Renewable energy shaping the future of sustainability

Renewable energy shaping the future of sustainability
Renewable energy shaping the future of sustainability

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Mohamed Nass - - Renewable energy is key requirement to sustainability, and stands at the forefront of Dubai’s and the UAE’s strategic priorities. The UAE leads the efforts to adopt the latest innovations that address climate change, mitigate the effects of global warming, and plays a major role in supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030.

The UAE has taken early steps to bid farewell to the last barrel of oil, and achieve a balance between economic development and maintaining a clean, healthy, and safe environment. The UAE Energy Strategy 2050 aims to achieve an energy mix that combines renewable and clean energy sources to balance economic requirements and environmental goals. The UAE will invest AED 600 billion until 2050 to meet the growing energy demand and ensure the sustainable growth of economy.

Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050

Dubai has become an international pioneer in developing the clean and renewable energy sector. It has developed a number of techniques and practices to enhance the efficiency of the energy sector while rationalising consumption and finding alternative solutions to conventional energy. This supports the sustainable development of the Emirate. The Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, which was launched by HH Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, aims to provide 7% of Dubai’s total power output from clean energy by 2020. This target will increase to 25% by 2030 and 75% by 2050. Dubai is the only city in the region to have launched such a promising strategy, with set goals and timelines that map the future of energy until 2050.

The strategy consists of five main pillars: infrastructure, legislation, funding, building capacities and skills, and having an environment-friendly energy mix. The infrastructure pillar includes initiatives such as the Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, which is the largest single-site solar power project in the world, with a planned capacity of 5,000 megawatts (MW) by 2030, and a total investment of AED 50 billion.

Dubai’s carbon footprint to become the lowest in the world by 2050

“The UAE views sustainability as a global priority and is committed to combatting the impacts of climate change through relevant strategies and policies as per the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals 2030. In Dubai, we are working to achieve the goals of the Eight Principles of Governance and the 50 Year Charter launched by His Highness Sheikh , which include improving the quality of life, developing Dubai’s society, and ensuring a brighter future for generations to come. Dubai is a pioneer in the transition towards a green economy through two parallel courses of action. The first is to reduce energy and water demand by 30% by 2030, by promoting efficiency and conservation programmes; whereas the second is improving the supply side by diversifying the energy mix, especially clean energy, increasing the efficiency and reducing the power and water network losses,” said HE Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, MD & CEO of Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA).

“Our efforts contributed to a significant reduction in carbon emissions in Dubai. Net carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have also achieved a considerable reduction of 19% by the end of 2018. This great achievement is two years ahead of the target date set by the Carbon Abatement Strategy 2021 to reduce carbon emissions by 16% by 2021.The UAE in general and Dubai in particular have always been a pioneer in implementing solutions to enable it to have the lowest carbon footprint in the world by 2050,” added Al Tayer.

“DEWA is guided in all its projects and initiatives by the vision of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, to make Dubai a global model for clean energy and green economy by using the disruptive technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution such as: Artificial Intelligence (AI), unmanned aerial vehicles, energy storage, blockchain, the Internet of Things and many more,” added Al Tayer.

Launching the solar park

In January 2012, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced the launch of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai.

1st Phase (13MW photovoltaic solar plant)

The 13MW first phase became operational on 22 October 2013, comprising around 152,000 photovoltaic cells, connected to 13 transformers in inverter buildings. The output is transformed to 33 kilovolts (kV), and generates nearly 28 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity annually. The first phase contributes to an annual reduction of about 15,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.

2nd Phase (200MW photovoltaic solar plant)

On 20 March 2017, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum launched the 200MW photovoltaic second phase of the solar park, which is the largest and first project of its kind in the region, based on the IPP model. DEWA implemented the project in partnership with a consortium led by ACWA Power from Saudi Arabia as the main developer, and Spain’s TSK as the main contractor, with an investment of AED 1.2 billion. The efforts of Shuaa Energy 1, which was established by DEWA and the consortium led by ACWA Power and TSK, were vital in completing the work efficiently and professionally, with over 1.5 million Safe Man Hours without Lost Time Injury.

The 200MW second phase of the solar park will provide clean energy to 50,000 residences in the Emirate, reducing 214,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually. This phase installed 2.3 million photovoltaic solar panels over an area of 4.5 square kilometres. DEWA set a world record by obtaining the lowest price globally at USD 5.6 cents per kWh for the second phase of the park at the time of the tender.

Third Phase (800MW using photovoltaic solar panels)

In June 2016, DEWA announced the selection of the Masdar-led consortium as the best bidder to develop the 800 MW third phase of the solar park.

To implement the project, DEWA established Shuaa Energy 2 in partnership with the Masdar-led consortium, and Électricité de France (EDF), through its subsidiary EDF Energies Nouvelles. DEWA owns 60% of the company, and the consortium owns the remaining 40%, of which Masdar owns 24%, and EDF Energies Nouvelles owns 16%. The international consortium led by the renewable energy contractors GranSolar and Acciona from Spain and Ghella from Italy are handling engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC).

DEWA is building the 800MW 3rd phase of the solar park using PV technology in three stages, in partnership with a consortium led by Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) and EDF Group, through its subsidiary, EDF Énergies Nouvelles. This solar plant is the first of its kind in the MENA region, with an advanced solar tracking system to increase generation efficiency by 20-30% when compared to fixed installations. DEWA achieved a world record in the cost of PV solar power for this phase of the solar park, at a Levelised Cost of Energy (LCOE) of USD 2.99 cents per kilowatt-hour, using PV solar panels. The 800MW PV third phase will be operational by 2020.

