Desertec: What Went Wrong?

A plan to power Europe from solar power plants in Sahara desert, popularly known as Desertec, seems to have stalled, but several large North African solar projects are still going ahead despite local concerns. Where did the Desertec project go wrong, and can desert solar power yet play a role in a democratic and sustainable future?

If you use social media, you may well have seen a graphic going around, showing a tiny square in the Sahara desert with the caption: ‘This much solar power in the Sahara would provide enough energy for the whole world!’

Can this really be true? It is based on data from a research thesis written by Nadine May in 2005 for the Technical University of Braunschweig in Germany. According to May, an area of 3.49 million km² is potentially available for concentrating solar power (CSP) plants in the North African countries Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. She argues that an area of 254 kilometres x 254 kilometres (the biggest box on the image) would be enough to meet the total electricity demand of the world. The amount of electricity needed by the EU-25 states could be produced on an area of 110 kilometres x 110 kilometres (assuming solar collectors that could capture 100 per cent of the energy). A more realistic estimation by the Land Art Generator Initiative assumed a 20-per-cent capture rate and put forward an area approximately eight times bigger than the May study for meeting the world’s energy needs. Nevertheless, the map is a good illustration of the potential of solar power and how little space would be needed to power the entire planet.

This isn’t a new idea. Back in 1913, the American engineer Frank Shuman presented plans for the world’s first solar thermal power station to Egypt’s colonial elite, including the British consul-general Lord Kitchener. The power station would have pumped water from the Nile River to the adjacent fields where Egypt’s lucrative cotton crop was grown, but the outbreak of the First World War abruptly ended this dream.

The idea was explored again in the 1980s by German particle physicist Gerhard Knies, who was the first person to estimate how much solar energy was required to meet humanity’s demand for electricity. In 1986, in direct response to the Chernobyl nuclear accident, he arrived at the following remarkable conclusion: in just six hours, the world’s deserts receive more energy from the sun than humans consume in a year. These ideas laid the groundwork for Desertec.

What is Desertec?

For the sake of clarity, it is worth differentiating between the Desertec Foundation and the Desertec Industrial Initiative. The non-profit Desertec Foundation was founded in January 2009 by a network of scientists, politicians and economists from around the Mediterranean. Its aim is to supply as many people and businesses as possible with renewable energy from the world’s deserts. This should, they hope, provide opportunities for prosperity and help protect the climate.

In the autumn of 2009, an ‘international’ consortium of companies formed the Desertec Industrial Initiative (Dii), with weighty players such as E.ON, Munich Re, Siemens and Deutsche Bank all signing up as ‘shareholders’. It was formed as a largely German-led private-sector initiative with the aim of translating the Desertec concept into a profitable business project, by providing around 20 per cent of Europe’s electricity by 2050 through a vast network of solar- and windfarms stretching right across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. These generators would be connected to continental Europe via special high voltage, direct current transmission cables. The tentative total cost of this project has been estimated at €400 billion ($472 billion).

To understand the thinking behind Desertec, we need to consider some history. Between 1998 and 2006, a set of Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreements were formed between the EU and Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia. Their stated aim was the ‘gradual liberalization of trade’ in the region and the establishment of a Mediterranean free trade area. A project with similar goals called the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) was championed by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy from 2008, to strengthen the ‘interdependence’ between the EU and the southern Mediterranean.

This goal of ‘interdependence’ is reminiscent of previous French prime minister Edgar Fouré’s famous coinage back in 1956, ‘L’indépendance dans l’interdépendance’, (independence in interdependence), a strategy promoted by successive French governments to maintain control and domination of the new ‘independent’ African countries. The UfM is designed to follow in their footsteps, furthering EU economic interests and reducing the need for energy imports from Russia. Promoting a renewable energy partnership was seen as a priority core project towards achieving these goals.

It is within this context of pro-corporate trade deals and a scramble for influence and energy resources that we should understand the Desertec project and especially its industrial arm, the Dii. Desertec could play a role in diversifying energy sources away from Russia as well as contributing to EU targets of reducing carbon emissions – and what better region to achieve these aims than MENA, an area well-endowed with natural resources, from fossil fuels to sun and wind. It seems that a familiar ‘colonial’ scheme is being rolled in front of our eyes: the unrestricted flow of cheap natural resources from the Global South to the rich industrialized North, maintaining a profoundly unjust international division of labour.

This is a genuine concern given the language used in different articles and publications describing the potential of the Sahara in powering the whole world. The Sahara is described as a vast empty land, sparsely populated; constituting a golden opportunity to provide Europe with electricity so it can continue its extravagant consumerist lifestyle and profligate energy consumption. This is the same language used by colonial powers to justify their civilizing mission and, as an African myself, I cannot help but be very suspicious of such megaprojects and their ‘well-intentioned’ motives that are often sugar-coating brutal exploitation and sheer robbery. Such sentiments were also raised by Daniel Ayuk Mbi Egbe of the African Network for Solar Energy in 2011. ‘Many Africans are sceptical about Desertec,’ he said. ‘Europeans make promises, but at the end of the day, they bring their engineers, they bring their equipment, and they go. It’s a new form of resource exploitation, just like in the past.’ The Tunisian trade unionist Mansour Cherni made similar points at the World Social Forum 2013 (WSF) held in Tunis when he asked: ‘Where will the energy produced here be used?…Where will the water come from that will cool the solar power plants? And what do the locals get from it all?’

Sustainable Development or Status quo?

There is nothing inherently wrong or dishonest in the Desertec idea. On the contrary, the goal of providing sustainable energy for the planet to fight global warming is to be applauded. But like any other idea, the questions of who uses it, how it is implemented, for what agenda and in which context it is being promoted, are of great importance.

Desertec was presented as a response to the issues of climate change, the Russian-Ukrainian gas conflicts in 2006 and 2009, fears of peak oil, and the global food crisis of 2009. However, if Desertec is really serious about addressing those crises, it needs to target their structural causes. Being an apolitical techno-fix, it promises to overcome these problems without fundamental change, basically maintaining the status quo and the contradictions of the global system that led to these crises in the first place. Moreover, by presenting the Euro-Med region as a unified community (we are all friends now and we need to fight against a common enemy!), it masks the real enemy of the MENA region, which is oppressive European hegemony and Western domination.

Big engineering-focused ‘solutions’ like Desertec tend to present climate change as a shared problem with no political or socio-economic context. This perspective hides the historical responsibilities of the industrialized West, the problems of the capitalist energy model, and the different vulnerabilities between countries of the North and the South. The MENA region is one of the regions hardest hit by climate change, despite producing less than 5 per cent of global carbon emissions, with water supplies in the area being particularly affected. The spread of solar energy initiatives that further plunder these increasingly-scarce water resources would be a great injustice. Desertec also provides PR cover to major energy businesses and oil and gas-fuelled regimes. Supporting big ‘clean energy’ projects lets them present themselves as environmental protectors rather than climate culprits.

The website of the foundation (which came up with the concept and gave it its name) states: ‘Desertec has never been about delivering electricity from Africa to Europe, but to supply companies in desert regions with energy from the sun instead of oil and gas.’ Despite this, the Dii consortium of (mainly European) companies was openly geared towards delivering energy from Africa to Europe. Eventually, however, the fall in the price of solar panels and wind turbines in the EU led the consortium to concede in 2013 that Europe can provide for most of its clean energy needs indigenously. The tensions between the foundation and Dii culminated in a divorce between the two in July 2013 as the former preferred to distance itself from the management crisis and disorientation of the industrial consortium. As a result of these developments, Dii shrank from 17 partners to only three by the end of 2014 (German RWE, Saudi Acwa Power and China State Grid).

Where is Desertec now?

