Qatar’s Fight Against Climate Change

Qatar's environmental records have always been in news, of course for the negative ones, but it has always strived to work towards reduction of GHGs emissions. Qatar is already doing plenty to help poor countries with financing and it seems unfair to focus on per capita emissions for a country with estimated population of 2.27 million making it the 143th most populous country on earth. (For climate talks, that is heresy). This may sound harsh, especially since Qatar's contribution to global warming is tiny compared with the United States, China or India.

In recent years, Qatar is making itself a benchmark for all future sustainable and renewable initiatives in the Middle East. Qatar is committed to creating a cleaner and more energy efficient environment which is expected to make significant contributions in addressing climate change challenges and moving towards a more sustainable future. However, these positive moves will not be enough to cover up the fact that Qatar, much as the other oil-producing countries in the Gulf, has still not made any commitment as part of the UN climate talks.

Qatar’s Revamping Climate Plans

In line with Qatar National Vision 2030, Qatar aims to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. Sustainable development has been identified as one of the top priorities in Qatar’s National Development Strategy. Environmental Development is one of the four main pillars of the Qatar National Vision 2030, which aims to manage rapid domestic expansion to ensure harmony between economic growth, social development, and environmental protection.

According to recent reports, Qatar is getting close to opening its long-delayed 200-megawatt solar tender. Qatar currently has a stated goal of installing 10 gigawatts (GW) of solar power capacity by 2030; the 200 MW solar tender represents just a portion of the installations expected over the coming years, but is still a noteworthy quantity. Qatar, as part of its environmental commitment and sustainable development, is turning to renewable sources of energy such as solar power, with initiatives already underway.

Qatar Foundation (QF) plays an instrumental role in Qatar’s sustainability efforts as it helps transform the country into a knowledge-based economy. It also endeavors to realize this vision by making sustainability an integral part of the day-to-day lives of local residents. By doing so, QF is working towards achieving its own strategic mission of unlocking human potential and promoting creativity and innovation.

Qatar Foundation (QF), in partnership with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), is setting up a pioneering Climate Change Research Institute and a Global Climate Change Forum as part of MoU signed on sidelines of COP 18 UNFCC Doha conference in 2012. The Institute, the first of its kind in the region, will seek to fill critical gaps in research on mitigation, adaptation and climate resiliency for key regions such as tropics, sub-tropics and dry lands. However, it is making a very slow pace due to various issues.

Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development is producing up to 85 percent of Qatar's total solar energy as it announced the launch of one of the Gulf region's first Energy Monitoring Centre (EMC) to manage its smart grid and monitor solar power generation across all sites within Education City. The EMC is part of the recently completed Solar Smart-Grid Project that added a total of 1.68MW of new solar photovoltaic (PV) systems at various facilities. The PV systems at QF now generate 5,180 MWh of clean energy annually, resulting in savings of around 2,590 tons of CO2 emissions every year.

The Qatar Green Building Council, a QF member was established in 2009 to promote sustainable growth and development in Qatar through cost efficient and environment-friendly building practices. There has been rapid progress in green building sector in Qatar with the emergence of many world-class sustainable constructions in recent years. With the fifth-highest number of LEED-registered and certified buildings outside the U.S., Qatar has valuable experience and inputs to offer on the system’s local relevancy and application.

Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) which hosted Doha UNFCCC climate conference COP 18/CMP8 was the first LEED certified project in Qatar and remains its largest rooftop solar system installed to date. Subsequently, Qatar Foundation continues to have the largest pipeline of all PV installations in the country, in addition to its pipeline of LEED-certified green buildings. With more than five megawatts of solar energy installations planned, Qatar Foundation's clean efforts are one of the largest in the Gulf region.

QF is equally dedicated to sustainable infrastructural development. For instance, the student-housing complex at Education City is currently one of the only platinum LEED-certified student housing complexes in the world. Having earned 12 Platinum LEED certifications in the category of ‘New Construction’ from the US Green Building Council, it is also the largest collection of platinum LEED- certified buildings in one area in the world.

Qatar Solar Energy (QSE) has officially opened one of the largest vertically integrated PV module production facilities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The 300 MW facility, located in the Doha industrial zone of Qatar, is the first significant development of the Qatar National Vision 2030, which aims to reduce the country's reliance on fossil fuels in favor of more renewable energy sources. Qatar's fledgling forays into the solar PV sector have gathered pace last year, when state-backed Qatar Solar Technologies (QSTec) acquired a 29% stake in SolarWorld in a move that raised eyebrows throughout the industry.

