Sustainable development is a pattern of growth in which resource use aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come. Arab world is facing major sustainability challenges in achieving social, economic and environmental goals. Extremely arid climate, acute water scarcity, high energy consumption and polluting oil and gas industry present a unique challenge in Arab countries.
There are four major dimensions of sustainable development – social, economic, environmental and institutional.
Availability of energy has a direct impact on poverty, employment opportunities, education, demographic transition, indoor pollution and health, and has gender- and age-related implications. In rich Arab countries countries, energy for lighting, heating and cooking is available in the most convenient manner. On the other hand, more than 40 percent of the Arab population does not have adequate access to energy services. In poor countries, up to six hours a day is required to collect wood and dung for cooking and heating, and this task is usually done by women, who could be otherwise engaged in more productive activities.
Modern economies depend on a reliable and adequate energy supply, and developing countries need to secure this as a prerequisite for industrialization. Almost one-fifth of the Arab population relies on non-commercial fuels for different energy uses. All sectors of the economy — residential, commercial, transport, service and agriculture — demands modern energy services. These services in turn foster economic and social development at the local level by raising productivity and enabling local income generation. Energy supply affects jobs, productivity and development. Electricity is the dominant form of energy for communications, information technology, manufacturing and services.
The production, distribution and use of energy create pressures on the environment in the household, workplace and city, and at the national, regional and global levels. The environmental impacts can depend greatly on how energy is produced and used, the fuel mix, the structure of the energy systems and related energy regulatory actions and pricing structures. Air quality is a major aspect of the quality of life leading to sustainable development in many areas of the world. Gaseous emissions from the exploration and burning of fossil fuels pollute the atmosphere. Compared to other countries, Arab countries experience higher emissions of oxides of nitrogen, sulphur dioxide and volatile organic compounds. Air pollution control strategies are now being taken seriously, on both regional and national levels, and governments have taken important steps for air pollution control.
Infrastructure is the backbone of any national energy system. Countries need to monitor the state of their major energy infrastructures to ensure a sustainable energy future. Many countries now depend on major energy infrastructures that are obsolete, inefficient, insufficient or environmentally unacceptable. The Arab energy market is growing at an accelerating rate due to higher consumption rates in the private, commercial and industrial sectors. This results in the need for a successful implementation strategy that can bridge the gap between the current supply and increasing demand. A smart grid network makes for the ideal bridge where the goals of modernization can meet those of a reliable public infrastructure.