Pushing the energy transition agenda for a sustainable future
The UAE has gained recognition as a global leader in the energy transition, with pioneering initiatives in green hydrogen, low-cost and mega-scale solar, nuclear energy and CCUS, among others. Minister of Energy and Infrastructure H.E. Suhail Mohamed Al Mazrouei discusses the UAE’s remarkable progress in the energy transition.
With the impacts of climate change being felt increasingly all over the world, the pressure to push the energy transition agenda is building up. The UAE follows a positive, pragmatic approach to the energy transition as it continues to meet the global energy needs of today, while investing heavily in the new energy systems of tomorrow.
A key priority for us is ensuring our energy sector always balances supply and demand, while driving economic growth and supporting environmental sustainability at the same time.
The UAE’s energy transition has been nothing short of remarkable. The country is home to the world’s three largest and lowest-cost single-site solar plants. By 2024, our Barakah nuclear plant will be fully online and supplying 25% of the UAE’s electricity demand. We have launched industrial-scale, low-carbon hydrogen projects, with many other similar projects under development.
Our first waste-to-energy plant became operational last year, and two more are on the way in the coming few years. We are regional pioneers in carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), with current operations capturing 800,000 tonnes of CO2 annually and plans in place to expand their capacity to 5 million tonnes per year by 2030.
AMBITIOUS TARGETS: Recently, we took another major step to reflect our great ambition and commitment to the energy transition with the update of the UAE Energy Strategy 2050 and the launch of the National Hydrogen Strategy – both provide blueprints for a sustainable, climate-safe, energy-secure future for our nation.
We made sure to aim high and set ambitious targets. In line with the updated objectives of the UAE Energy Strategy 2050, the country will triple the share of renewable energy by 2030 to stay on track with its climate change mitigation goals, as well as help increase the share of installed clean energy capacity in the total energy mix to 30% by 2030. The strategy aims to improve individual and institutional energy consumption efficiency by up to 45% and channel an investment of up to AED 200 billion [USD 54.4 billion] by 2030 to ensure energy demand is met while sustaining economic growth in the UAE.
LOW-CARBON HYDROGEN: On the other hand, the National Hydrogen Strategy is a long-term plan to turn the UAE into a leading and reliable producer and supplier of low-carbon hydrogen by 2031. It targets the production of 1.4 million metric tonnes of low-carbon hydrogen annually by 2031. This will include 1 million tonnes of green hydrogen and 400,000 tonnes of blue hydrogen per annum. We expect the figure to increase tenfold to 15 million tonnes by 2050.
As per the National Hydrogen Strategy, the UAE will establish two hydrogen oases by 2031 and increase the number to five by 2050. To advance related technologies, the country will establish a research and development centre for hydrogen in 2031, which will be developed into a recognised innovation centre globally by 2050.
The strategy emphasises the importance of economic growth and will help create thousands of jobs in the hydrogen sector by 2050, in addition to reducing emissions in hard-to-abate sectors – such as heavy industries, land transport, aviation and sea freight – by 25% by 2031.
A JUST TRANSITION: While developing the two strategies, we were keen to focus on energy security, economic development and climate action because we recognise that they are closely interlinked. A robust, just energy transition can drive progress across these three priorities and help power a comprehensive sustainable development.
The strategies were developed in collaboration with our stakeholders from across the energy supply chain to ensure they are inclusive and engage key players in their implementation.
They build on our strong track record as a reliable producer of low-emissions energy. The UAE’s renewables industry is one of the fastest growing in the world, and this trend is expected to continue as we aim to reach a total capacity of 14.2 GW by 2030.
We are also taking steps to help other countries transform and decarbonise their energy systems. The UAE’s leading renewable energy company, Masdar, has already helped develop and install over 20 GW of renewable energy in more than 40 countries. By 2030, it will grow its global renewables capacity to 100 GW.
INTERNATIONAL LEADERSHIP: Our shift towards clean energy is internationally recognised. The UAE has been ranked second in the Energy Transition pillar of the Green Future Index 2023, impressively climbing eight spots from the previous year.
The UAE will soon host the 28th UN Climate Change Conference (COP28). It will be a COP of action, where the global energy transition will be front and centre in the proceedings. This priority gains paramount importance as current data indicates that the global emissions trajectory is still pointing upwards.
The COP28 presidency is calling for tripling global renewables capacity and doubling hydrogen production by 2030. The UAE will deliver on this, and will join forces with other countries to help them step up and increase the pace and scale of their energy transition to become climate neutral.
Reaching net zero by mid-century is our best approach to keeping climate change in check, meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement and averting worst-case scenarios.