 

4th Phase (950MW of CSP and photovoltaics)

On 16 September 2017, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum launched the fourth phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park. The project was awarded to a consortium comprising Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power, The Silk Road Fund, and China’s Shanghai Electric as the main contractor.

On 3 November 2018, DEWA signed an amendment to the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) to add 250MW of photovoltaic solar panels, increasing the total capacity of the fourth phase from 700MW to 950MW.

The fourth phase of the solar park is the largest single-site solar IPP project in the world that combines CSP and PV technology with a capacity of 950MW. It will use 700MW of CSP; 600MW from a parabolic basin complex and 100MW from a solar tower; and 250MW from PV solar panels.

Record numbers

The fourth phase of the solar park has achieved many world records. It will have the world’s tallest solar tower, at 260 metres, and the largest thermal energy storage capacity in the world of 15 hours, which allows for energy availability round the clock. It also achieved the lowest Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) of 2.4 US cents per kilowatt-hour (kW/h) for the 250MW photovoltaic solar panels technology and USD 7.3 cents per kW/h for the 700MW CSP technology, the lowest worldwide.

Fifth Phase (900MW using photovoltaic solar panels)

In November 2019, DEWA announced that the consortium led by ACWA Power and Gulf Investment Corporation is the Preferred Bidder to build and operate the 900MW 5th phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park for using photovoltaic (PV) solar panels based on the Independent Power Producer (IPP) model.

DEWA has achieved a world record by receiving the lowest bid of USD 1.6953 cents per kilowatt hour (kW/h) for this phase. DEWA has released the tender for the 5th phase in February 2019, and received 60 Requests for Qualifications (RFQ). The 900MW 5th phase of the solar park using PV solar panels based on the IPP model will become operational in stages starting Q2 of 2021.

 

Triple-Bottom Line Sustainability

The solar park implements the triple-bottom line (TBL) related to sustainability in DEWA’s strategic map. These include the three key aspects of sustainability: economy, environment, and society. DEWA’s long-term priorities include:

  • Environment: The solar park will contribute to enhancing the efficiency of using natural resources and reducing the carbon footprint.
  • Society: The solar park supports DEWA’s commitment to governance, work ethics, and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). It also provides job opportunities to citizens and residents by 2020.
  • Economics: The solar park will play a role in improving the efficiency of costs and outcomes. It attracts investments, while supporting economic sustainable growth in Dubai and diversifying the local supply chain.

Dubai contributes to reducing global solar power costs

The UAE’s interest in producing renewable energy has contributed to a reduction in its global cost, according to a Japanese study published by the Nikkei Asian Review. DEWA’s major projects in cooperation with the private sector, based on the IPP model, contribute to the economic growth of the Emirate. Meeting the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 targets requires a capacity of 42,000MW of clean and renewable energy by 2050. DEWA has attracted huge investments to the UAE from the private sector and foreign banks, resulting in increased cash flows to the economy of Dubai and the UAE. DEWA has attracted investments around AED 40 billion from the IPP model, which strengthens public-private partnerships. Through this model, we received the lowest global solar energy prices for five consecutive times, making Dubai a global benchmark for solar energy prices.

The capacity of the solar power projects completed at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is 713MW, and is due to exceed its target of 1,000 megawatts in 2020, with new phases currently under construction and design that will reach 2,863 megawatts by 2023.

Companies established by DEWA and its private sector partners focus on employment and knowledge transfer to Emirati employees, thus directly benefiting the local community. DEWA has signed several agreements with local and international bodies, institutions, and companies in research and development to establish the latest developments in energy, water and environment. These include agreements with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of the US Department of Energy, the Spanish National Renewable Energy Center (CENER), Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), the United Arab Emirates University, and Khalifa University.

Further proof of solar solutions can be found in the rise of businesses and homes in Dubai building photovoltaic plants to also use solar power. As of today, there is more than 134 megawatts of rooftop solar photovoltaic capacity installed across Dubai.

This initiative, Shams Dubai, has the legislation and regulations in place to enable solar power to spread across the city and provide additional clean capacity. Yet clean energy continues to evolve as well as grow, which is why Research and Development is so important. The R&D Centre at the solar park focuses on solar power, energy efficiency, smart grid integration and solar powered water desalination. This includes testing a range of photovoltaic and concentrated solar power technologies, as well as solutions that increase their efficiency and reliability.

Digital DEWA

DEWA launched Digital DEWA as its digital arm, making DEWA the world’s first digital utility to use autonomous systems for renewable energy, storage, expansion in AI adoption, and providing digital services.

Digital DEWA seeks to operate a renewable energy network using innovative energy storage technologies. The pillar includes several sub-initiatives.

  • The largest concentrated solar power plant in the region with 24-hour thermal storage
  • A hydroelectric power plant in Hatta, the first of its kind in the region to generate electricity by using stored hydroelectric power
  • Testing energy storage technologies such as different batteries and energy from hydrogen

Digital DEWA will expand its digital services through MORO, a digital platform that was launched in 2018 to provide hosting and data storage services as well as digital services management in the cloud. This pillar goes beyond cloud computing to provide global, standardised services and multiple solutions from a single location, according to the highest quality standards, to enhance the customer experience.

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