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Interview

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

ministry-of-energy

H.E. Dr. Matar Al Neyadi, Undersecretary at the UAE Ministry of Energy, outlines the renewed mandate the Ministry of Energy received in February 2016 during the Cabinet reshuffle, including the integration of the water portfolio under the Ministry of Energy; the role of the Ministry in representing the UAE energy sector globally; and the UAE’s strategy for using the energy sector as a growth engine for the country.  

As Undersecretary of the Ministry of Energy since 2012, how have you seen the Ministry develop in the past few years in terms of its mandate and priorities?

We have become a more sophisticated entity in charge of the coordination and regulation of energy policy, as well as the entity responsible for representing the UAE energy sector across the world.

The progress of the Ministry of Energy in these last years has been significant. Through the collaboration with energy stakeholders in the UAE, and the support and guidance of the UAE Federal Government, we have applied systematic improvements in the way the Ministry operates and in the manner in which we approach policy-making, as well as in the development of processes and tools for the continuous improvement of the energy sector.

Since 2013, the Ministry of Energy has embarked on an ambitious restructuring process to ensure it is more efficient and systematic in the way it operates. Our responsibilities have expanded with the renewed mandate given by the UAE Federal Government in 2016; we have become a more sophisticated entity in charge of the coordination and regulation of energy policy, as well as the entity responsible for representing the UAE energy sector across the world.

To achieve this, we have added key new functions and departments to support the Ministry in its responsibilities, such as the Regulation and Supervision department and the Energy Conservation and Efficiency department.

We have also developed new tools to serve the energy sector. For instance, in January 2016, we launched the Energy Balance, which is a key tool to reliably track the supply and consumption of energy in the UAE. This data is essential for energy decision makers because it allows for the precise tracking of the performance of the energy sector, which is fundamentally important in energy policy planning.

Therefore, we believe that these last few years marked a clear turning point in the evolution of the Ministry of Energy. However, we have an ambitious plan ahead of us to continue to transform the UAE energy sector and to deliver on the UAE Vision 2021’s energy goals.

His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, has famously stated that water will more important than oil for the UAE´s future. In the February 2016 Cabinet reshuffle, the water portfolio was moved from the Ministry of Environment to the Ministry of Energy. What role can the Ministry of Energy play in addressing water and energy needs through an integrated strategy?

We commend the decision by the UAE Government to link water and energy policies under the Ministry of Energy. In the UAE, we have scarce water natural resources and therefore have to produce water using a wide array of energy-intensive technologies. This means that there is a unique nexus between energy and water in this country, so linking them under the Ministry of Energy is the right approach.

Since this decision, we have been working in close collaboration with Federal stakeholders to ensure a seamless transition. We trust that the Ministry of Energy will be able to respond to the challenge and the future outlook for the Ministry is very promising.

The UAE is seeking to significantly increase oil and gas production, while also diversifying into nuclear and solar energy. Can you speak to the Ministry’s strategy when it comes to diversifying the UAE’s energy mix?

The diversification of the energy sector is a key component of the UAE Vision 2021 to deliver a sustainable environment and infrastructure. This will, firstly, bring more energy security for the nation and, secondly, improve our environmental sustainability by saving millions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per year, thereby preserving our natural resources.

To achieve this, peaceful nuclear energy and renewables have both been selected as the right energy technologies to power the UAE’s growth. Together, they will contribute to an estimated 27% of electricity demand with clean energy by 2021.

With the delivery of energy diversification, the UAE will position itself not only as a regional leader in the Middle East but also as one of the most sustainable nations in the world.

The UAE stands as an exemplary model that it is possible to be a major energy producer and exporter while leading in the shift towards a diversified and green economy. What role can the UAE play within the global institutional structure in terms of energy and economic development?

Energy is deeply linked with economic development. The provision of reliable, safe and commercially competitive electricity powers other key economic sectors, such as transportation, industry and real estate.

Energy also brings opportunity to other key sectors such as education, as the development of a modern energy sector brings unique career opportunities for younger generations. This is something in which we pride ourselves here: we are developing the next generation of Emirati energy professionals with the many energy programs we have in the UAE.

In the UAE, we believe the energy sector is a true engine of economic growth across a diverse set of areas and we remain very positive in its capacity to continue being a significant contributor to growth and the wellbeing of our citizens.

What do you see as some of the fundamental challenges faced by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries in this current cycle in the petroleum industry?

Every nation faces a unique set of conditions with which energy policymakers and leaders need to contend, so I would not be in the most adequate position to comment on the challenges of other GCC countries.

In the case of the UAE, the nation was blessed with abundant natural resources but it had to develop an entire energy sector – to maximize every opportunity possible to ensure that the energy sector became an engine of growth.

The development of this modern energy sector that continuously improves and innovates must be credited as a key tool for the development of the nation. It has spurred growth and the opportunity for other economic sectors to bloom.

The UAE has always had a visionary leadership. What do you think other countries can learn from the UAE in terms of sustainable development, e.g. we see that Saudi Arabia is unveiling its own Vision 2030?

Visionary leadership forms one of the pillars that have supported the nation, and enabled stability and long-term development in the UAE. Economic visions in particular, most recently with the UAE Vision 2021 and the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2021, have underpinned growth in the UAE, and have been very successful in aligning the government and private sectors.

Today, energy stakeholders in the UAE are working in close collaboration with the Ministry of Energy to deliver the UAE Vision 2021 with the achievement of a sustainable energy sector, and also contributing to the creation of a green economy. We are very ambitious with our goals and fully confident in the capacity of the energy sector in delivering our goals and objectives: this is the power of visionary leadership and economic visions.

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