The Head of Qatar’s state-run electricity and water company (Kahramaa) has already announced ambitious plans to install solar panels atop the roofs of many of the country’s 85 reservoirs. With these latest plans are for creative solution to Qatar’s lack of viable land space (the country measures just 11,571km²), it is a must in a country with very little available land for large-scale solar plants. Qatar will adopt a scattered model, installing several small- to medium-sized PV installations.

Qatar's National Food Security Programme (QNFSP) has been a driving force behind the nation’s thirst for renewable energy, creating an action plan designed to better utilize Qatar’s abundant solar radiation. Meanwhile, Qatar Solar Tech 70% owned by the Qatar Foundation (QF) has announced that it is scaling up its local manufacturing capabilities, and will build a 297 acre solar farm in the country’s Ras Laffan Industrial City.

As the host country for 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar has pledged solar-powered stadiums and the country is also working on a range of other solar projects gearing up to this Football Extravaganza.

Conclusions

Climate change and increase in temperatures is making Qatar even more vulnerable to the lack of water and food insecurity. Every single drop of water that is used in Qatar needs to be desalinated. Every single gram of food that is eaten needs to be either imported or grown with desalinated water. The plunging price of oil, coupled with advances in clean energy and resource conservation, offers Qatar a real chance to rationalize energy policy. Qatar can get rid of billions of dollars of distorting energy subsidies whilst shifting taxes towards carbon use. It is heartening to see that Qatar has recognized the importance of renewable energy and sustainability and its fight for reducing its ecological footprint. A cheaper, greener, sustainable and more reliable energy future for Qatar could be within reach.

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How to Make an Environmentally-Conscious Person

The public discourse on industrial pollution, climate change, global warming and sustainable development has made environmental protection a top priority for one and all.  Concerted efforts are underway from governments, businesses and individuals to make Earth a clean and green planet.  When it comes to sustainability, everyone has a role to play. We can contribute to the global environmental movement by adopting changes that are within easy reach.

Here are some tips to prove that you are an environmentally-conscious person:

Use Solar Power

Solar power is the most popular form of alternative energy. Worldwide, millions of businesses and households are powered by solar energy systems. A potential way to harness solar power is to install solar panels on your roof which will not only provide energy independence but also generate attractive revenues through sale of surplus power. Another interesting way to tap sun’s energy is use solar-powered lights for illuminating streets, boundary walls, gardens and other public spaces. Solar-powered lights by Deelat Industrial provide a reliable and cheap source of energy in rural and isolated areas.

Recycle Stuff

Recycling keeps waste out of landfills, thus conserving natural resources. The first step in recycling is to buy a multi-compartment recycling bin for separate collection of paper, plastics, food waste and metal. Paper, plastics and metals can be recycled and reused while food waste can be composted or anaerobically digested to produce biogas and nutrient-rich fertilizer.

Switch to Efficient Bulbs

The traditional incandescent light bulb consumes lot of electricity, and a better alternative is an LED light. LEDs are important because due to their efficiency and low energy, they are beginning to replace most conventional light sources. A LED reduces pollution by a ton per light per year, with almost 80 percent reduction in energy consumption. Although the price of such a bulb is higher, it will surely cover expenses through energy savings.

Unplug Gadgets

A simple method to protect the environment is to remove the power source when you turn off the gadgets. Putting gadgets (or appliances) on stand-by mode consume a lot of power and substantial cost savings can be made by stopping this practice. Prevent energy wastage by unplugging any gadgets not in use or that are fully charged. You may also use smart power strips that cut the power supply to devices that no longer need it. 

Pull that plug!

Use Filtered Water

Buying packaged water is good for your health but this does create a problem. Plastic waste is something that everyone should worry about. At the same time the water you buy will be transported for a long distance until it reaches the supermarket. This means that precious fossil fuel is used in its transportation. An alternative that reduces its environmental impact is to filter your own water and use a refillable water container. Tap water is good for consumption and you can always use filtration systems to increase water quality.

