Held under the theme, ‘Creating and Contributing to the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy of the Future’, the inaugural RAK Energy Summit, on October 4 and 5, in Ras Al Khaimah, was a platform for discussing discord amongst climate aspirations, new technologies and policies. The event highlighted the need for urgency in achieving green energy transition and the adoption of solutions for energy efficiency, as a key driver for competitiveness and sustainability in realising net-zero buildings by 2050.
As Francesco La Camera, Director General, IRENA, put it in a virtual keynote address, with the UAE set to host UN COP28 next year, the region will become the key venue for discussion on the global energy transition to accelerate efforts and bring together the global community to advance climate action. La Camera said, “We now have global consensus on the fact that scaling up renewable energy and enhancing current efficiency is key to achieving sustainable energy.”
At the event, speakers and delegates from government agencies, policymakers, and private companies from the MEA region and from around the world spoke about pitfalls and successes in implementing global energy targets.
According to media reports, the UAE has invested more than USD 40 billion in clean energy over the last 15 years and has launched its Energy Strategy, aiming to achieve 50% clean energy by 2050. Despite huge investments in renewables and ambitious targets, the UAE might still need fossil fuels to support the growing energy demand from an increasing population and growing industrial sector. This was the clear message in the keynote address by H.E. Sharif Al Olama, Undersecretary for Energy and Petroleum Affairs, at UAE’s Ministry of Energy & Infrastructure, where he spoke on future energy transition. “Given the rapidly changing energy landscape in recent years, demand will continue to grow,” he said. “We must transition into a future that provides affordable, accessible and sustainable energy systems. While oil and gas are expected to continue to play an important role in meeting rising energy demand, we will see a range of low-carbon energy sources being added to the energy mix, globally. The energy transition will vary across the globe, depending on the policy, technology, investment trends and region.”
Prior, His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, inaugurated the event and addressed the delegates, underlining that Emiratis are solution finders. He said: “Energy is of vital importance to the sustainable development of mankind, and the Summit reflects the commitment of our country to be part of the solution. I am happy to inaugurate the first RAK Energy Summit, which serves as a platform to shape our thinking and steer the dialogue in terms of the global approach to climate change and the future of the energy sector.
“The Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah is an active and influential partner in the UAE’s energy plans and our vision, through the Energy Efficiency and Renewables Strategy 2040, is to support national as well as global efforts to find innovative, hi-tech solutions to the most pressing of challenges. Sustainability, preserving the environment and making meaningful contributions to combat climate change are the essence of Ras Al Khaimah’s approach to comprehensive development.”
Speaking later, in a panel discussion on paths to global energy sustainability, Ali Al Zaabi, Chief Operating Officer, Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC), delved into nuclear energy’s role in the UAE’s energy diversification and the need for clean energy. “The UAE Energy Strategy 2050 aims to achieve an energy mix that combines clean energy sources, and nuclear energy plays an important role in this transition, as it can generate reliable, emission-free electricity, 24/7,” Al Zaabi said. “Electricity from Barakah puts the UAE on a clear course to meet the energy strategy and carbon reduction strategy.”
The session examined the opportunities and challenges in adopting various renewable sources for the regional countries and the way forward for energy sustainability. Dr Mane Alsudairawi, Acting Director General, Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR), opined that wind and solar plants are promising alternatives to fossil fuels for the region and are much safer compared to nuclear. “We have seen great results from the Shagaya Renewable Energy Park in Kuwait, which operates wind turbines and houses a 50MW Concentrated Solar Power [scheme],” he said.
“In our experience, solar and wind provide a much safer energy generation option.” Dr Alsudairawi also advocated that the world needs to implement a try-test method for building renewable capacities. He said: “In Kuwait, we test the technical and economic feasibility of renewable energy technologies by managing and monitoring pilot-scale demonstration projects. Each region requires a unique combination of renewables that meets its existing geographic and climatic conditions.”
Talking from a policy-in-practice perspective for renewables adoption and proliferation, Andrea Di Gregorio, Executive Director, Energy Efficiency and Renewables Office, said, “We have the policy in place, but it is really important that individuals and institutions see the benefit in adopting renewables and green technologies. He emphasised the benefits of decentralised renewable power generation in addressing the energy supply demand.
