested in the UAE’s recently announced green hydrogen program, as we are building pilot green hydrogen projects in Spain and in Latin America. The UAE is working to hold COP28 in 2023 here. The world’s future energy summit and the world’s utility holders are in Abu Dhabi, which is why the UAE remains a key strategic country for us.

How do you plan on using transformative technology in achieving your sustainability goals?

ACCIONA invests up to 5% of its revenues in R&D. We have large innovation and development programs in Spain and work hard to develop more technologies. We use satellites to optimize our plants, and we have brought to Dubai the largest 3D printer machine using Powder Bed technology (DShape). There are two technologies for concrete 3D printing, and ACCIONA has both. In Ajman, we built the first concrete 3D-printed bus stop. We can build industrial commissions on time thanks to our people and digital print technologies. 5G is coming, and life is becoming smarter.

What is the ideal scenario to reach carbon net-zero for the UAE?

The UAE has a masterplan, the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, that aims to reduce Dubai’s carbon footprint to net zero by 2050. It has the vision and will to do it and has put implementation regulations and laws in place. In addition, this part of the world is turning more to PPP and BOO/BOT schemes rather than EPC. Pure EPC was when a client pays a contractor to build a plant. This model has changed. Under PPP or BOO/BOT model, the contractor invests its own equity in the project and has a stake in operating the plant efficiently for a number of years. That means investors have to use their resources efficiently. The more efficient the construction is, the more revenue is generated, which makes it more sustainable. The UAE is improving its chances to become carbon neutral.



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