Waste-to-Energy Outlook for Jordan

A “waste crisis” is looming in Jordan with more than 2 million tons of municipal waste and 18,000 tons of industrial wastes being generated each year at an annual growth rate of 3 percent. Alarmingly, less than 5 per cent of solid waste is currently recycled in Jordan. These statistics call for a national master plan in order to reduce, manage and control waste management in the country. The main points to be considered are decentralized waste management, recycling strategy and use of modern waste management technologies. Currently there is no specific legal framework or national strategy for solid waste management in Jordan which is seriously hampering efforts to resolve waste management situation.

Waste can be converted into energy by conventional technologies (such as incineration, mass-burn, anaerobic digestion and landfill gas capture). Municipal solid waste can also be efficiently converted into energy and fuels by advanced thermal technologies, such as gasification and pyrolysis. Landfill gas capture projects represent an attractive opportunity for Jordan as huge landfills/dumpsites are present in all cities and towns.

A 1 MW pilot demonstration project using municipal solid waste (MSW) through landfill and biogas technology systems was constructed and commissioned in 2001.  The project was expanded in 2008 to about 4 MW.  Jordan plans to introduce about 40-50 MW waste energy power projects by 2020. However, biomass energy projects offer a low potential in Jordan because of the severe constraints on vegetation growth imposed by the arid climate. It has been estimated that animal and solid wastes in Jordan represent an energy potential of about 105 toe annually, but municipal solid waste represents a major fraction with a gross annual production rate of more than 2 million tons.

More than 80% of actual total manure generation is concentrated in 4 northern Governorates Al Zarqa, Amman, Al-Mafraq and Irbid. More than 80% of cattle manure is being produced in three northern Governorates Al-Zarqa, Al-Mafraq and Irbid. More than 80% of poultry manure production is located in 5 northern Governorates Amman, Irbid, Al-Zarqa, Al-Mafraq and Al-Karak. An exception is sheep manure. More than 90% of sheep manure is available in three Governorates Aqaba (40%), Al-Mafraq (25%) and Al-Zarqa (25%).

Conclusion

In Jordan, waste-to-energy can be applied at small-scale for heating/cooking purposes, or it can be used at a large-scale for power generation and industrial heating. Waste-to-energy can thus be adapted rural as well as or urban environments in the country, and utilized in domestic, commercial or industrial applications.

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African Development Bank and Renewable Energy

Africa has huge renewable energy potential with some of the world’s largest concentration of alternative energy resources in the form of solar, wind, hydro, and energy. Overall, 17 countries in sub-Saharan Africa are in the top-33 countries worldwide with combined reserves of solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal energy far exceeding annual consumption. Most of the sub-Saharan countries receive solar radiation in the range of 6-8 kWh/m2/day, which counts among the highest amounts of solar radiation in the world. Until now, only a small fraction of Africa’s vast renewable energy potential has been tapped.  The renewable energy resources have the potential to cover the energy requirements of the entire continent.

The African Development Bank has supported its member countries in their energy development initiatives for more than four decades. With growing concerns about climate change, AfDB has compiled a strong project pipeline comprised of small- to large-scale wind-power projects, mini, small and large hydro-power projects, cogeneration power projects, geothermal power projects and biodiesel projects. The major priorities for the Bank include broadening the supply of low-cost environmentally clean energy and developing renewable forms of energy to diversify power generation sources in Africa. The AfDB’s interventions to support climate change mitigation in Africa are driven by sound policies and strategies and through its financing initiatives the Bank endeavors to become a major force in clean energy development in Africa.

Energy projects are an important area of the AfDB’s infrastructure work, keeping in view the lack of access to energy services across Africa and continued high oil prices affecting oil-importing countries. AfDB’s Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), and other programmes, are in the process of identifying priority investment projects in renewable energy, which also include small and medium scale hydro and biomass co-generation.  The Bank supports its member countries towards developing renewable energy projects in three ways:

  • By encouraging countries to mainstream clean energy options into national development plans and energy planning.
  • By promoting investment in clean energy and energy efficiency ventures
  • By supporting the sustainable exploitation of the huge energy potential of the continent, while supporting the growth of a low-carbon economy.

