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Interview

H.E. Dr. Matar Al Neyadi – Undersecretary, Ministry of Energy, UAE

The undersecretary of the UAE Ministry of Energy explains the feasibility of their anticipated energy matrix goals and the significance of partnering with the UAE’s R&D centers, academia and the private sector to advance the energy sector as a whole.

In January 2017, you said that the UAE’s energy strategy 2050 is based on “supply, affordability, sustainability and bringing happiness to the consumer”. The anticipated energy mix is 44 percent green energy, 38 percent energy from natural gas, 12 percent energy from clean coal and six percent nuclear energy. What, then, will be the role fossil fuels?

“To meet this considerable energy demand, the UAE leadership has set forward an ambitious energy diversification strategy to become a nation that powers its growth through various sources of electricity generation.”

Historically, fossil fuels have been a major contributor to the economic growth of the UAE. Today, they continue to be a significant pillar of our economy and our energy sector. Both fossil fuels and clean energy complement each other within the future energy mix.

The reality is that the demand for energy, and specifically for electricity, is growing in the UAE. To meet this considerable energy demand, the UAE leadership has set forward an ambitious energy diversification strategy to become a nation that powers its growth through various sources of electricity generation. This strategy also launches a series of energy policies that seek to encourage more sustainable energy consumption.

Therefore, the path forward for the energy sector is based on energy diversification, sustainability, and energy security.

At the moment, 98 percent of our electricity generation capacity is through natural gas-powered turbines. The UAE requires imports of natural gas to power these turbines. Bringing other sources of electricity generation, such as solar or nuclear energy, will help reduce our dependency on one commodity and improve our energy security, while achieving a more environmentally-friendly electricity generation sector.

By 2050, the Ministry forecasts that the UAE will require 100 GW of electricity generation. Achieving this goal will require a substantial growth of different sources of energy generation, especially solar energy.

In this sense, our studies show that the UAE meets ideal conditions to produce solar energy, due to its geographical location and we can therefore generate cheap solar electricity.

Over the last few years, UAE energy authorities have demonstrated a unique capacity to develop solar energy projects, achieving the lowest costs for solar energy generation in the form of non-subsidized solar energy developments. Abu Dhabi recently announced a 2.4 cents per kilowatt cost for its latest solar energy development, marking the lowest cost of solar energy in the world. This is a great example of the bright future ahead for solar energy in the UAE and to the ambition that UAE energy authorities have to make solar energy a major contributor to our national electricity portfolio.

Our 2050 Energy Strategy therefore targets to achieve the following electricity generation quotas: 44 percent from renewable sources, 6 percent nuclear energy, 12 percent clean coal and 38 percent from natural gas.

How do you balance the interests of the hydrocarbons industry and the interest of having a clean green energy matrix for the country?

Both industries complement each other, as the diversification of our energy industry creates many tangible benefits. It increases the security of our energy supply, it preserves our natural resources and allows the UAE to make better use of these natural resources. It is also positive for our environmental objectives, and it is a significant step for job creation for our future generations.

It also allows for new synergies between both industries to benefit innovation and research and development. We have already started to witness the positive effects of collaboration between the oil and gas industry and clean energy, with key projects such as the Carbon Capture and Sequestration program between ADNOC and Masdar.

In summary, we are only witnessing the beginning of a positive collaboration between both industries and I am certain that many more opportunities and synergies lie ahead.

You have also declared that renewable energy and fossil fuel energy can have commercial synergies. Could you please elaborate on that statement?

The bottom line for the electricity generation sector in the UAE is that increasing the energy portfolio with clean energy and natural gas will have a clear benefit for the nation and for energy consumers.

To achieve this, the Ministry of Energy has been working with energy stakeholders in the UAE to determine the most optimal portfolio of energy generating technologies.

In theory, the UAE could pursue a 100% renewables generation portfolio, but the reality is that it requires other forms of electricity generation to provide support, whether in the form of peak or baseload electricity to ensure the provision of reliable electricity throughout the year.

This is why we firmly believe that the UAE Energy Strategy 2050 meets the requirements of our energy sector and are firmly pursuing the delivery of its goals and objectives.

We also saw that the World Energy Congress 2019 will be hosted in the UAE. What is the significance of the Congress for the UAE?

The World Energy Congress is one of the most influential gatherings of energy stakeholders and the only forum created to address the full spectrum of the energy sector. Having Abu Dhabi host the World Energy Congress in 2019 is a significant milestone for the UAE, and for energy entities across our nation.

By 2019, the UAE will showcase the success of its energy sector in the Abu Dhabi World Energy Congress and will open the doors to energy leaders from around the world to showcase its lessons learned, by engaging in a constructive dialogue with energy stakeholders from around the world.

The 2019 Abu Dhabi World Energy Congress will also be a unique opportunity to address how the energy sector is linked to other strategic markets and sectors, such as water, transportation, or food. Our goal is to make the 2019 World Energy Congress and inclusive and cross-sectorial platform, where world leaders can analyze and debate the nexus between the energy sector and other industries.

In addition, we feel that the 2019 World Energy Congress will demonstrate the role of the UAE in shaping the debate on energy and position itself as an epicenter for the future of the energy sector.

In this sense, the World Energy Congress is a unique opportunity to share lessons, success stories and challenges and invite academia, R&D sector, the private to work hand-in-hand with governments to try and create solutions for the different challenges that the energy sector, as well as other strategic industries, face to provide sustainable solutions that power the growth of humanity around the world.

Why do you believe it is important for the governments to showcase existing opportunities?

In the experience of the UAE, the public sector plays a crucial role in fostering opportunity and collaboration with the private sector. This is the model we have used in the past and presently: we believe in partnerships between the public and private sector, as both parties bring unique characteristics. The public sector brings stability and policy, and the private sector brings technology and the latest industrial know-how.

In the UAE, we have a proven track record of developing innovative public and private partnerships to benefit the energy sector. This is the model we have applied to the oil and gas sector, as well as solar energy, and even nuclear energy. For us, it is a mutually benefiting model and we will continue to implement it where possible.

Next to be the undersecretary of the Ministry of Energy, you hold a multitude of different positions. How difficult is it to balance those different positions?

First of all, it is my honor and privilege to serve my nation and the energy sector. The remarkable performance of the UAE energy sector is the result of the dedication of thousands of energy officials and experts, and it is therefore the result of a collective work of all these dedicated stakeholders. It is a team effort and I am fortunate to be supported by a unique team of professionals.

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