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Minister of Climate Change and Environment Heads UAE Delegation to 10th IRENA Assembly

Incorporating a high share of renewables into the energy mix brings with it new technical as well as policy questions

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Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, is leading the UAE delegation to the 10th Session of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Assembly. The two-day Assembly that has convened renewable energy stakeholders from around the world got underway in Abu Dhabi today.

At the Assembly’s opening ceremony, Dr Al Zeyoudi delivered the National Statement of the UAE, the host country of IRENA.

He said: “Supported by its member states, IRENA has played an instrumental role in boosting a collective drive towards energy transition. In the past decade, the global installed renewable energy capacity surged from 1,136 GW in 2009 to over 2,350 GW in 2019. In the UAE alone, we increased our renewable energy capacity from a mere 10 MW in 2009 to 1,800 MW today, with an additional 6,500 MW either under development or planned until 2030.

“One of the major enablers of renewable energy deployment has been the rapid decline of costs of renewable energy in recent years. In the past decade, the global average production cost of renewables, particularly solar power, plummeted by 77 percent. And the market is experiencing even further price drops. Just a few weeks ago, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) announced its latest bids for the fifth phase of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park that are as low as US cents 1.7 per kWh.”

Speaking of the challenges renewables could pose, the Minister said: “Incorporating a high share of renewables into the energy mix brings with it new technical as well as policy questions. To continue the deployment of renewable energy projects on the ground, the world needs to consider how to handle the inconsistent nature of renewable power generation.”

Outlining the UAE’s efforts to address these challenges, Dr Al Zeyoudi said: “During Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week in January 2019, the UAE capital commissioned one of the biggest grid-connected virtual power plants through adding a 108 MW battery system to the main city grid to balance the power distribution network. Storage facilities are just one of the solutions. In 2019, the UAE came up with yet another groundbreaking innovation. DEWA, in partnership with Expo 2020 Dubai and Siemens, commenced construction of the country’s first green hydrogen facility. This pilot project is the first in the MENA region to produce hydrogen using clean energy.”

He added: “In 2017, the US$50 million UAE-Caribbean Renewable Energy Fund was launched with a mission to deploy renewable energy projects in 16 Caribbean countries. In 2019, the Fund inaugurated three projects to install 1.45 MW of solar photovoltaic power capacity in the Bahamas, Barbados, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Dr Al Zeyoudi also participated in a ministerial roundtable on using green hydrogen in decarbonization efforts.

Green hydrogen is produced by wind and solar power via electrolysis – splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen atoms. As the production process does not use any hydrocarbons, it can go a long way in reducing a nation's or even a company's emissions.

Speaking on expanding the potential of green hydrogen to contribute to future energy supply, Dr Al Zeyoudi said: “Increasingly today, hydrogen is finding its way onto the mainstream agenda for policymakers, industry leaders, and investors as a solution to many of the problems faced by decarbonizing the energy ecosystem. At present, green hydrogen represents less than one percent of all hydrogen produced.

“Despite its relatively high costs of production, green hydrogen is set to see significant growth in the short-to-medium-term future. According to a recent report by Wood Mackenzie, the global energy research and consultancy firm, an additional 3,205 MW of electrolyzers for green hydrogen production will be deployed globally – that is an increase of over 1,000 percent.”

The Minister also highlighted the green hydrogen facility being developed by Expo 2020 Dubai, DEWA, and Siemens that will use hydrogen as a low-carbon fuel, particularly for heating, in hydrogen vehicles, for seasonal energy storage, and for long-distance transportation of energy. 

He added: “On the transportation front, Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA) announced its first technical regulation of hydrogen cell vehicles in the region to ensure that such vehicles comply with specific safety requirements.”

As part of IRENA’s 10th Assembly, Dr Al Zeyoudi met with Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, President of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly. They explored ways for the UAE to support the greater UN-IRENA cooperation framework.

The Minister also attended multiple bilateral meetings to drive the sustainability agenda. He met with Hon Ivan Leslie Collendavelloo, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Energy and Public Utilities of Mauritius, Kadri Simson, EU Energy Commissioner, His Excellency Andrea Matteo Fontana, EU Ambassador to the UAE, Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, and Thorsten Herdan, Director-General for Energy Policy, Heating, and Efficiency at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.

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