FINESSE Africa Program

The FINESSE Africa Program, financed by the Dutch Government, has been the mainstay of AfDB’s support of renewable energy and energy efficiency since 2004. The Private Sector department of AfDB, in collaboration with the Danish Renewable Energy Agency (DANIDA), has developed a robust project pipeline of solar, wind, geothermal and biomass energy projects for upcoming five years. 

The FINESSE program has helped in project preparation/development for Lesotho (rural electrification by means of different sources of renewable energy), Madagascar (rural water supply using solar water pumps), Ghana (energy sector review) and Uganda (solar PV for schools and boarding facilities), as well as on the development of the energy component of the Community Agricultural Infrastructure Improvement Program in Uganda (solar PV, hydropower and grid extension), the Bank’s initiative on bio-ethanol in Mozambique (including co-funding a recent bio fuels workshop in Maputo) and the AfDB Country Strategy Paper revision in Madagascar.

Clean Energy Investment Framework

The AfDB’s Clean Energy Investment Framework aims at promoting sustainable development and contributing to global emissions reduction efforts by using a three-pronged approach: maximize clean energy options, emphasize energy efficiency and enable African countries to participate effectively in CDM sector. The AfDB’s interventions to support climate change mitigation in Africa are driven by sound policies and strategies and through its financing initiatives the Bank endeavors to become a major force in clean energy development in Africa.

In order to finance energy access and clean energy development operations, the Bank Group will draw on resources from its AfDB non-concessional window to finance public-sponsored projects and programs in countries across Africa. According to the Framework, AfDB will work with a range of stakeholders (national governments, regional organizations, sub-sovereign entities, energy and power utilities, independent power producers and distributors, sector regulators, and civil society organizations) on key issues in clean energy access and climate adaptation in all regional member countries. 

Climate Investment Funds

Part of the AfDB’s commitment to supporting Africa’s move toward climate resilience and low carbon development is expanding access to international climate change financing. The African Development Bank is implementing the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), a pair of funds designed to help developing countries pilot transformations in clean technology, sustainable management of forests, increased energy access through renewable energy, and climate-resilient development. The AfDB has been involved with the CIF since their inception in 2008. 

The Bank is actively supporting African nations and regions as they develop CIF investment plans and then channeling CIF funds, as well as its own co-financing, to turn those plans into action. One of the Climate Investment Funds, the Clean Technology Fund (CTF) provides developing countries with positive incentives to scale up the demonstration, deployment, and transfer of technologies with a high potential for long-term greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions savings. 

In the Middle East and North Africa region, US$750 million in CTF funding is supporting deployment of 1GW of solar power generation capacity, reducing about 1.7 million tons of CO2 per year from the energy sectors of Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia. In Morocco, US$197 million in CTF funding is cofinancing the world’s largest concentrated solar power initiative. Another US$125 million is helping scale up investments in its wind energy program targeting 2GW by 2020.

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An Introduction to Smart Grid

A smart grid is an electrical grid that uses information and communications technology to gather and act on information, such as information about the behaviors of suppliers and consumers, in an automated fashion to improve the efficiency, reliability, economics, and sustainability of the production and distribution of electricity.

Smart grids are now being used in electricity networks, from the power plants all the way to the consumers of electricity in homes and businesses. The “grid” amounts to the networks that carry electricity from the plants where it is generated to consumers. The grid includes wires, substations, transformers, switches etc. The major benefits are significant improvement in energy efficiency on the electricity grid as well as in the energy users’ homes and offices.

What is Smart Grid

In a typical smart grid, central management center controls all the units connected to it making sure to operate them at the highest efficiencies. The central management center does not only assist in better energy management inside the facility but also it helps in reducing the electrical consumption during peak times. This reduction is reflected as huge energy savings.

A smart grid also facilitates switch from conventional energy to renewable energy. In case of having a source of renewable energy in the facility, the grid allows an easy access to integrate it into the grid. Smart grid permits greater penetration of highly variable renewable sources of energy, such as wind power and solar energy.

Smart grid is a new gateway to a green future. It not only provides better energy benefits but also opens up new avenues of employment for youngsters. For example, conversion of normal operating units into smart ones capable of connecting to the smart grid is full of new and exciting opportunities. The global market for smart instruments is trending up with out-of-the-box ideas and innovations from young energetic minds.  

Smart Grid Prospects in the Middle East

The Middle East electricity 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.

