New York: On Wednesday, the United Arab Emirates announced a wide range of initiatives to accelerate deployment of clean energy at the UN Sustainable Energy for All (SE4A) Forum, notably in support of the UN goal to double the global share of renewable energy by 2030.  The country’s actions include major domestic policy reforms, such as the tripling of renewable energy targets in Dubai, as well as initiatives on women’s empowerment, new laureates of the Zayed Future Energy Prize, and expansion of the pioneering renewable energy aid programme, which has allocated over $750 million for fellow developing countries since 2013.

“Sustainable energy is a cornerstone of our economic development goals and our foreign policy,” said HE Dr Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State, Chairman of Masdar, and member of the SE4A Advisory Board.  “The UAE is committed to developing and deploying renewable energy, both domestically and internationally, to enhance energy security, ensure sustainable economic development and mitigate climate change. As an economy blessed with rich hydrocarbon resources, we have a responsibility to extend our energy leadership beyond hydrocarbons and to ensure the continued supply of energy to global markets. This is an imperative we are dedicated to achieving with global partners and initiatives such as Sustainable Energy for All”.

The UAE highlighted major aid new commitments under the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development’s partnership with International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), as well as 11 projects under the $50 million grant UAE-Pacific Partnership Fund. 

It also reported on the successful completion of previous commitments, including a major wind farm in the Seychelles, energy access projects in Afghanistan, and a solar plant in Mauritania representing 10% of the country’s generation capacity.

“The case for sustainable energy is indisputable, and represents the perfect link among the UN’s three summits this year on Financing for Development, the Post-2015 Development Agenda, and COP21,” said HE Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE’s Permanent Representative to the UN.  “Deployment of renewables and efficiency represents one of the most impactful focus areas for both donors and domestic reform.”

In November, the UAE and through its clear policy frameworks set the world record for low-cost solar, at 5.84 US cents per kilowatt/hour, below the cost of even natural gas. 

The breakthrough encouraged authorities in Dubai to triple the renewable energy to 15% by 2030, and, in a market-making move, to announce tenders for 1000 MW of solar projects, compared to less than 200 MW of existing renewable capacity in the Gulf region. 

The move complements the rapid expansion of Masdar, the UAE’s clean energy investment vehicle, into overseas markets as diverse as the UK and Jordan, as well as its introduction of renewables into mainstream thinking with the region’s first solar plant in 2009.

During the Forum, Masdar also profiled the new Women in Sustainability, Environment, and Renewable Energy (WiSER) initiative, launched in January at the 30,000-delegate Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.  The initiative provides a highly visible platform for female leaders at major global cleantech and innovation events and focuses attention on bringing more women into the field. 

Masdar also announced new laureates of The Zayed Future Energy Prize, the world’s preeminent award for clean energy and sustainability at $4 million annually.  M-KOPA and Liter of Light, the pioneering energy access companies, addressed the UN audience, alongside students from the Melbourne Girls College (Australia), Zayed Solar Academy (Malawi), and Bronx Design and Construction Academy (US).

Dr Al-Hosany, director of sustainability at Masdar and director of the Zayed Future Energy Prize, said:”The Zayed Future Energy Prize has recognised some of the most innovative, visionary leaders in global environmental solutions. The Global High Schools category was introduced as a commitment to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s SE4All initiative. Now in its fourth year, the Global High Schools category provides valuable funding to schools around the world, aiming to accelerate the adoption of clean energy through education”.

The UN Sustainable Energy for All initiative aims by 2030 to achieve 100% energy access, bringing power to 1.3 billion people without it, as well as to double renewable energy and energy efficiency in the global energy mix.  The UAE was among the first countries to endorse the targets.  As part of the forum, the UAE convened groups of donors, commercial investors, and private companies to funding approaches for energy access, as well as renewable energy deployment on islands.