UAE to lead in renewable technology

Khaleej Times - New and Renewable Energy Authority, or NREA, has stressed for an entity to be responsible for coordinating between Arab states in regard to adopting a shared point of view towards energy issues, especially renewable energy.

Mohamed Salah El Sobky, head of New and Renewable Energy Authority, said such an entity would also set specific goals for the contribution of renewables in the Arab energy system. This is in addition to the role played by the League of Arab States in that matter.

As for the energy sector in Egypt, El Sobky described it as "unsafe", because fossil fuels (mainly natural gas and mazut) comprise about 95 per cent of the sector, and represent 90 per cent of energy used to generate electricity. "This has turned Egypt into an importer of oil instead of exporting, due to the huge consumption by the electricity power plants," he noted.

However, he added, Egypt has a strategy that aims to generate 20 per cent of its electricity through renewable resources by 2020, with that percentage going up to 60 per cent by 2050. "Diversifying energy resources is absolutely necessary for the Arab region, especially that the region enjoys abundant resources of renewable energy," El Sobky pointed out, adding that the majority of Arab states are situated in a sunbelt which gives them huge advantages in solar energy resources, in addition to wind and water resources. Accordingly, El Sobky believes that it is a strategic choice for the Arab region to exploit such resources and transfer the manufacturing technologies to its countries, as well as laying the foundations for an Arab industry that follows global standards. "Fossil fuel resources can then be reserved as a strategic inventory to be used by future generations," he added.

El Sobky also praised the UAE's "rapid steps" in developing renewable energy technologies, such as the establishment of the Masdar initiative in 2006 as part of the country's vision to advance the clean energy industry. The initiative became a main player in the sustainable energy sector, making it, according to El Sobky, reflect the pioneering position of Abu Dhabi in that field, especially after hosting the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency.

The Arab Ministerial Council for Electricity of the League of Arab States plays an important role, as El Sobky described, in coordinating between ministries of electricity, but a special entity for renewable energy is needed. He added that the works of such an entity can benefit from the existence of IRENA's headquarters in Abu Dhabi, and the Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in Cairo.

Egypt has huge renewable energy resources, especially solar and wind energies, and many projects in that field as well, El Sobky said. He pointed out the projects which include commercial wind energy projects that currently amount to 750 megawatts, in addition to a recently operated solar energy power plant that produce 140 megawatt of electricity.

"By approving the feed in tariff system, facilitating land permits and transportation, as well as customs and taxes, Egypt is expecting several projects," El Sobky stated, adding that there is a current cooperation with Masdar to establish 200-million-euro project to generate electricity from renewables, and another mega project with Siemens to produce 2000 megawatts, along with a wind energy project underway.

Moreover, El Sobky said that 137 international investment companies have been rehabilitated to establish wind and solar energy projects in Egypt, in addition to signing several agreements in the same field.

Egypt has huge resources in the renewable energy sector that need to be used. El Sobky stated that the West Coast of the Gulf of Suez, as an example, is considered one of the best places on earth in terms of sustainable wind speed. "Solar energy is very promising in Egypt, with constant brightness that is among the highest in the world," he added, while stressing that current technologies make it possible for solar energy projects to cost less than before.

El Sobky also referred to the peaceful nuclear energy project of Egypt, which is being carried out in cooperation with Russia, by pointing out its importance in providing the country with electricity needed to cover future mega projects.