Despite their vast oil reserves, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are poised for “green revolutions” set to transform the Gulf’s energy landscape.
The two states have made major strides recently in using clean renewable energies.
In the middle of oil-rich Abu Dhabi, a sandy stretch near the emirate’s airport is a field of solar panels so vast that it could easily blanket several football pitches.
Bader al-Lamki, head of clean energy at Masdar, the state-controlled company that built this solar plant to power Masdar City, recently told the Financial Times that investing in renewable energies was “a necessity.”
With 8 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves, Abu Dhabi is not about to desert the fossil fuel business any time soon, al-Lamki , however, said. “But we also feel it’s important that renewables step in as a parallel source of energy we should embrace and deploy.”
Others are more emphatic about the region’s prospects seeing that UAE could become the world’s next renewable energy center, and an important center for exporting renewable energy technology.
Dubai-based Mark Robson of the Oliver Wyman consultancy said that “UAE could become the world’s next renewable energy center.”
This consultancy had just compiled a global ranking of countries’ energy sustainability with the World Energy Council. The top 40 nations did not include a single Gulf country.
But the large funds some countries are starting to allocate to renewables will change this, he said.
Robinson told Financial Times that Saudi Arabia now burns a third of its oil output each day to produce drinkable water and electricity. “So they really realize they have to do something,” Robson said, noting that a successful expansion in renewable energy could save a lot to the kingdom’s economy.
Frank Wouters of IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency, said the big expenditure in the kingdom, encouraged the Saudi government to launch a $109 billion project for solar energy farms, as well as establishing a “green city”, which will be the biggest green energy projects in the world.
“They are burning money and they know this,” He added, noting that “Saudi Arabia is a sleeping volcano” that will one day erupt as a green powerhouse and take people by surprise.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE had taken swift steps in the fields of renewable and clean energy, while speculations arise that the huge projects undergoing in these countries will contribute in achieving an economic boom in the coming years.