How Gulf countries can leverage their position as a green energy knowledge hub

Our great nation and our neighbours have long held sway over global energy flows and have enjoyed prolonged periods of economic boom

13/04/2022 by Ali Sajwani

Our great nation and our neighbours have long held sway over global energy flows and have enjoyed prolonged periods of economic boom thanks to vast oil and gas reserves. 

But, as these finite resources dwindle and global energy needs rise, there is an urgent drive to research and invest in alternative energy sources. 

And it’s wonderful that our sun-kissed countries can offer an abundance of alternative resources, especially solar, nuclear and hydropower. 

Our leadership and national energy companies have been working hard to ensure domestic energy security, as well as supplying other nations with energy. 

As the region reduces its reliance on hydrocarbon revenues, it must invest in new alternatives. But this takes coordination, cooperation and education. In the new energy paradigm, knowledge sharing is key to success. Management of alternative energy flows requires mega investment and clear channels of communication between national players and the public and private sector. 

Taking a leadership role in the new global energy economy means making bold, early-adopter moves. Here in the UAE, we already have one of the world’s largest solar energy arrays, and a strong, tangible desire to meet global net zero carbon emission targets. It’s perhaps no surprise that the world’s largest solar energy arrays are in China, India and the US, given their energy requirements, vast populations and large land masses. 

What might surprise some is that the UAE has the world’s second-largest solar array. I believe this is a reflection of wise leadership and a nation that is carefully considering its own domestic energy security, as well as future global energy needs. 

Our regional success after investing heavily in future fuels puts the region at the vanguard of the new energy era. 

‘Green’ energy is a vital tool in the future global energy supply. I believe we are entering a new era where knowledge sharing is vital. Being first-to-market will always provide advantages, but the UAE’s leadership in terms of solar and nuclear energy, for example, should stand as a benchmark for other nations. 

Wind power is still emerging in the region, but an area in Hatta has been earmarked as the UAE’s first wind farm, with an expected capacity of 28MW.

Time is of the essence, and global leaders need to turn to the Gulf nations to understand the lessons learnt, opportunities and challenges presented in developing practical solutions to an avoidable energy supply crisis.

With the UAE slated to play host to the COP 28 global climate talks next year, there is a great opportunity to leverage our growing global expertise and leadership in creating energy from new sources. 

The COP series of climate talks is a prime example of the new era of international knowledge sharing. The UAE and surrounding nations can use the talks not only to underline their renewables sector expertise; but also to underline the need for deep investment, technology transfer, and knowledge sharing. 

Diversifying into clean, renewable energy means the region can retain its position as a global energy hub. It’s not easy, it’s expensive, but it is absolutely necessary. As Dr. Jean-François Seznec, non-resident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center, put it: “…the UAE must find opportunities where they can create a competitive advantage in decarbonising and, equally importantly, help others decarbonise.”

For me, the future energy economy unlocks a new era of cooperation, domestic and international investment and, above all, a chance for the region to create benchmarks and the playbook for future global energy needs. 

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