Global warming in the coming decades – even if the rise in global temperature can be kept to below 2 degrees C – will adversely affect life on earth. The most important action the world can take is to keep the rise in temperature to a minimum by doing everything possible to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Despite an increase in sustainability-related efforts across the globe, climate change is accelerating much faster than anticipated.
With the simultaneous ongoing acceleration of the global pandemic, the need for every stakeholder to act in unison for a sustainable future has never been more urgent. Indeed, if we don’t act cohesively and quickly towards enabling a green recovery, the planet and all life as we know it will be irreversibly damaged by rising temperatures.
The evidence is in front of our eyes – destruction of life and livelihoods is occurring with increasing frequency, owing to the growing prevalence of extreme weather events in the forms of floods, cold snaps, heat waves and storms. Without immediate action, the earth is expected to be 4.1 degrees C – 4.8 degrees C warmer by the end of the century.
The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) said that not only must emissions be zeroed by 2050, but they also need to be significantly abated by 2030 if the world is to stay within a global warming trajectory of 1.5 degrees C. So, we’re faced with a rapidly diminishing window of opportunity to avoid a catastrophe and limit the damage, but we need to act fast. The glimmer of hope is that we are finally seeing a growing willingness to embrace and invest in change, bringing about a green recovery.
We are the first generation to understand the full implications of climate change – and perhaps the last to be able to make a difference. Armed with knowledge and technology, we must act fast to avoid future catastrophe. The first step is to become more efficient in how we consume energy, and to remove fossil fuels from places where they don’t have to be – our homes and offices, our cars, public transport and our cities. Raising standards for urban environments and technology will mean better standard of life for all of us – and the guarantee of better outcomes for the planet. Digital solutions and clean electricity are the way to get there.
Electricity networks are the backbone of a secure and reliable power system – there are nearly seven million kilometres of transmission lines and 72 million kilometres of distribution lines, worldwide. Inefficient power transmission and distribution infrastructure requires additional electricity generation to compensate for losses, resulting in emissions from extra electricity required to compensate for grid losses.
Modernisation of existing grids, including through the roll-out of digital infrastructure and smart grids, will play a key role in curbing distribution and transmission losses. The National Climate Change Plan of the UAE 2017-2050, which is aligned to the UAE Green Agenda, aims to create innovative solutions that involve the private sector in controlling gas emissions while maintaining economic growth, adapting to climate change, and promoting economic diversification.
It targets the generation of 27% of energy from clean sources by 2021, further reinforced by the UAE Energy Plan 2050 that aims for 50% clean sources in the national energy mix and 40% improvement in energy efficiency by 2050.
The UAE has been rapidly increasing its renewable energy capacity over the past four years, reaching over 2 GW out of its 30 GW grid capacity, mainly as a result of the Sweihan project in Abu Dhabi and the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai.
The rapid increase in renewable energy capacity was achieved through the government announcing its National Energy Strategy 2050. The Strategy ensures that 50% of the electricity generated comes from clean sources (44% renewables and six per cent nuclear). The sooner emissions are reduced, the lower would be the carbon budget depletion, and the higher would be the chances to remain within global warming limits. Changing how we use power is key to reducing transmission and distribution losses.
Saudi Arabia’s green energy investments represent a key pillar of the Vision 2030 strategy by the Saudi government – the National Renewable Energy Plan, which is designed to stimulate renewable energy development to deliver long-term economic diversification and economic stability by reducing domestic fossil fuel consumption.
Renewable energy can play a big role in cutting down transmission losses that will help GCC region countries achieve their national environmental targets. It also has the potential to improve power availability and quality, whilst helping to manage costs and boost efficiency.
Whilst electricity powered by renewables and enabled through digital technology can’t solve 100% of the climate challenge, it can get us a significant way there. The sooner we recognise this and prioritise action and investment in the solutions at hand, the faster we can make serious inroads into our emissions. And power a green recovery with truly clean, green and plentiful energy.
Ahmed Fateen is Vice President of Power Systems – Gulf Cluster, Schneider Electric. He may be reached at ahmed@firstname.lastname@example.org