In a separate presentation, Di Gregorio informed the audience about Ras Al Khaimah’s energy diversification and energy efficiency efforts, which have already saved 15% of energy in nine government agencies through efficiency projects and satisfied one per cent of primary energy demand through waste-to-energy. He elaborated on several initiatives – how they are in place to incentivise, raise awareness and set standards to support energy sustainability measures.
“The key to successful energy management and renewable energy adoption is awareness raising, incentivising businesses and cross-sectoral collaboration, which needs more efforts,” he said. “What is really important is that stakeholders are supported by policymakers like us. We will need to improve competencies, the strategy itself needs enhancement to meet the aggressive energy targets of the UAE.”
A key statement to emerge was that a 100% dependence on renewables could be the panacea for meeting energy demand and climate targets. Speakers widely acknowledged that 100% still is far out of reach, but retrofitting and energy efficiency surely are a magic fix for now. Umar Khan, General Manager – Sustainability, Smart Cities & Energy, Honeywell Building Technologies, said: “The challenge in achieving net-zero through renewables or building performance technologies is to balance current priorities with long-term priorities. No matter which programme, whether at the government or corporate level, the individuals or organisations taking on the sustainability challenge will have their own bandwidth. Achieving net zero by 2050 is an ambitious goal for the UAE, and the challenge is to plan this journey in a way that does not impact our existing business KPIs, which we have learnt with a series of programmes and implementation trial and error. “Buildings, including offices, campuses, clinics and data centres, account for 37% of global carbon emissions. This presents an opportunity to achieve energy savings in the built environment and help the world meet the carbon reduction commitments of
COP26. But we need to work faster.” Quoting a survey by Honeywell and the Business Journal, Khan said 80% of companies consider sustainability an operational necessity. Investors are noticing this and are participating in environmental, social and governance funds that offer more business opportunities for sustainable retrofits and net-zero-based new buildings, he added.
A panel discussing retrofits in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors addressed the alignment of policies and business models for energy efficiency and retrofitting. Christiane Egger, Deputy Manager, Upper Austria Energy Agency (Austria), underlined the important role of policy. “The main driver for carbon neutrality projects in Austria and across Europe is the EU’s Green Deal, which is both a policy package and a growth strategy that has led to widespread legislative change across the European continent,” she said. The prevailing view in the EU is that the renewal of energy is the main driver for the renewal of economies in the current geopolitical scenario, she added.
“It is also a mindset that leads to strategy,” Egger said. “In Europe, there are building codes to guide investors to make the right decisions about the buildings. Even when they may not have carbon neutrality on their agenda, they have to meet increasingly strict energy efficiency and green building requirements.”
Taking a cue from the international scenario and touching base on what is happening in the UAE in terms of policy and regulations to support the UAE’s energy strategy, Mozah Mohamed Alnuaimi, Director of the Productivity and Demand Management Department, UAE Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, said, “Initially, the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure focused on green buildings, especially in the areas of public housing, government buildings, road transport and marine transportation, but the development of integrated guidelines and codes in seven emirates under Estidama at the federal level since 2010 has had a tremendous impact in expanding energy efficiency and green technologies beyond public projects.”
The second day of the Summit took place in the presence of H.H. Sheikha Amneh bint Saud Al Qasimi, Chairperson, Ras Al Khaimah’s Investment and Development Office. It included a speech by H.E. Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment. H.E. Almheiri said the summit underscored the urgent need for reducing the carbon footprint of the energy sector – one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the country – and confirmed that clean energy capacity in the UAE is ‘on track’ to reach 14GW by 2030. The UAE is the first country with carbon capture, utilisation and storage facility, which currently has a capacity of 800,000 tonnes per year and will be expanded to five million tonnes per year.
H.E. Munther Mohammed bin Shekar, Director General of the Ras Al Khaimah Municipality, and the host of the Summit, said: “We envision a Ras Al Khaimah where suppliers of efficient products and services meet consumers who want to benefit from energy efficiency, where our youth develop and implement innovative solutions, and where society is aware of its responsibility for sustainability. During the Summit, we took some important steps in this direction, including the launch of our residential energy services, the launch of an industrial energy audit initiative, and the SME edition of the RAK Energy Innovation Competition, as well as several other programme announcements.”
