The latest edition of the World Future Energy Summit (WFES), held in conjunction with Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, highlights Abu Dhabi’s ambition to play a leading role in transitioning the world away from unsustainable carbon-production to sustainable renewable energy consumption.
Together WFES and Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week also showcased the region’s many success stories as it seeks to realise these ambitions.
Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Saudi Arabia in particular highlighted solar and wind power schemes that have entered operation or are under construction.
Procurement for more renewable capacity is also ramping up in the region as governments strive to meet their renewable energy targets by 2025 or 2030.
The completion of the first utility-scale renewable projects across the GCC has increased confidence among procurers, developers and project finance providers in the region.
This has resulted in a significant reduction in the costs of financing and of engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services, among others.
The market also expects that there will be a more widespread adoption of small- to medium-scale projects such as rooftop solar installations.
Speaking this week at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, one of Abu Dhabi’s chief energy policy-makers said that the emirate’s electricity system will be very clean within a short period of time.
But in order to become so, he said, it must first overcome several structural, regulatory and technical obstacles.
One important challenge for everyone pushing for rapid migration to renewable is regulation.
Good regulation prevents chaotic disruption and ensures safety and security. It is, by design, conservative.
Merging renewable energy, primarily photovoltaic (PV) solar power, into the region’s power grids requires major adjustments in policies and new regulations.
This includes having to ensure grid flexibility and stability, enabling the integration of new technologies ranging from battery-storage to electric vehicles and establishing new commercially attractive business models.
One of the structural challenges addressed is breaking the inextricable tie that has always existed in the region between electricity generation and water production.
Proceed with caution
As the renewable energy sector gains momentum in the region and builds capacity, these challenges are rapidly moving from the theoretical into reality. Inevitably, they are getting more serious consideration.
As a result, the region’s main renewable energy proponents are starting to add notes of caution to their ambition.
This is smart.
The rapid pace of technology development and innovation must be matched by a constant evolution in policies to overcome these challenges.
But policy and regulatory reform cannot move as speedily as technological innovation, and can be unpredictable.
It is wise to proceed in the knowledge that some things might just take a little longer to deliver.