Regional countries such as UAE, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are moving ahead smart meter rollouts. The high incomes in those countries, high electricity consumption, and small populations will drive smart meter deployments in the medium-term. The technologies used and lessons learned in these deployments will then be diffused throughout the region.

Smart grid offers an excellent opportunity to modernize Middle East power infrastructure, lay the foundation for energy management, provide new employment opportunities and ultimately reduce region’s dependence on fossil fuels. The Middle East region has the highest per capita carbon footprint in the world which can be offset by deployment of smart energy systems.

In the last few years, the number of events, conferences and meetings focused on smart grid and smart energy has sky-rocketed in the Middle East. The growing amount of attention being paid to this area reflects an increased sense of urgency to meet the energy requirements of fast-growing population and sustain the rapid industrial growth across the region.

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Making a Switch to Circular Economy

All forms of wealth and security, including climate stability, biodiversity, resource availability, soil fertility, air and water purity and health, are depleted by the systemic error of running a linear economy. Linear economics consumes the basis for future growth so what is now growing fastest is unproductive activity, inactivity and instabilities. The credit crunch marks the withdrawal of faith in growth-as-usual and any reliable revival of growth and prosperity requires a switch of vision.

Circular Economics

The future for growth is circular economics where more economic activity would mean a faster pace of change away from waste-making and towards looking after the world and all its inhabitants. This would preserve and regenerate material value, co-operation and natural capital instead of losing it, so growth would work to build the basis for more growth. Today this may appear idealistic. Yet if circular economics was already practiced, and people were accustomed to prosperity based on resource security, then any proposal to adopt an exploitive self-defeating vision would be laughable.

Promise of Precycling

Economic dependence on waste is perpetuated by managing waste primarily as an addiction to disposal, “how can we get rid of all this junk?” The ‘waste hierarchy’ (reduce, reuse, recycle, then dispose) that has been available since 1975 is commonly quoted but in practice the bulk of effort and funding provides for continuing long-term disposal to ecosystems (by landfill, waste-burning and pollution). The waste hierarchy is being used backwards and no nation has yet attempted to create the incentives for an economy that grows from the work done to end waste dumping and implement circular economics. This is achievable with the concept of ‘precycling’ originally used for public waste education.

Precycling is applicable throughout an economy and may be understood as action taken to prepare for current resources to become future resources. The ‘pre’ prefix emphasises that this cannot be arranged after something becomes waste; it must be done beforehand. The scope of action extends far beyond recycling, to creating the economic, social and ecological conditions for all resources to remain of use to people or nature.

Precycling Insurance

A simple economic tool is available to switch from linear to circular economics and from dumping waste to dumping the habit of wasting. This tool internalises diverse externalities efficiently within markets by paying the price of preventing problems instead of the larger or unaffordable price of not preventing them. Precycling insurance is an extension of the EU WEEE Directive’s ‘recycling insurance’ from just recycling to all forms of preventing all products becoming waste in any ecosystem. This allows a single economic instrument to work with the issues at every stage of product life-cycles. Significant producers would be obliged to consider the risk of their products ending up as waste in ecosystems and to retain responsibility for insuring against that risk.

Life Insurance for Products and Planet

Precycling insurance is a form of regulation to be set-up in every nation but not centrally planned. The volume of regulation can be cut but its effectiveness drastically boosted. For example, emissions can be cut rapidly with no need for any further ineffectual negotiations about capping. Unlike taxes, the premiums from precycling insurance would not be handled by governments (whose role would be to legislate, monitor and ensure full public transparency).

Unlike conventional insurance, the premiums would not be collected up and then paid out following (potentially irrecoverable) planet crunch shocks. Premiums would be distributed by insurers and invested preventively throughout society, to cut the risk of resources being lost as wastes. Support would be provided for the dialogue, understanding, participation, capabilities, designs, efficiencies, facilities and ecological productivity needed to return used matter as new resources for people and for nature. Today’s resources would feed tomorrow’s economy.

A Free Market in Harmony with Nature

Precycling insurance would switch the power of markets to reversing the planet crunch. The speed and scale of change would exceed the expectations of all who are accustomed to ineffectual controls designed to make markets less-bad. All market participants (such as buyers, sellers, investors and governments) would adapt their decisions to the new incentives, profiting by addressing actual needs rather than superficial consumerist wants.