For some people, the shrinking of Dii signalled the demise of Desertec. However, with or without Dii, the Desertec vision is still going ahead with projects in Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. Despite its stated ideals about powering Africa, the Desertec foundation is backing the Tunur project in Tunisia, a joint venture between Nur Energy, a British-based solar developer and a group of Maltese and Tunisian investors in the oil and gas sector. It explicitly describes itself as a large solar power export project linking the Sahara desert to Europe that will dispatch power to European consumers starting in 2018. Given that Tunisia depends on its neighbour Algeria for its energy needs and that it faces increasingly frequent power cuts, it would be outrageous (to say the least) to proceed with exports rather than producing for the local market. According to Med Dhia Hammami, a Tunisian investigative journalist working in the energy sector, the project seeks to take advantage of new Tunisian legislation allowing the liberalization of green energy production and distribution, breaking the monopoly of the state company STEG (Société Tunisienne d’Electricité et de Gaz) and opening the way to direct export of electricity by private companies. He describes it as ‘state prostitution’ and a confirmation of the Tunisian government’s submission to corporate diktats that go against the national interest.

Meanwhile, the Moroccan government, with help from Dii consortium members, has attracted funding from international lenders to develop the world’s largest concentrating solar power (CSP) plant at Ourzazate. It was originally envisioned as an export project, but failed to secure Spanish government support for an undersea cable; the project is now promoted as a means for Morocco to increase its own renewable energy supply. However, the role of transnational companies in the project is still attracting criticism. M Jawad, a campaigner from ATTAC/CADTM Morocco, is concerned about the increasing control exerted by transnationals on electrical energy production in his country. He sees projects like Ourzazate as a threat to national sovereignty in the clean energy sector, because crucial decisions that affect the whole population are being taken by a handful of technocrats, far from any democratic process or consultation.

A Community-centred Approach

The assumption that economic liberalization and ‘development’ necessarily lead to prosperity, stability and democracy – as if neoliberalism and the (under)development agenda of the West had nothing to do with the Arab Uprisings – is preposterous. Any project concerned with producing sustainable energy must be rooted in local communities, geared towards providing and catering for their needs and centred around energy and environmental justice.

This is even more important when we think about the issue in the context of the Arab Uprisings and the demands of the revolutions: bread, freedom, social justice and national sovereignty. Projects involving large transnationals tend to take a top-down approach, increasing the risk of displacement, land-grabbing and local pollution. Without community involvement, there is no guarantee that such schemes will help with alleviating poverty, reducing unemployment or preserving a safe environment.

This has been a major failing of the Desertec initiative. Only a few actors from the South of the Mediterranean were involved in its development, and most of them represented public institutions and central authorities, not the local communities who would be affected by the project.

The Desertec foundation did publish a set of criteria to ensure that large-scale solar projects in desert regions are implemented in an environmentally and socially responsible way. However, in the absence of democratic control, transparency and citizen participation in decision making in the MENA region, those criteria will remain ink on paper.

Another important question is: will these projects transfer the knowledge, expertise and designs of the renewable technology to the countries in this region? This seems unlikely given the transnationals’ usual reticence in doing so and questions of intellectual property around such technologies. As an example, the glass troughs (solar thermal collectors) for North African CSP plants are all made in Germany, and the patents for the glass tube receivers are held by German companies. Without fair access to such technologies, MENA countries will remain dependent on the West and transnationals for future renewable development.

Solar Energy, a new Tool for Authoritarian Regimes?

To come back to the Arab uprisings, Desertec presented itself as a possible way out of the crisis, by bringing new opportunities to the region. This is baffling given that the project co-operated with corrupt elites and authoritarian regimes, some of which have since been overthrown, and others of which continue to oppress their populations.

Instead of providing a route to ‘develop’ away from repressive governments, the centralized nature of large CSP plants makes them an ideal source of income for corrupt and authoritarian regimes in the region (such as Algeria, Egypt and Morocco) and thus could help to keep them in power. To illustrate this risk, let’s take Algeria as an example.

Oil and gas have provided income for the Algerian regime for decades, and are used to buy social peace and maintain its grip on power. As the brutal Algerian civil war (a war against civilians, to be more accurate) was raging, with systematic violence from both the state and Islamist fundamentalists, BP finalized a contract worth $3 billion in December 1995, giving it the right to exploit gas deposits in the Sahara for the next 30 years. Total completed a similar deal worth $1.5 billion one month later, and in November 1996 a new pipeline supplying gas to the EU was opened, the Maghreb-Europe Gas Pipeline through Spain and Portugal. These contracts undoubtedly bolstered the regime as it exerted systematic violence across the country and at a time of international isolation.

Tied to Algeria through huge investments, these companies and the EU had a clear interest in making sure that the repressive regime did not go under and acquiesced to the Algerian regime’s ‘Dirty War’ of the 1990s. A renewable megaproject like Desertec that ties European economies to corrupt MENA governments would create exactly the same kind of problems.

Parting Shot

Whether fossil fuelled or renewable, energy schemes that don’t benefit the people where the energy is extracted, that serve to prop up authoritarian and repressive regimes or only enrich a tiny minority of voracious elites and transnationals are scandalous and must be resisted.

Advocates for benign-sounding clean energy export projects like Desertec need to be careful they’re not supporting a new ‘renewable energy grab’: after oil, gas, gold, diamonds and cotton, is it now the turn of solar energy to maintain the global imperial dominance of the West over the rest of the planet?

Rather than embracing such gargantuan projects, we should instead support decentralized small-scale projects that can be democratically managed and controlled by local communities that promote energy autonomy. We don’t want to replicate the fossil fuel tragedy and therefore we must say: Leave the sunlight in the desert for its people!

Note: This article was originally published in March 2015 issue of New Internationalist and can be found at this link.

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Solar Energy in Oman: Potential and Progress

Oman-renewable-energySolar energy is a vital and strategic solution for the provision of electric power in the Sultanate of Oman. Given the vast unused land and available solar energy resources, Oman has an excellent potential for solar energy development and deployment. Solar energy is a viable option in Oman and could not only cater to the growing need for energy diversification but also would help in economic diversification.

With a total dependence on fossil fuels and increasing population combined with rapid industrialization in cities such as Duqm, Sohar and Salalah, Oman’s power infrastructure and hydrocarbon reserves pose a challenge on the economic growth. The strategic importance and geographical location of Oman makes it viable to harness renewable energy technologies on both, smaller and larger scales, for further development of its economy. It not only helps in reducing dependence in fossil fuels but also helps in creating a cleaner and sustainable environment.  Research and development and high-technology services related to renewable energy could create new business and employment in Oman and could bring about a paradigm change in diversification of Oman’s economy.

Solar Power Potential in Oman

Oman receives a tremendous amount of solar radiation throughout the year which is among the highest in the world, and there is significant scope for harnessing and developing solar energy resources throughout the Sultanate.  The global average daily sunshine duration and solar radiation values for 25 locations in Oman are tremendous, with Marmul having the highest solar radiation followed by Fahud, Sohar and Qairoon Hairiti. The highest insolation of solar energy is observed is in the desert areas as compared to the coastal areas where it is least.

A Renewables Readiness Assessment report was prepared by IRENA in close collaboration with the Government of Oman, represented by the Public Authority for Electricity and Water (PAEW), to study potential usage of renewable energy. The government seeks to utilize a sizeable amount of solar energy to meet the country’s domestic electricity requirements and develop some of it for export. The Petroleum Development of Oman (PDO) has initiated to conserve Oman’s natural gas resources in the production of heavy oil by harnessing solar energy to produce steam for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR).

A study commissioned by the Public Authority for Electricity and Water (PAEW) revealed that Photovoltaic (PV) systems installed on residential buildings in the Sultanate could offer an estimated 1.4 gigawatts of electricity. It is estimated that Muscat Governorate alone could generate a whopping 450 megawatts, similar to a mid-sized gas-based power plant.