The Summit, hosted by the Ras Al Khaimah Municipality, was supported by the UAE Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), Masdar and more than 10 government agencies in Ras Al Khaimah.
The event was also organised to support RAK Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Strategy 2040 and UAE Energy Strategy 2050, which aims to increase the contribution of clean energy in the total energy mix from 25% to 50% by 2050 and reduce the carbon footprint of power generation by 70%, thereby saving AED 700 billion by 2050. It also seeks to increase the consumption efficiency of individuals and corporates by 40%. The event also saw the presentation of the UAE Energy Management Leadership Awards for 2022 by the UAE Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure and the presentation ceremony of the Ras Al Khaimah government’s ISO 50001 certificate.
Sougata Nandi, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, 3e Advisory:
“The technologies to support decarbonisation, be they AI, blockchain or renewables, like solar, hydrogen and electric vehicles, as well as how we can capitalise on them have already been proven. But the most important piece of the puzzle is to have the right skills and mindset to implement them and share the right data with the right people at the right time.
Amruta Kshemkalyani, Founder and Managing Director, Sustainability Tribe: I believe that every small action to reduce waste, conserve energy and recycle things is important. Equally important is early education about sustainability, which can change mindsets and inspire climate action so that it evolves from targeted efforts and strategies and becomes a norm. We have all the necessary solutions we need at our fingertips, but if we don’t invest in our people, we can’t meet the challenges of climate change.
Raheel Ahmed, Chief Executive Officer, RAKBANK: The energy transition in the financial sector goes beyond facilitating financing for green housing initiatives, the auto industry or personal finance solutions. It incentivises businesses and individuals to make choices that support a green economy.
Insights and observations from the Summit
Ras Al Khaimah’s ambitious 2040 energy targets require a high level of cross-sectoral cooperation. The RAK Energy Summit can play an important role in bringing together key stakeholders to align their efforts and foster meaningful dialogue.
– Gauri Singh, Deputy Director General, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)
In the sustainability policies of the RAK and the UAE, energy efficiency and renewable energy are seen as important drivers of economic competitiveness and sustainability. The Summit was an ideal platform that brought together our partners and customers to enhance dialogue within the industry and the mutual learning opportunities needed to promote climate change.
– Ian Harfield, CEO, ENGIE Solutions GCC
We need to come together to tackle climate change – not just governments, international organisations and businesses but also communities and individuals. This is one of the biggest challenges facing humanity, so everyone needs to do their part to meet this challenge. Make no mistake: This planet will survive; the only question is whether it survives with us or without us.
– Zoltan Rendes, Partner and Chief Marketing Officer, SunMoney Solar Group
We see that there is a lot of engagement in the UAE between public bodies, private players and government institutions. We have a signing ceremony today for one of our projects in the UAE with RAK Municipality and RAK Bank to implement the energy performance projects at the bank’s HQ, where we will achieve double-digit energy savings every year for the next five years by working on their chillers, control part and HVAC system.
– Mohamed Al Hayek, Major Projects and Energy Leader – Lower Gulf, Honeywell
We talk about moving away from fossil fuels, but we still don’t have the technologies or affordable techniques to move away from traditional energy generation plants. This is why we are showcasing our high-efficiency power generation engine, which can currently use both hydrogen and fossil fuels in a 20%:80% ratio and reduce the carbon footprint and can be configured for Hydrogen only in the future.
– Jayesh Goswami, Head of Business Development, EPSL/EDINA
One of our first projects in the health sector for energy conservation in hospitals was in Ras Al Khaimah, and since then we have been involved in many such projects. Today, almost 30% of our projects are in the energy-efficiency sector. The idea is to further expand the industrial sector with the support of the government. We signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure (MoEI) to work together on all the assets that are currently owned and operated by them. The MoU, we believe, will help accelerate the UAE’s energy transition by investing in clean energy projects on MoEI assets and exploring other energy-related CSR initiatives.
– Tharun Thomas, Senior Commercial Manager, ENGIE Solutions
Our main reason for being here at the Summit is to highlight the partnership we have entered into with Daikin for the RAK market to support the emirate’s energy efficiency and renewable energy targets while providing a comfortable indoor environment for end users.
– Moan Abraham, Director & Managing Partner, Phileo PM