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Dr. Nawal Al-Hosany

UAE, UAE, ABU DHABI - Energy & Mining

The right transition

Permanent Representative, the UAE to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)


Dr. Nawal Al-Hosany’s career spans business and academia, both in the UAE and internationally. She served as the deputy director general of the Emirates Diplomatic Academy (EDA). Prior to this, she was the executive director of sustainability at Masdar and the director of the Zayed Future Energy Prize. She launched and directed the UAE-led Women in Sustainability, Environment and Renewable Energy (WiSER) initiative since its formation in 2015 until 2018. Highly regarded for her expert counsel, she has been invited to sit on several boards and intergovernmental bodies, including the board of trustees of the Khalifa University of Science and Technology and the board of the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre at the University of Manchester, UK. She is also a member of the advisory board of the Payne Institute in Colorado School of Mines, serves as advisory panel for the Momentum for Change initiative of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the Troika Plus of Women Leaders on Gender and Climate Change.

In addition to developing effective and innovative strategies that encourage a greater uptake of renewable energies, IRENA also gives guidance on the best sustainable technologies.

Can you tell us about the role of IRENA and its mandate?
IRENA is an international organization dedicated to renewable energy and sustainable solutions. It is the first of its kind and approaches renewable energy in a holistic manner. IRENA’s mandate is to support its member states to develop effective policy frameworks through innovative strategies that encourage a greater uptake of renewable energies. Furthermore, IRENA gives guidance on sustainable technology as a substantial portion of IRENA’s work covers the strategic advisory and technology domains. As an example, IRENA uses sophisticated technologies to map the renewable energy potential of individual countries. Along with policy support mechanisms and technical advisory, there are also financial assistance schemes. Many of the financial support programs come to fruition through IRENA’s connecting different entities to each other, such as the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), with government entities seeking to advance their renewable energy capacities though various financially assisted international renewable projects.

What have been some of IRENA’s recent achievements?
2020 saw the 10th anniversary of IRENA General Assemblies held in Abu Dhabi. In that time, the organization has grown to hold more than 160 member states, while USD3 trillion has been invested in renewables since we held our first assembly in 2010. The progress made in this industry has been remarkable, and the UAE continues to play a vital role in IRENA’s growth and mission.

How does the UAE forward IRENA’s agenda, and, conversely, how does the presence of IRENA help the UAE build its status as a renewable energy nation?
The presence of IRENA in the UAE represents a global endorsement of our leading role in the push for a global energy transition. To host IRENA, we had to compete with Germany, Austria, and other countries that have a long history in renewables. Our achievement is a testament to how the UAE has gained global recognition within the clean energy domain. The entire region also benefits from hosting an international organization of this stature and sends a strong message that the pursuit of clean energy solutions should be a global effort. We all need to address climate change actively. The global appeal of hosting IRENA is also demonstrated by the fact that our international partnerships to date have fostered successful projects worldwide. We have concluded a USD50-million Pacific Partnership fund in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ADFD, and Masdar. At present, we are in the implementation phase of the USD50-million UAE-Caribbean Renewable Energy Fund (UAE-CREF). The IRENA—ADFD project facility, established in 2014, has now concluded seven cycles, with USD350 million allocated to date. As a result, 32 renewable energy projects in developing countries have received financing.

How do you see energy trilemma, or the connection between energy, the environment, and the economy playing out over the next decade?
We need energy, everywhere and at affordable prices, but it has to be generated in an environmentally friendly way with fewer carbon emissions. Nor do we want to be dependent on other countries to get our energy. This is the trilemma, and each country has to find the right balance to achieve this target. Renewable energy has the potential to solve many of the problems. It is more environmentally friendly and is growing increasingly affordable, not only on a large-scale level, but also for remote areas and islands. It also helps many countries grow less dependent on fossil fuel imports. However, we still have to find solutions to the intermittency of renewable energy—the wind is not always blowing, and the sun doesn’t always shine, but energy is required 24/7. The near future will see more work in R&D and investment to solve this problem and advance the way of storage, for example battery and grid management systems. New players will enter the market, and we might also see a shift in geopolitics triggered by the energy transition.



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