Major Developments

The Authority for Electricity Regulation Oman (AER) – Oman’s power sector regulator is taking steps to pave the way for homeowners to install rooftop solar panels with any surplus electricity sent back into the national grid. Some prominent companies, including Majan Electricity Company, Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) and Sultan Qaboos University have already adopted piloted schemes to generate solar power.

Due to declining costs of photovoltaic (PV) panels, production of solar energy has become an attractive option for the process of water desalination. Solar thermal desalination processes using solar collectors are being tested in pilot projects and expected to soon become available as commercial solutions.

Miraah solar thermal project will harness the sun’s energy to produce steam used in oil production.

Miraah solar thermal project will harness the sun’s energy to produce steam used in oil production.

A combination of concentrated solar power and photovolatic technologies are likely to be deployed for the development in Dakhiliyah Governorate which is one of the largest solar energy projects in Oman's National Energy Strategy 2040 with a plant capacity of 200MW.

Oman has already geared up in attracting private investors to power and water production by offering Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs).  The government has embarked on a mission of opening a stronger and sustainable market giving oil companies a chance to strengthen their footing in the country to tackle with the jeopardy posed by depleting oil resources.

However, there  are challenges arising out of the lack of involvement from stakeholders in framing polices and in decision making; and lack of regulatory policies, in the sector of renewable energy, is hindering its pace of development. Specific resource assessments are needed in order to determine the market potential and should be the key research areas.

Future Perspectives

Solar energy in Oman is expected to become progressively cheaper in the near future and could be a best return for investments.  Its success is merely determined by the government’s regulatory policies, fiscal incentives and public financing.  The challenges that the solar industry faces are entering into a market that has essentially been dominated by oil industry. Subsidies and incentives should be provided by the government in the form of feed in tariffs so as to reassure a guaranteed price for electricity sold to the national grid by merging solar power technologies in power generation.

There is a dire need for political support for renewable energy to take its competition, economically, in the free market. Laws governing power generation regulation should provide more flexibility for renewables and should be incentive-oriented to attract the stake holders.  

A positive investment environment, strong property rights and low tax regimes, with established participation in the power sector from leading international firms, will certainly boost solar energy applications. The country needs to develop clear strategic plans for future in the development of solar energy. If a quick and appropriate regulatory framework is not accelerated, neighboring countries, such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), would take the benefits of becoming regional revolutionary leaders in the use of solar energy.

Parting Shot

With its strong solar resources and existing universities, Oman has an opportunity to pioneer professional demonstration and monitoring capability as an international technology provider and take an active role to establish advanced professional skills base in science and engineering and expand its arenas in modern solar-efficient architecture and energy management.

But the question still remains: Can the solar power bring about a revolutionary change to power most of Oman?

References

http://esatjournals.net/ijret/2013v02/i07/IJRET20130207029.pdf – Volume: 02 Issue: 07 | Jul-2013, Available @ http://www.ijret.org

https://www.y-oman.com/2016/04/watts-up/

Airports: Viable Places for Green Initiatives

Bahrain-airportCan airports ever be green? This is an overwhelming concept in a carbon-driven, and carbon-intensive industry. The reality is that air travel is often the only realistic option for the movement of both people and cargo in the current lifestyle and demands encompassed with time constraints. This is especially critical for the island nation of Bahrain that is so heavily dependent on air travel in terms of food security. With over 90% of all goods: perishable and manufactured, imported into the nation, this carbon-intensive industry is not going to disappear.

Airports themselves, may only contribute 5% to the carbon emissions attributed to the aviation industry, never the less, airport infrastructure could ensure a lowering of emissions, especially nitrogen oxide levels [1]. The International Air Transportation Association (IATA) has statistical evidence of improved fuel efficiency and better CO2 performance over the past 15 years[1]. It is viable for airports to reduce the nitrogen oxide levels around airports by developing ground transportation infrastructure for transferring passengers and deploying employees across the airport terminals, ground handling of personal baggage and commercial cargo, as well as the catering services, in a more eco-friendly mode of transportation.

Scope for Green Airports

Airports are viable places for adoption of green initiatives. A significant portion of the emissions are from vehicle transportation onsite at the airport is from moving employees and passengers between terminals and aircraft carriers. Plus all the freight movement, personal baggage and inflight catering and servicing. To secure adequate food products for Bahrain, the greater part of all food produce that is available on the market (93%) is flown in on a daily basis. The dependency on aviation is long-term but the ground handling is an option for energy efficient initiatives.

There is an opportunity to move from fossil fuel vehicles to those running on clean such as hybrid, electric, bioethanol, biogas or hydrogen-fueled vehicles. As road transportation is a major contributor of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, greener, cleaner vehicles are a desirable consideration for protecting a fragile environment.

Role of Environmental Awareness

Greater awareness of renewable energy sources is necessary before developers can even start to appeal to the business sector to adopt viable alternatives of transportation energy. New airport development and expansion projects need to assess the feasibility of alternative mode of transportation which in turn will require electrical charging locations as well as hydrogen filling stations [2]. This can also be marketed to eco-friendly rental companies to avail themselves of green initiatives.

Freight and delivery corporation could also avail themselves of alternative power sources as petrol subsides are reduced over the coming years. Ultimately, sustainable energy sources will become more attractive. Together, a sustainable transportation model along with other sustainable life-cycle models will all help reduce the carbon footprint of the airport industry.

Airports are considered ideal sites for promoting electricity-powered vehicles because one has a captive audience. If the options are already determined for the clients, the clients experience the use of electric cars in a win-win situation.

Rapid Increase in Passenger Flow

During the month of November, 2016, almost 674,000 passengers passed through the Bahrain airport [3]. There was over 8,500 total aircraft movement and almost 20,000 pieces of cargo and mail in the 30 day period. (Data source: Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications). Based on the November data, the numbers could be extrapolated out for a 12-month period with over 8 million passengers per year, over 100,000 total aircraft movement and 240,000 pieces of cargo and mail.

Similar information based on the official Airport Councils International (ACI) statistics from the World Airport Traffic Reports for the 10-year period from 2005 to 2015 [3]. The reports indicate a yearly average of 7.8 million passengers with over 95,350  total aircraft movements and over 304,000 metric tons of cargo. The steady increase in usage of airport facilities [4] is driving the modernization plans for the Bahrain International Airport to be designed for an annual passenger flow of 14 million persons [5].

Heathrow Airport – An Upcoming Role Model

Heathrow Airport in London handles more than 76 million passengers each year. Heathrow is already conducting trials for electric buses and personal electric cars, as part of a sustainable model, which requires a major input for developing recharging infrastructure. Such a large airport in the heart of a metropolitan centre has the advantage of a well developed public transportation infrastructure.

Electric vehicles at Heathrow Aiport

Electric vehicles at Heathrow Aiport

Both travelers and employees use the public transport systems which allows the advanced planning in other sustainable green technology for other transportation systems. Passenger car parks as well as company car parks have charging points for electric cars. The airport strategic plan is to have all cars and vans electric rather than fossil fuel powered by 2020.

Perspectives for Bahrain

Aviation transportation is vital for Bahrain’s survival and daily operations. Therefore, a eco-friendly infrastructure is a viable option for implementing green technology in the form of onsite transportation. However, the modernization of the Bahrain International Airport has limited its eco-friendly inclusion to ground service equipment such as the transformer substations, pre-conditioned air systems and pop-up units and the 400Hz power supply system all contracted to Cavotec Middle East [5].

This is one step towards achieving the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) decision to implement a global carbon offset for the aviation industry. It would be great to see the Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications reach out to other green initiatives for the modernization of the national airport.

