Abu Dhabi environment and energy agencies unveil 60% clean electricity plan for emirate by 2035

The DoE’s ‘Clean Energy Strategic Target 2035 for Electricity Production in Abu Dhabi’ regulatory framework is the first legally binding clean and renewable energy target in the Middle East for the electricity sector, the EAD said

A “fundamental shift in Abu Dhabi’s energy mix” is being spearheaded by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy (DoE). The initiative, which was unveiled at COP27 in Egypt, aims to achieve significantly lower carbon emissions in the emirate through a raft of new regulations aimed at generating a large proportion of Abu Dhabi’s electricity from clean and renewable sources by 2035.

The successful achievement of this goal will mark a significant milestone in the UAE’s journey to deliver carbon neutrality by 2050, the EAD pointed out.

The new regulations were drafted by the DoE and will see 60% of Abu Dhabi’s electricity being generated from clean and renewable sources by 2035, and up to 75% reduction in carbon emissions per MWh produced by the electricity sector. The DoE’s ‘Clean Energy Strategic Target 2035 for Electricity Production in Abu Dhabi’ regulatory framework is the first legally binding clean and renewable energy target in the Middle East for the electricity sector. It forms part of an ongoing energy transition to accelerate the UAE’s decarbonisation and green growth efforts, the EAD said.

Speaking at COP27, Her Excellency Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary General of EAD, unveiled the new regulations with DoE Chairman, His Excellency Awaidha Murshed Al Marar. HE Al Dhaheri said the new regulations would promote economic diversification, attract domestic and foreign investment, and encourage technology development and innovations in the clean and renewable energy space.

“The target to produce 60% of all electricity using clean sources by 2035 is an important step towards meeting the UAE’s Net Zero aspirations by 2050. Planned investment of billions of dirhams in clean energy infrastructure will be transformative in helping us transition to a low carbon economy with positive environmental and social outcomes. We at EAD are working closely with 26 Abu Dhabi entities including the Department of Energy, as members of ‘The Abu Dhabi Climate Change Taskforce’ to develop climate change policy and related strategic plans to achieve this transformation,” she explained.

In January 2022, EAD and ENGIE announced the success of Phase II of their Mangrove Rehabilitation Project and, in July 2022, the Abu Dhabi DoE inked a deal to collaborate on energy opportunities with Colombia’s Ministry of Mines and Energy.

HE Al Dhaheri indicated that the new regulations would contribute to enhancing the efforts made by EAD within the framework of its commitment to the UAE government’s sustainability vision. She stated that the EAD is leading a set of framework initiatives to reduce the impact of climate change, including the preparation of the climate change policy for Abu Dhabi, and a comprehensive strategy for the years 2023-2027.

She also announced that the EAD is developing a Nexus decision support system that would allow the emirate to achieve policy coherence between water, environment, energy and food. The project would be implemented with the participation of the key custodians of these sectors.

This pioneering initiative aims to support the Government of Abu Dhabi in achieving more sustainable utilisation of the natural resources of the Emirate, improved water, energy, and food security and more cost-effective projects and efficient management in the relevant sectors, the statement highlighted.

Al Dhaheri noted that in the same context, EAD was developing a scheme in which the emissions and trading ceilings would be determined. The feasibility of implementing the system at the state level is being studied to ensure competitiveness and sustainability. To complement this scheme, there would be existing voluntary programmes, such as the electronic platform for trading carbon credits on the Abu Dhabi Global Market.

She added, “We hope the emirate will be the first in the region to implement this initiative, which will further strengthen the UAE’s climate leadership role, and support its hosting COP28 next year,” said Al Dhaheri.

In September 2022, the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment introduced the National Air Quality Agenda 2031 and, later in the month, the Abu Dhabi DoE revealed new policies to accelerate UAE’s move towards Net Zero.

HE Al Marar said the clean energy targets 2035 framework would have a deep impact on the Abu Dhabi energy structure, allowing the broader economy and industrial sector to quickly move in the sustainability direction.

He commented, “This will open the door to improved added value and increased productivity for local businesses. These decarbonisation policies will help operationalise the UAE Net Zero 2050 pathways from today. They represent real, live commitments for our people, planet.”

He added that the speed of transition and deployment of 60% clean and renewable electricity by 2035 would be among the most profound globally.

The DoE said that it expects the new regulatory framework to drive a 75% reduction in carbon emissions per MWh produced in Abu Dhabi by 2035, compared to 2016 levels. Abu Dhabi, therefore, will be a leading contributor to the UAE’s updated climate targets to achieve a 31% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE), relative to business as usual, in 2030 and Net Zero by 2050. The UAE’s new targets were published in its ‘Second Nationally Determined Contribution’ in September ahead of COP27 and as part of the COP26 Glasgow Climate Pact commitments, the statement from EAD highlighted.

Abu Dhabi is said to already be making huge strides in the area. In 2021, the DoE introduced the complementary Abu Dhabi Clean Energy Certificates Scheme as an innovative measure to support carbon footprint reduction of power demand and meet the growing interest of corporate clients and households to contribute to the climate change fight, the statement said.

Late in September 2022, the EAD said it was awarded LEED certification for three of its facilities and, in October 2022, four cement factories said they would use alternative fuels following a deal with MOCCAE and Emirates RDF.

“We are very encouraged by the uptake of this scheme. Commercial entities are purchasing clean energy certificates in increasing numbers to claim the use of low or zero emissions electricity, thereby reducing their carbon footprint. Since electricity generated from clean energy sources is indistinguishable from that produced by any other source, some form of tracking is required. Once the power provider has injected the energy generated from identifiable clean resources into the grid, the Clean Energy Certificates act as a tracking mechanism for the source of clean energy. Entities can then claim the environmental benefits of low carbon energy production in enhancing the sustainable credentials of their product lines,” clarified Al Marar.

Outlining additional enablers that will help achieve the 2035 target, the EAD statement outlined:

  • Solar power plant site map: Clarity on availability of land and appropriate sites for solar plants will help increase energy generation through clean sources
  • Capacity requirements for energy storage: Accelerated growth in energy storage installations in the Abu Dhabi transmission and distribution grid is essential to store the energy produced through clean sources. Abu Dhabi has already introduced grid-scale advanced facilities in the electricity system as it installed 108MW of distributed sodium sulfur batteries with six hours of energy storage capacity
  • Transmission and distribution grid enhancement: Major coordinated network infrastructure enhancements are required by key stakeholders for connection and operation of safe and secure system for clean energy
  • Flexible natural gas system: Gas system upgrades and storage facilities are needed to provide flexibility for higher penetration of clean energy and support the intermittency of renewable solar PV through dispatchable high-efficiency gas plants. This will be essential until reliable storage systems are developed and become economically viable, robust solutions within the system
  • Electric vehicle (EV) readiness & vehicle-to-grid technology: EVs can help make clean daytime energy available to the grid at night and reduce demand peaks during critical hours. Abu Dhabi recently released the regulatory policy for electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the Emirate, which includes the criteria for establishing a network of EV charging stations across Abu Dhabi
  • Hydrogen production: The DoE has drafted a new hydrogen policy and strategic regulatory framework that will position Abu Dhabi as a competitive hydrogen player globally and contribute to the clean energy targets

As the country prepares to host COP28 UAE in 2023 at Expo City Dubai, a focus will be on bringing together all stakeholders to deliver practical and actionable sustainable energy solutions that accelerate climate progress, energy security and energy transition, the EAD concluded.


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