Can Renewable Energy Replace OIL for the UAE?

27 May 2018

Lab Chat

The UAE has long relied on its huge oil reserves. But fossil fuels won’t last forever. Combine that with a growing concern for the environmental impact of the oil industry and you have a clear sign that it’s time to diversify the UAE economy – along with that of several other oil-dependent countries. But how exactly?

A seemingly ‘like-for-like’ replacement would be to replace an energy-based economy in the form of fossil fuels with one based on renewable energy. Read on as we explore whether renewables can really replace oil for the UAE.

Crunching the numbers for UAE oil

It’s no surprise to learn that oil accounts for a huge chunk of the UAE’s economy. Around 40 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product is accounted for by oil and gas output. This translates to a daily production of around 3 million barrels.

This figure has fallen by around 50,000 barrels per day as part of OPEC’s production cuts.

Replacing oil?

At present, renewable energy accounts for just 1 percent of UAE power generation. In recent years, however, the UAE has started developing its own impressive renewable energy infrastructure. In 2012, construction began on the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park. It’s the world’s largest single-site solar park, which will cover 214 square kilometres when complete in 2030.

By 2020, the solar park has a planned capacity of 1,000MW, before totalling 5,000MW in 2030. Over the next few years, the site will also become home to a 260-metre tower using concentrated solar technology. Essentially, it uses mirrors to focus sunlight and create more energy.

The wider picture

The Solar Park is just the start in a long line of renewable energy projects in the UAE. By 2050, the government wants to produce around 44% of its power from clean energy. And they’re investing Dh600 billion to get there, as part of the UAE Energy Strategy 2050.

In the long run, these plans for solar dominance stretch beyond producing their own renewable energy. UAE Minister of Energy, Suhail Mohamed Faraj Al Mazroui, has previously spoken about exporting renewable energy to countries in Africa where power demand is far outpacing supply. Dubai has also welcomed its first solar panel manufacturer in 2018. Maysun Solar manufactures over 5,000 solar panels a month, exporting them to countries across the world including 30 percent to Europe.

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