 

References

1. Can airports be green? http://www.airport-technology.com/features/feature100283/

2. How airports uniquely placed to boost the adoption of electric cars. https://www.theguardian.com/heathrow-sustainable-mobility-zone/2016/nov/21/airports-uniquely-placed-boost-adoption-electric-cars-emissions-reduction?CMP=ema-1706&CMP=

3. Airports Council International, World Airport Traffic Reports, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2020, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015. Traffic by Calendar Year, Official ACI Statistics. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahrain_International_Airport

4. Bahrain International Airport witnesses a 25% increase in passenger movement http://www.mtt.gov.bh//press-centre/press-releases/210914

5. New Passenger Terminal Building, Bahrain International Airport, Manama, Bahrain http://www.airport-technology.com/projects/new-passenger-terminal-building-bahrain-international-airport-manama/

Saudi Arabia’s Road to Fuel Economy

Saudi Arabia is a private car-oriented society, and has one of the world’s highest per capita fuel consumption in the transportation sector. This is primarily due to lack of efficient public transportation and current fuel subsidy policy. The country is witnessing an escalating demand on its domestic energy needs and it is imperative on policymakers to devise policies for conservation of energy resources and reduction of GHGs emissions in the transportation sector. Adapting energy-efficient fuel standards will help Saudi Arabia country to bridge the gap with the developed countries. The enforcement mechanism for the establishment of Saudi fuel economy standards will lead to achievement of strategic energy conservation objectives.

Energy intensity in Saudi Arabia has set high records reflecting the growth of the economy and the increasing demand on fossil energy in the domestic use and heavy industries operations. Energy intensity in the Kingdom was twice the world average in 2010 and with unbalanced growth between energy use and economy, this should rang the bell for the Saudi government to adapt a bundle of energy policies that curtail the increasing growth of energy demand domestically.

CAFE Standards

Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency standard (CAFE) was first enacted after the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 in the USA. That policy was due to energy security concerns and environmental objectives. The USA current standard is 27.5 mpg for passenger’s vehicle and 20.7mpg for light trucks. Similarly to the USA CAFE objectives, the Kingdom approach is to reduce gasoline consumption and induce conservation and increasing efficiency of the light-duty vehicles (LDV).The proposed standard mandates require that all new and used passenger vehicles and light trucks either imported or locally manufacture should comply with new fuel standards. The framework for this law to be effective will start by January 1, 2016 and fully phased out by December 31, 2025. The Saudi Energy Efficiency Center (SEEC) and other entities including the Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization, Saudi Customs, and Ministry of Commerce and Industry have been asked to monitor the implementation of the CAFE standards.

The purpose of the fuel standards is to commit the light-duty vehicle manufactures sell their cars in the kingdom and comply with the Saudi CAFE. This standard has a double dividends from the automobile manufacturer side its incentivize them to introduce the up-to-date efficiency technologies and cut the supply the low-efficient technologies to the Saudi market. The Saudi CAFE standard targets an improving in the overall fuel economy with an average of 4% annually. This would lift up the Kingdom’s fuel economy LDVs from its current level of 12 km per liter to 19 km per liter by 2025.

The Saudi CAFE standard shows a focused strategy to setting long-term standards over the course of a given time frame and its committed efforts to manage both newly imported or used LDVs. According to Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman al-Saud, the Saudi transportation sector consumes about 23 percent of the total energy in the kingdom and about 12 million vehicles consume about 811,000 barrels of gasoline and diesel per day. Moreover, there are 7 LDVs entering the market every year with a forecast to reach 20 million by 2030.

Conclusion

Saudi Arabia’s CAFE standard is a means to stimulate energy efficiency and encourage resource conservation and contribute to the environment. This will enable consumers to save money, reduce fossil fuel consumption and strengthen the Kingdom’s role in the fight against climate change.

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Energy Conservation in Bahrain

bahrain-energyBahrain has one of the highest energy consumption rates in the world. The country uses almost three times more energy per person than the world average. Based on 2014 statistics, the country consumes 11,500 kWh of energy per capita compared with the global average of 3,030 kWh. The country is witnessing high population growth rate, rapid urbanization, industrialization and commercialization with more visitors coming in, causing fast growing domestic energy demand and is posing a major challenge for energy security.

The Government is aware of this challenging task and is continuously planning and implementing projects to enhance the energy production to meet with the growing demand. The issue of efficient use of energy, its conservation and sustainability, use of renewable and non-renewable resources is becoming more important to us. The increasing temperatures and warming on the other hand are also causing more need of air-conditioning and use of electrical appliances along with water usage for domestic and industrial purposes. This phenomenon is continuing in Bahrain and other GCC countries since past two decades with high annual electricity and water consumption rates compared with the rest of the world.

Bahrain’s energy requirement is forecast to more than double from the current energy use. The peak system demand will rise from 3,441 MW to around 8,000 MW. While the concerned authorities are planning for induction of more sustainable renewable energy initiatives, we need to understand the energy consumption scenario in terms of costs. With the prices of electricity and water going up again from March 2017 again, it is imperative that we as consumers need to think and adopt small actions and utilize practices that can conserve energy and ultimately cost.

The country has already embarked on the Energy Efficiency Implementation Program to address the challenge of curbing energy demand in the country over the next years. The National Energy Efficiency Action Plan and the National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) have already been endorsed. The NREAP aims to achieve long-term sustainability for the energy sector by proposing to increase the share of renewable energy to 5 percent by 2020 and 10 percent by 2030.

Per capita energy consumption in Bahrain is among the highest worldwide

Per capita energy conservation in Bahrain is among the highest worldwide

As individuals, we need to audit how much energy we are using and how we can minimize our usage and conserve it. Whenever we save energy, we not only save money, but also reduce the demand for such fossil fuels as coal, oil, and natural gas. Less burning of fossil fuels also means lower emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary contributor to global warming, and other pollutants. Energy needs to be conserved not only to cut costs but also to preserve the resources for longer use.

Here are few energy conservation tips we need to follow and adopt:

  • Turning off the lights, electrical and electronic gadgets when not in use.
  • Utilizing energy efficient appliances like LED lights, air conditioners, freezers and washing machines.
  • Service, clean or replace AC filters as recommended.
  • Utilizing normal water for washing machine. Use washing machine and dish washer only when the load is full. Avoid using the dryer with long cycles.
  • Select the most energy-efficient models when replacing your old appliances.
  • Buy the product that is sized to your actual needs and not the largest one available.
  • Turn off AC in unoccupied rooms and try to keep the room cool by keeping the curtains.
  • Make maximum use of sunlight during the day.
  • Water heaters/ Geysers consume a lot of energy. Use them to heat only the amount of water that is required.
  • Unplug electronic devices and chargers when they are not in use. Most new electronics use electricity even when switched off.
  • Allow hot food to cool off before putting it in the refrigerator

Water-Energy Nexus in the UAE

desalination-plant-uaeThe United Arab Emirates has been witnessing fast-paced economic growth as well as rapid increase in population during the last couple of decades. As a result, the need for water and energy has increased significantly and this trend is expected to continue into the future. Water in the UAE comes from four different sources – ground water (44%), desalinated seawater (42%), treated wastewater (14%), and surface water (1%). Most of the ground water and treated seawater are used for irrigation and landscaping while desalinated seawater is used for drinking, household, industrial, and commercial purposes.

Water consumption per capita in UAE is more than 500 liters per day which is amongst the highest worldwide. UAE is ranked 163 among 172 countries in the world in total renewable water resources (Wikipedia 2016). In short, UAE is expected to be amongst extremely water stressed countries in 2040 (World Resources Institute 2015).

To address this, utilities have built massive desalination plants and pipelines to treat and pump seawater over large distances. Desalinated water consumption in UAE increased from 199,230 MIG in 2003 to 373,483 MIG in 2013 (Ministry of Energy 2014). In 2008, 89% of desalinated seawater in UAE came from thermal desalination plants and most of them are installed at combined cycle electric power plants (Lattemann and Höpner 2008). Desalination is energy as well capital intensive process. Pumping desalinated seawater from desalination plants to cities is also an expensive proposition.

