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08 December 2023

Experts to shed light on future of alternative energy in UAE

An expert says solar technology is perfectly suited to the sun-rich UAE climate. (SUPPLIED)

By Reena Amos Dyes

Top government officials, heads of global organisations, leading environmentalists and the largest international investors will meet once again at the World Future Energy Summit in the UAE, to discuss, debate and plan for the future of energy.

The summit, which will take place from today until Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, is the platform for decision making, investment and high-level business deals.

On the eve of the summit, Emirates Business spoke to organisers and participants to find out more about the summit and about the future of alternative energy in the UAE.

Gary Gilmour, Sales Director, World Future Energy Summit, said: "World Future Energy Summit has grown from last year. There were 197 exhibitors at the last show and now there are 314, an increase of 60 per cent.

"Key exhibitors include Enel form Italy, E.ON from Germany, Switzerland's ABB, Siemens from Germany, Applied Materials of the US, Suntech Power of China, CH2M Hill from the US and Masdar from the UAE. Apart from this, we expect 15,000 trade attendees, which is up from 11,000 last year.

"At the summit we will have 2,000 conference delegates, which is the same as last year. We would have liked to expand this, but we are restricted by capacity for the conference.

"Key speakers at this year's conference are Ministers of Energy from Switzerland, Egypt, Denmark and the UAE.

"Apart from this, Dr William Bellamy, Senior Vice-President, CH2M Hill; Vivienne Cox, Chief Executive, BP Alternate Energy; Professor Hermann Requardt, CTO, Siemens AG; Dr Frank MAstiaux, CEO, E.ON Climate and Renewables; Lassi Noponen, Executive Chairman, Winwind; will also be the important speakers.

"We expect topics like the global financial crisis and and the current status and progress of Masdar on their first zero carbon city to dominate the summit this year."

Sami Khoreibi, Chief Executive Officer, Enviromena Power Systems, said: "The World Future Energy Summit is an integral event for every organisation in the environmental field. For Enviromena, it is one of the most important events in our calendar. As an Abu Dhabi-based company, we are extremely proud that the event is hosted in our city as we can showcase the region's leadership and initiatives on a global scale. As we will be exhibiting at the event, we look forward to meeting leading investors, suppliers and customers from around the globe.

"More than anything else, this summit shows the UAE's commitment towards solar and alternative energy initiatives. As it is, the UAE is leading the way in terms of alternative energy both in the Mena and globally through initiatives such as Masdar – Abu Dhabi's multi-faceted $15 billion (Dh55bn) investment into renewable energy.

"Furthermore, the Urban Planning Council in Abu Dhabi and the Emirates Green Building Council in Dubai are ensuring that the UAE is developing and implementing world-class green building codes through their respective Estidama and Leed standards.

"There is a growing interest in solar technology in the region as awareness increases through initiatives such as Masdar."

Both feel that despite the global economic crisis there will be no let up in investments in the alternative energy sector and the crisis might even throw up opportunities for some.

Khoreibi said: "Although virtually all sectors of the economy have been hit by the recent financial crisis, and investment in clean-tech is no exception, positive government initiatives have ensured that investors continue to recognise the growth potential globally and in the Mena, and we expect to see steady continued investment in this sector.

"Enviromena has several large high-profile projects lined up throughout 2009 and 2010. Solar technology is perfectly suited to the sun rich UAE climate and as the trend towards alternative energy use increases, we expect solar use to increase rapidly."

Gilmour said: "Even though I am sure that the economic crisis will affect companies in the industry. However, companies with solid balance sheets will be in the position to acquire companies, which are in trouble and invest at excellent prices.

"Despite the economic crisis, the alternative energy industry seems very buoyant at present, particularly with governments worldwide over the past 12 months actively looking to develop their capabilities in renewable energy, and reduce their dependency on oil and gas.

"We, the organiser of the World Future Energy Summit, have been amazed by the amount of enquiries we have had from companies wanting to exhibit at the show, and also to learn about Masdar."

As oil cannot last forever both think that alternative energy is a great way of diversifying an energy based economy like the UAE.

Khoreibi said: "Alternative energy is an excellent choice for economic diversification in the UAE, as the nation is already an energy based economy with much of the expertise and infrastructure required to create an alternative energy centre of excellence.

"The Masdar initiative is a great example of this logical progression as it is creating an international hub for clean technologies. Enviromena is looking forward to a bright future as the use of alternative energy's increases both within the UAE and wider region."

Gilmour said: "What the UAE is doing in alternative energy is fantastic and has made this region very quickly to be seen as a leading international alternative energy centre. The UAE is in a great position as it is actually today investing billions of dollars into alternative energy, which will help the economy, and for sure create numerous jobs for the youth of today that will complement its present economic expertise in energy, and sustain it for many years to come.

"Numerous business analysts agree that the demand for oil is going to increase over the next 20 years, and though oil and gas will make up the majority of the supply, alternative energy is sure to grow and make up the shortfall," Gilmour said.

Talking about the uses of solar energy in the region Khoreibi said: "Solar energy can provide a long term clean solution to global energy needs. For example Enviromena's power systems last an average of 25 plus years and require minimal maintenance.

"The most common use for solar energy particularly in cities and urban areas such as the UAE is the generation of electricity that can be fed back into the regional power grid, thus creating smart clean electricity to replace the energy used from traditional power sources. In remote areas, the electricity can be used as an off grid application and is applied directly at the source.

"For example, to create hot water or light in a particularly remote area where traditional power sources would be hard to obtain. Enviromena is able to provide both on grid and off grid solar solutions."

However, as solar panels are quite high-priced at the moment efforts are on to make solar energy more affordable for the common man and industries.

Khoreibi said: "Many governments are introducing renewable targets and initiatives which provide financial incentives for companies to make use of alternative energies and as wide scale use of these technologies increases, economies of scale would suggest the prices will lower as well.

"In addition to the environmental benefits, many companies are realising the economic value of green buildings as discerning consumers increasingly demand environmental awareness from suppliers," he said.