Electrical energy consumption in UAE doubled from 48,155 GWh in 2003 to 105,363 GWh in 2013. In 2013, UAE has the highest 10th electricity use per capita in the world (The World Bank 2014). Electricity in UAE is generated by fossil-fuel-fired thermoelectric power plants. Generation of electricity in that way requires large volumes of water to mine fossil fuels, to remove pollutants from power plants exhaust, generate steam that turns steam turbines, to cool down power plants, and flushing away residue after burning fossil fuels (IEEE Spectrum 2011).

Water production in UAE requires energy and energy generation in UAE requires water. So there is strong link between water and energy in UAE. The link between water and electricity production further complicates the water-energy supply in UAE, especially in winter when energy load drops significantly thus forcing power plants to work far from optimum points.

Several projects have been carried out in UAE to reduce water and energy intensity. Currently, the use of non-traditional water resources is limited to minor water reuse/recycling in UAE. Masdar Institute launched recently a new program to develop desalination technology that is powered by renewable energy (Masdar 2013).

Water-energy nexus in the UAE should be resilient and adaptive

Water-energy nexus in the UAE should be resilient and adaptive

Despite their interdependencies, water-energy nexus is not given due importance in the UAE. Currently, water systems in the UAE are vulnerable and not resilient to even small water and energy shortages. To solve this problem, water-energy nexus in UAE should be resilient and adaptive. Thus, there is a need to develop and demonstrate a new methodology that addresses water and energy use and supply in UAE cities in an integrated way leading to synergistic type benefits and improved water and energy security. Modern, cutting-edge science and engineering methods should be used with the goal of developing a robust framework that can identifying suitable future development scenarios, selection criteria and intervention options resulting in more reliable, resilient and sustainable water and energy use.

References

IEEE Spectrum. How Much Water Does It Take to Make Electricity? 2011. http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/environment/how-much-water-does-it-take-to-make-electricity (accessed December 6, 2016).

Lattemann, Sabine, and Thomas Höpner. "Environmental impact and impact assessment of seawater desalination." Desalination, 2008: 1-15.

Masdar. Renewable Energy Desalination Pilot Programme. 2013. http://www.masdar.ae/en/energy/detail/renewable-energy-water-desalination-in-uae (accessed 12 7, 2016).

Ministry of Energy. Statistical Data for Electricity and Water 2013-2014. Abu Dhabi, 2014.

The World Bank. n.d. http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-arab-emirates?view=chart (accessed December 6, 2016).

The World Bank. Electric power consumption (kWh per capita). 2014. http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EG.USE.ELEC.KH.PC?year_high_desc=true (accessed December 7, 2016).

Wikipedia. List of countries by total renewable water resources. 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_total_renewable_water_resources (accessed December 6, 2016).

World Resources Institute. Ranking the World’s Most Water-Stressed Countries in 2040. 2015. http://www.wri.org/blog/2015/08/ranking-world’s-most-water-stressed-countries-2040 (accessed December 6, 2016).

الذروة النفطية…..بين النظرية و الواقع

 

يعد النفط اليوم من أهم مصادر توليد الطاقة في العالم، بالطبع بعد اليورانيوم، وقد تم وضع الكثير من المواد تحت التجربة لتكون بديلآ للنفط و لكن لم تتك بالنجاح إلى يومنا هذا.و السبب الرئيس لذلك هو فقدانها الكثافة التي يتمتع بها النفط، فضلا عن أنها لا تحقق معدلات العائد التي يحققها الإستثمار في إستكشاف وإنتاج النفط،. وهناك أيضآ أبحاث علمية تشير إلى أن العالم مقدم على كارثة إذا لم يتوصل لمصدر بديل له، حيث لا يمكن للإقتصاد العالمي أن ينمو حاليآ بدون وجود كميات كافية من الطاقة تتماشى مع إحتياجات هذا النمو. وتتزايد النقاشات اليوم أكثر من أي وقت مضى بأن العالم بدأ بالفعل بالإقتراب من مرحلة الذروة النفطية.

الذروة النفطية هي مصطلح اخترعه عالم الجيولوجيا الأمريكي الشهير كينج هوبرت في خمسينات القرن الماضي. والذي استطاع ان يتنبأ بالذروة النفطية في بعض المناطق من الولايات المتحدة و التي ستكون في السبعينات. و بالفعل حصل بالضبط ما تنبآ به هذا العالم. فعندما تبلغ عملية استخراج النفط لمستوياتها القصوى، تأخذ في التراجع و تنتهي تدريجيآ. فالنفط يعتبر مورد ناضب أو كما يقال غير متجدد.

فهذه النظرية تؤكد أن الإنتاج العالمي من النفط وصل الي ذروته اليوم وأنه آخذ في الإنخفاض لامحالة بعد أن أستهلك العالم نحو 50 في المائة من احتياطياته النفطية. فهذا يؤكد أن النفط قد يشارف على الإنتهاء إذا لم يتم وضع خطط واضحة و صارمة في ترشيد استهلاكه و كذلك  الحث على إستخدام هذا المخزون الإحتياطي بالطرق المثلى. ولكن هذه النظرية لا تجد قبولاً لدى العديد و الذين يشيرون دائما إلى أن مخزون الأرض من النفط كبير جداً ويحتاج فقط إلى استثمارات للتنقيب.

تعتبر المملكة العربية السعودية من أعلى دول العالم تصديرآ للنفط, و الوحيدة القادرة عبر مخزونها الإحتياطي في ضبط و موازنة سوق النفط العالمي. و قدر هذا المخزون ب265.4 مليار برميل أي ما يكفي عند مستوى الانتاج الحالي لأكثر من 72 عاماً. و حسب التقارير الصادرة عن أرامكو فإن هناك حوالي تريليون برميل سيكتشف في المستقبل و الذي سيلبي إحتياجات العالم رغم الإستهلاك الحالي لمدة قرن واحد.

فاليوم تركزالدولة حاليآ جهودها في تنقيب وإستخراج الغاز الطبيعي, حيث أنها لا تستورد الغاز الطبيعي و لكن تعتمد على الإنتاج المحلي له. و بجانب ذلك تقوم المملكة حاليآ بتكثيف استثماراتها الضخمة في مجال الطاقة الشمسية و النووية أيضآ.

ولكن هل يعتمد على الغاز الطبيعي و الطاقة المتجددة كبديلآ عن النفط في تلبية الإحتياجات المحلية للسعودية و التي هي في تزايد ملحوظ كل يوم؟ حيث أن معدل الإستهلاك المحلي في السعودية بلغ في عام 2011 أعلى مستوياته مقارنة بالدول الصناعية, و سجل إستهلاك الكهرباء في المنازل السكنية و المباني النصيب الأكبر منه.

فهل بالفعل أن ذروة النفط قد حان أوانها؟ و إذا ليس اليوم, فمتى؟ و كيف ستكون ملامحها خصوصآ على الدول المعتمدة كليآ على النفط؟ هل ستكون عواقبها متفاوتة سواء على الدول المتقدمة و الغير متقدمة؟  حيث أن الطلب العالمي عليه سيرتفع إلى ذروة تبلغ 110 ملايين برميل يوميا في وقت ما بعد 2020 على أقصى تقدير. أعتقد أن الوقت قد حان لكي يبدأ العالم بالتخطيط لما بعد عصر النفط.

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Water-Energy Nexus in Arab Countries

Amongst the most important inter-dependencies in the Arab countries is the water-energy nexus, where all the socio-economic development sectors rely on the sustainable provision of these two resources. In addition to their central and strategic importance to the region, these two resources are strongly interrelated and becoming increasingly inextricably linked as the water scarcity in the region increases.  In the water value chain, energy is required in all segments; energy is used in almost every stage of the water cycle: extracting groundwater, feeding desalination plants with its raw sea/brackish waters and producing freshwater, pumping, conveying, and distributing freshwater, collecting wastewater and treatment and reuse.  In other words, without energy, mainly in the form of electricity, water availability, delivery systems, and human welfare will not function.

It is estimated that in most of the Arab countries, the water cycle demands at least 15% of national electricity consumption and it is continuously on the rise. On the other hand, though less in intensity, water is also needed for energy production through hydroelectric schemes (hydropower) and through desalination (Co-generation Power Desalting Plants (CPDP)), for electricity generation and for cooling purposes, and for energy exploration, production, refining and enhanced oil recovery processes, in addition to many other applications.

The scarcity of fresh water in the region promoted and intensified the technology of desalination and combined co-production of electricity and water, especially in the GCC countries. Desalination, particularly CPDPs, is an energy-intensive process. Given the large market size and the strategic role of desalination in the Arab region, the installation of new capacities will increase the overall energy consumption. As energy production is mainly based on fossil-fuels and this source is limited, it is clear that development of renewable energies to power desalination plants is needed. Meanwhile, to address concerns about carbon emissions, Arab governments should link any future expansion in desalination capacity to investments in abundantly available renewable sources of energy.

There is an urgent need for cooperation among the Arab Countries to enhance coordination and investment in R&D in desalination and treatment technologies.  Acquiring and localizing these technologies will help in reducing their cost, increasing their reliability as a water source, increasing their added value to the countries’ economies, and in reducing their environmental impacts. Special attention should be paid to renewable and environmentally safe energy sources, of which the most important is solar, which can have enormous potential as most of the Arab region is located within the “sun belt” of the world.

Despite the strong relation, the water-energy nexus and their interrelation has not been fully addressed or considered in the planning and management of both resources in many Arab countries. However, with increasing water scarcity, many Arab countries have started to realize the growing importance of the nexus and it has now become a focal point of interest, both in terms of problem definition and in searching for trans-disciplinary and trans-sectoral solutions.

There is an obvious scarcity of scientific research and studies in the field of water-energy nexus and the interdependencies between these two resources and their mutual values, which is leading to a knowledge gap on the nexus in the region.  Moreover, with climate change deeply embedded within the water energy nexus issue, scientific research on the nexus needs to be associated with the future impacts of climate change.  Research institutes and universities need to be encouraged to direct their academic and research programs towards understanding the nexus and their interdependencies and inter-linkages. Without the availability of such researches and studies, the nexus challenges cannot be faced and solved effectively, nor can these challenges be converted into opportunities in issues such as increasing water and energy use efficiency, informing technology choices, increasing water and energy policy coherence, and examining the water-energy security nexus.

References
1. Siddiqi, A., and Anadon, L. D. 2011. The water-energy nexus in Middle East and North Afirca. Energy policy (2011) doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2011.04.023. 
2. Khatib, H. 2010. The Water and Energy Nexus in the Arab Region. League of Arab States, Cairo.
3. Haering, M., and Hamhaber, J. 2011. A double burden? Reflections on the Water-energy-nexus in the MENA region. In: Proceedings of the of the First Amman-Cologne Symposium 2011, The Water and Energy Nexus. Institute of Technology and resources Management in the Tropics and Subtropics, 2011, p. 7-9. Available online: http://iwrm-master.web.fh-koeln.de/?page_id=594.

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Effective Energy Management for Businesses

energy-management-middle-east-businessesMiddle East has been witnessing a rapid increase in energy consumption due to high degree of industrialization, high standards of living and exponential increase in population. Infact, the level of primary energy consumption in the Middle East is among the highest worldwide.  These factors have made businesses in Middle East to realize that effective energy management is not only good for the businesses but also an essential requirement.

In recent years, many businesses in the Middle East have come up with dynamic strategies to achieve immediate reduction in energy consumption. This trend towards effective energy management is expected to continue to grow in the region in the coming years on account on changing regulations and growing awareness on energy conservation.

Ingredients of Effective Energy Management Plan

For an energy management plan to succeed, the entire organization including its employees and management team, should be committed to the implementation of energy management strategy whose main elements are:

  • Goal-setting: how much energy reduction do you want to achieve?
  • Number-crunching: how much energy do you consume?
  • Identifying energy-guzzlers: What are major consumption units and what measures can be taken to reduce consumption
  • Technology and automation: Smart metering, schedule-based lighting, occupancy sensors, HVAC control and latest technological innovation provides an active approach to energy management
  • Continuous review and management: Regular performance monitoring is essential to check the progress towards your energy-saving goals. 

Hurdles to Overcome

​Lack of incentives to reduce energy consumption is a major hurdle faced by businesses in the Middle East. In the GCC region, electricity is usually provided at heavily subsidized rates which fail to provide the motivation to the consumer to reduce energy consumption. Most of the commercial buildings in the Middle East consume huge amount of energy in the form of HVAC, lighting, ventilation etc., and there is a real need to make such buildings ‘ energy smart’ in the real sense of the word.

An energy smart building - Siemens headquarters at Masdar

An energy smart building – Siemens headquarters at Masdar

Role of Technology

Technology plays a vital role in reducing energy consumption as energy-savings are not limited to power consumption by HVAC, lighting or ventilations, but also encompass optimization of energy use, building infrastructure, supply chain networks, product design, transportation networks etc. Businesses in the Middle East may strive for energy-smart buildings, smart grid systems and renewable energy sources (like rooptop solar and biogas systems) to improve their long-term sustainability and more effective cost-management.

Energy Outlook for the Middle East

There are several problems confronting the world with respect to its fossil fuels-based energy supply. The first problem relates to the ever-increasing use of fast-depleting conventional sources of energy, like petroleum, coal and natural gas. The contribution of fossil fuels in global energy supplies is above 80 percent. Energy demand will certainly increase manifolds during this century due to industrial and developmental activities as burgeoning world population.

Global Trends

The concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere is rising rapidly with use of fossil fuels leading to increasing emission of carbon dioxide which is having a detrimental effect on the climate. Another important issue is the security and stability of energy supply. Most of the fossil fuel reserves are concentrated in politically unstable regions, and increasing the diversity in energy sources is important for many nations to secure a reliable and constant supply of energy.

Energy trends in emerging economies are of global environmental concern as these countries are important contributors to greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel use and industrial activities. Deforestation and the emission of other greenhouse gases, such as methane and NOx, further raise the share of developing countries in total global GHGs gas emissions. Although per capita levels of greenhouse emissions from energy use are much lower in developing industrial countries, rapid population and economic growth will increase their share of total emissions. The magnitude of these problems underlines the need for improving the efficiency of energy systems and fast-paced development of the renewable energy sector in such countries.

Energy Outlook for the Middle East

Energy use in the Middle East has increased manifolds over the past few decades and will continue its rapid ascent rapidly in the future. The increase in the services that energy provides is necessary and desirable, since energy services are essential for economic growth, improved living standards, and community development applications.

The fast economic growth in the Middle East puts onus on regional powers to devise new energy solutions and establish new and innovative sustainable energy trends. The energy demand in this region will grow rapidly which will have a profound impact on the global energy market. In addition, the region has many locations with high population density, which makes public health vulnerable to the pollution caused by fossil fuels.

Due to the rising share of GHG emissions from the Middle East, it is imperative on all regional countries to promote sustainable energy to significantly reduce GHGs emissions and foster dynamic economic growth. Rising proportion of greenhouse gas emissions from the region’s energy consumption is causing ecological degradation which may further deteriorate environmental sustainability in the region and globally. The adverse impacts of economic and ecological vulnerability would have profound implications for social inclusiveness, as the burden is being unevenly distributed among the countries in the region.

Energy scenarios for the 21st century are shifting away from fossil fuels and towards renewable and sustainable sources of energy. The potential role of alternative energy technologies in transforming Middle East energy outlook and addressing climate change concerns is enormous. Renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, biomass, hydropower, and geothermal can provide sustainable energy, based on a host of readily available, indigenous resources that result in very low emissions of greenhouse gases.

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استخراج الوقود من النفايات – وسيلة لتحويل القمامة إلى كنز

لقد أدى ارتفاع معدل النمو السكاني والتوسع العمراني والازدهار الاقتصادي في الشرق الأوسط إلى تسريع معدلات الاستهلاك وزيادة معدل إنتاج النفايات بجميع أنواع؛ حيث تحتل كل من البحرين والسعودية والإمارات العربية المتحدة وقطر والكويت المراتب العشر الأولى في العالم من حيث نصيب الفرد من توليد النفايات الصلبة. وقد تعدت كمية توليد النفايات الصلبة الإجمالية في دول الشرق الأوسط 150 مليون طن سنوياً. أصبح خفض حجم وكتلة النفايات قضية حاسمة نظراً لمحدودية توفر مواقع التخلص من النفايات. هنالك، ولا شك، حاجة واضحة للحد وإعادة استخدام وإعادة تدوير النفايات، ولكن في اللآونة الأخيرة، بدأت عملية تحويل النفايات إلى وقود تكتسب أهمية كوسيلة بديلة لإدارة النفايات.

يتم التخلص من الغالبية العظمى من النفايات في الحقول المفتوحة والمكبات التي  تتسبب في انبعاث غاز الميثان والذي يساهم في ظاهرة الدفيئة العالمية، حيث أن أثر كل طن واحد من الميثان يساوي عشرين ضعف أثر طن واحد من ثاني أكسيد الكربون. فلذلك تتجه الدول إلى تقليص المكبات وإعادة استخدام جميع النفايات بطريقة أو بأخرى، منها التدوير والوقد والزبل العضوي بحيث لا يتبقى شيء لملء المكبات.

يعتقد العديد أن الممارسة الأفضل في استخدام الوقود أو الغاز هو إنتاج الكهرباء، ولكن ذلك غير صحيح لأن إنتاج الكهرباء عادة ما يتم بكفاءة  40-50% و يعتبرالباقي فاقداً حرارياً. أما الفائدة الكبرى هي في استخدامات الوقود المشتق من النفايات، والذي يمكن حرقه بطريقة بيئية حيث يتم استغلال جميع السعرات الحرارية  بأفضل كفاءة ممكنة.

يستخدم الوقود المشتق من النفايات في مصدر المنشأ لأنه متاح بسهولة ليتم استعماله في تغطية احتياجات الحرارة والطاقة. ويستمد معظم هذا الوقود من عملية الإنتاج في الموقع ويستخدم بتكلفة قليلة أو معدومة، وبذلك يخفض تكاليف الوقود الإجمالية حيث أنه يستبدل الوقود الأحفوري. يقلل استعمال وقود النفايات الصلبة أيضاً من حجم النفايات اللازم التخلص منها، ويخفض من تكلفة التخلص على المصنعين.

 تستخدم صناعات الخشب والورق والمواد الكيميائية والنفط ومنتجات الفحم والبلاستيك والإسمنت كلها الوقود المستخرج من النفايات، بما فيها الزيوت والقطران ونفايات الورق، وأي شيء آخر يمكن استخدامه لتوفير الحرارة والكهرباء في المنشأة الصناعية. على سبيل المثال، يستخدم في صناعة الأسمنت مجموعة متنوعة من النفايات لتوفير الحرارة للأفران، بما في ذلك الإطارات القديمة، والنفايات البلدية الصلبة، والأقمشة الخردة، والدهانات، والأحبار، والمواد المتعارف عليها بـ RDF.Refuse Derived Fuel وقود (RDF) هو الوقود الذي ينتج عن عملية تمزيق وتجفيف النفايات الصلبة، ويتكون إلى حد كبير من مكونات قابلة للاحتراق مثل البلاستيك والنفايات القابلة للتحلل.

أما بالنسبة للنفايات البلاستيكية، فإنها تشكل تحدياً بيئياً هاماً في الشرق الأوسط، حيث أنها في تزايد مستمر بسبب استخدامها في شتى مجالات الحياة واعتمادنا عليها اعتماداً كلياً في الصتاعات المختلفة وتكنولوجياتها الحديثة المتقدمة. إن منطقة الشرق الأوسط مسؤولة عن حوالي 8% من الإنتاج العالمي من البلاستيك، علماً بأنه يتم تدوير حوالي 25% فقط من إجمالي كمية نفايات المواد البلاستيكية عالمياً. ومن الجدير بالذكر أن بعض النفايات البلاستيكية لا ينتهي بها الأمر في المكبات، بل تجد طريقها إلى الشواطئ والبحار حيث تلحق أضراراً جسيمة  بالحياة البحرية.

نظراً للاهتمام العالمي المتزايد بالبيئة ، لقد لجأ كثير من الباحثين في مختلف دول العالم إلى تحويل النفايات البلاستيكية إلى زيت بترول مرة أخرى، واستخراج الجازولين والكيروسين والزيوت البترولية منه واستعمالها كوقود لإدارة المحركات، وذلك من خلال عمليات التحلل الحراري للنفايات البلاستيكية. ولقد اهتمت اليابان بتلك التقنية، وكذلك الهند، والصين، وكوريا، ودول شمال شرق آسيا.

لم يعد تخليص العالم من النفايات ضرباً من ضروب الخيال، فبفضل تطور البحث العلمي والتكنولوجيات، أصبح بإمكاننا الاستفادة من النفايات بدلاً من التخلص منها في المكبات التي ما زالت في توسع مستمر. ونظراً لتمتع منطقة الشرق الأوسط بموارد غنية من الكتلة الحيوية والتي تتضمن النفايات البلدية الصلبة ومخلفات المحاصيل والنفايات الزراعية والصناعية، فإنها تشكل سوقاً محتملاً لتحويل النفايات إلى وقود. إن المواد التي كانت تعتبر قمامة لا تزال توفر ما بعد انتهاء عمرها المفيد موارد طاقة قيمة، قادرة على حل مشاكل متعددة في آن واحد، فمن كان يعلم أن القمامة يمكن أن تتحول إلى كنز؟

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مقدمة عن زراعه الاسطح الخضراء

تعتبر زراعه الاسطح من التكنولوجيا التي توفر مجموعة كبيرة من الفوائد الملموسه وغير الملموسه للمجتمعات المهتمة بتحسين وتعزيز بيئة جيدة.للأسقف الخضراء فوائد عديدة فهي تعمل على تنظيم حرارة المبنى ,فتقوم بتدفئته خلال الشتاء و تبريده خلال الصيف كما تساهم فى تقليل مياه الامطار المتسربة من الاسطح، ذلك لأنها تعمل كإسفنجة ماصة للمياه و في الوقت نفسه تستفيد النباتات من هذه المياه.

 كما تقوم الأسقف الخضراء على تقليل التلوث حيث تعمل كفلتر لتنقية الهواء. ومن فوائد الأسقف الخضراء قيامها  بدور هام فى تقليل الضوضاء و التى تعتبر من مشاكل العصر الحديث خاصة فى المدن. كما يجب ان لا  ننسى أن للأسقف الخضراء فوائد اقتصادية عديدة فهى تزيد من عمر المباني حيث تعمل كعازل حراري بحجبها أشعة الشمس عن أسطح المبانى كما تقلل من تكاليف تكييف الهواء خلال الصيف و التدفئة خلال الشتاء.

ما هي الاسطح الخضراء

النظم المستخدمة لزراعة أسطح المباني يجب ان تكون نظاماً خفيف الوزن لا يسبب حمولة زائدة علي المبني، كذلك يجب ان لا يحدث تسريب للمياه من النظام لسطح المبنى حتى يتم الحفاظ على المبنى بصورة جيدة ولفترة طويلة. و قد وجد أن الزراعة بدون تربة بأنظمتها المختلفة وأشكالها المتنوعة هي الاسلوب الامثل لزراعة السطح.

الاسطح الخضراء ممكن ان تتكون من اشجار, نباتات او شجيرات. وعمق وكثافه الطبقة المنبته للزراعه تنقسم الي نوعين مختلفين.

فالاسطح الخضراء ممكن ان تكون مكثفة او قليله الكثافة علي نطاق واسع. فالاسقف المكثفة تكون اكثر سمكا (اكثر من 15 سم عمق), وهي سماكة تسمح لنمو مجموعه متنوعه من النباتات والاشجار والشجيرات. ولكنها ثقيله علي السطح ومكلفه اكثر, وتتطلب المزيد من الصيانة والري.

والنوع الاخر يغطي طبقة خفيفة من الغطاء النباتي وذات سماكة اقل من 15 سم. وهي مخصصه للشجيرات والاعشاب التي لا تتطلب عمق كبير داخل التربة للنمو.

يستخدم نظام ترابيزات المراقد لانتاج المحاصيل التي لا تحتاج إلى حيز كبير لنمو جذور النباتات  مثل  المحاصيل  الورقية  كالجرجير،  الفجل،  البقدونس،  الكسبرة  والشبت.  كذلك يمكن باستخدام هذا النظام زراعة العديد من النباتات الطبية والعطرية والتي تستخدم في البيوت بكثرة كالنعناع، الزعتر، الريحان, وغيرهم.  

والاسطح الخضراء علي مساحات واسعه وكثافه بسيطة يتم صيانتها مرتين سنويا عندما تحتاج التربه للترطيب والتسميد, فلها ميزة ان استدامتها ذاتية .

بيئة الزراعة المستخدمة

يجب ان تتوافر في بيئة الزراعة المستخدمة فوق الاسطح عدة مواصفات يمكن ان تلخص بما يلي :

1.      ان توفر البيئة الرطوبة اللازمة لنمو الجذور.

2.      ان توفر البيئة التهوية اللازمة لنمو الجذور.

3.      ان لا  تحتوي البيئة علي مواد ضارة او سامة.

4.      ان تكون البيئة خالية من المسببات المرضية.

5.      ان تكون البيئة خالية من الاملاح .  

6.      ان تكون البيئة خالية من بذور الحشائش.

7.      أن تكون البيئة خفيفة الوزن.

8.      أن تتميز البيئة بسهوله تنظيفها و تعقيمها.

9.      سهوله توفر البيئة, مع سهوله عمليات النقل.

10.  ان تكون تكلفه البيئة معتدلة.

ويوجد العديد من المواد التي يمكن استخدامها كبيئة للزراعه فوق الاسطح. وتنقسم الي قسمين رئيسين هما: بيئات عضوية مثل بيئة سرس الارز. او البيئات غير العضوية مثل بيئة البرليت. ويمكن ان تسنخدم البيئات السابقة بصورة منفردة او تخلط معا للوصول الي افضل توليفه تلائم النباتات المزروعه.

اما بالنسبة للاشكال المختلفة لنظم مزارع البيئات فوق الاسطح, فهناك نظام الترابيزات المراقد وتستخدم للنباتات التي لا تحتاج الي حيز كبير لنمو الجذور. نظام ترابيزات الاصص وتسنخدم للنباتات التي تحتاج الي  حيز كبير نسبيا حتي تنمو الجذور مثل الطماطم. وهناك نظام لانتاج بعض اشجار الفاكهة فوق الاسطح مثل البراميل سعه 60 لتر لانتاج بعض الاشجار مثل الليمون.

بسبب الحمل المنشأ من استخدام الاسطح الخضراء الكثيفه فانها تستخدم بشكل اكبر في المباني التجاريه. حيث ان المباني التجارية اكثر تحمل لكونها اقوي من الناحية الخرسانيه, فانها تستطيع تحميل الاوزان الزائدة عنها في المباني السكنية.

بمجرد تجهيز التربة ووضع النباتات المطلوبة وترطيب تربتها, فان السطح المزروع ممكن ان يزن 150 بوند/القدم المربع. ويراعي لخلق جو اخضر وطبيعي للزائريين. ان ييكون هناك اماكن جلوس, مناضد, كراسي وممرات. الامر الذي يخلق بيئة من الطبيعه والهدوء.

والاسطح الكثيفة ذات الاشجار الاكبر حجما تساعد اكثر من النباتات علي الهدوء والاستراخاء, وخلق بيئة قريبة من المتنزهات والحدائق.

وعلي جانب اخر فان الاسطح الاكثر انتشارا والاقل كثافة تكون افضل للمباني السكنية و المدارس. فهي سهله التركيب والصيانة وممكن ان تضاف الي المبني بعد بدء الاسكان بدون تخوف من الاحمال الزائدة. ايا كان نوع النباتات او الشجيرات المستخدمة فانه يمكن اضافة وزن 10-35 بوند/القدم المربع, لاجمالي أحمال السطح. الحشائش والنباتات غير المستهلكة لكثير من الماء من الانواع التي تجد استحسان للزراعة فوق السطح وذلك نظرا لاستخدامها القليل للماء وجذورها القصيرة.

 ومن أهم فوائد الاسطح الخضراء انها صالحة للمباني القديمة والحديثة.

 والانظمة المستخدمة للزراعه يمكن ان تكون وحدات بطبقة صرف وطبقة فلترة من القماش وطبقة انبات بنوع معين, وشبكة ري وصرف متشابكة. والنباتات المستخدمة والتي تكون مسبقة التجهيز خارجيا, البوتقات المستخدمة التي تكون منفصله عن النظام او مركبة جزء منه. وهذا النظام يسمح بتكوين النظام بشكل منفصل.

تختلق التقارير  التي توضح تكلفة النظام المتسع والاقل كثافه للتربه المستخدمة ليكن في المتوسط لزراعه النظام المتسع ما بين 8-20 دولار/ للقدم المربع. وبالنسبة للنظام الكثيف مابين 15-50 دولار/القدم المربع. وبالمقارنة للاسطح التقليدية المزروعه والتي تكون في المتوسط 16 دولار/القدم المربع وقد يعلو عن ذلك في التكلفة. ولكن بالرغم من ذلك فان ما توفره الاسطح الخضراء من فوائد بيئية وجمالية وصحية هي اكثر بكثير من التكلفه المتوقعه للتنفيذ.

فوائد الاسقف الخضراء

الاسطح الخضراء لديها القدرة علي خفض متطلبات الطاقة بطريقيتين:

امتصاص الحرارة واعتبارها عازل حراري للمبني. فاضافه طبقه من التربة والنباتات الي السطح يزيد طبقة العزل الحراري علي السطح. فالاسطح هي اكثر الامكان التي تفقد الحرارة الداخلية في الشتاء وتزيد سخونة المبني في الصيف. الاسطح الخضراء يمكن ان تقلل من كمية الطاقة اللازمة لتلطيف الحرارة داخل المبني وبالتالي الحد من متطلبات الطاقة والتي لها تاثير ايجابي علي نوعية الهواء وتخفيض نسبة تلوثه. كما ان الاسطح الخضراء ممكن ان تقلل من انبعاثات غازات الاحتباس الحراري وثلوث الهواء المرتبطة بزيادة نسبة ثاني اكسيد الكربون في الجو. وتعتبر محطات الطاقة والمعروف انها مسببة لانبعاثات ثاني اكسيد الكربون تكون الاسطح الخضراء حلا ايجابيا علي تقليل هذه الانبعاثات عن طريق تحويله الي اكسجين مما يساعد علي تحسين نوعية الهواء في البيئة المحيطة.    

 

ترجمه: هبة احمد مسلم- دكتور الهندسة البيئية. باحث في الشئون البيئية. معهد الدراسات والبحوث البيئيةجامعه عين شمس.

مدرس بالاكاديمية العربية للعلوم والتكنولوجيا والنقل البحري-  مصر.

التحكم في البيئة والطاقه داخل المباني.

هندسة الميكانيكة- وكيل محرك دويتس الالماني بمصر. 

للتواصل عبر hebamosalam2000@gmail.com

    

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