Producers would remain free to choose how to meet customers’ needs without waste, and even free to continue making wasteful products, in competition with other producers cutting their costs (including precycling insurance costs) by cutting their product’s waste risk. Economic growth would no longer be a competitive scramble between people rushing to acquire and discard ever more resources from an every-shrinking stock. The economy would prosper in harmony, rather than in conflict, with nature.

Shrinking Material and Energy Demands

The material requirements of today’s linear economy would rapidly shrink since the new incentives would lead to the most needs being met with the least materials moved the least distance and then regenerated rather than dumped. The energy requirements of today’s linear economy would rapidly shrink since a smaller material flow with higher quality materials closer to where they are needed requires less energy to process. Shrinking energy dependence is the key to energy security, economic recovery, climate restabilisation and prevention of conflict over diminishing non-renewable resources. The resource and energy efficiency of circular economics makes it realistic to plan the necessary reductions in GHG concentrations (ie net-negative emissions).

 

Note: This article is part 4 of 8 of author's Advanced Research Workshop paper, Seven Policy Switches for Global Security, for the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme

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Unleashing Solar Power in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is the largest consumer of petroleum in the Middle East, with domestic consumption reaching 4 million barrels per day in 2012 out of daily production of 10 million barrels. Saudi Arabia’s primary energy consumption per capita is four times higher than the world average. Strong industrial growth, subsidized oil prices, increasing energy demand for electricity and transportation is leading to a growing clamor for oil in the country. The total energy consumption in the Kingdom is rapidly rising at an average rate of about 6 percent per annum.

Solar Energy Prospects 

To meet the rising local energy demand, Saudi Arabia plans to increase generating capacity to 120 GW by 2020. Residential sector holds the biggest share of total energy consumption, accounting for as much as 80 percent of the electricity usage. Despite being the leading oil producer as well as consumer, Saudi Arabia is showing deep interest in the development of large projects for tapping its rich renewable energy potential, especially solar power. The country plans to invest more than $100 billion in clean energy projects to meet its objective of getting one-third of electricity requirements from alternative energy resources.

There is a growing Interest in utilization of solar energy in Saudi Arabia as the country is blessed with abundant solar flux throughout the year. Saudi Arabia has one of the highest solar irradiation in the world, estimated at approximately 2,200 thermal kWh of solar radiation per square meter. The country is strategically located near the Sun Belt, not to mention wide availability of empty stretches of desert that may accommodate solar power generating infrastructure. Moreover, vast deposits of sand can be used in the manufacture of silicon PV cells which makes Saudi Arabia an attractive location for both CSP and PV power generation. 

Promising Developments

The first initiative from the government was the establishment of King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE) which is the official agency in-charge of promoting clean energy in the Kingdom. The kingdom is planning to add an additional 41 GW of solar power by 2032, with 16 GW to be generated by photovoltaics and 25 GW by solar thermal power plants. One of the major achievements was the establishment of 3.5MW PV project at the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center. 

Concentrated solar power is another interesting option for Saudi Arabia due to its strong dependence on desalination plants to meet its water requirement. Waste heat of a CSP power plant can be used to power seawater desalination projects. Recently Saudi Electric Company has selected CSP to produce electricity with 550MW Duba 1 project, an integrated Solar Combined Cycle Power Plant located 50km north of Duba near Tuba. The plant is designed to integrate a parabolic trough unit of around 20 to 30MW. 

Keeping in view its regional dominance, Saudi Arabia can play a vital role in the popularization of solar energy in the MENA region. Solar energy program may not only augment oil-wealth of the Kingdom, but also transform Saudi Arabia into a net solar power exporter in the near future. 

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Green SMEs in Middle East: Obstacles and Challenges

green-smes-middle-eastWith ‘green’ being the buzzword across all industries, greening of the business sector and development of green skills has assumed greater importance all over the world, and Middle East is no exception. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) operating in eco-design, green architecture, renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainability are spearheading the transition to green economy across a wide range of industries. Green SME sector in the Middle East has been growing steadily, albeit at a slower pace than anticipated. 

Regulations

One of the major obstacles in the progress of green SMEs in the Middle East the has been poorly-designed regulation. According to Ruba A. Al-Zu’bi, a renowned sustainable development consultant in MENA, “SMEs should be the drivers of transformation towards green economy in the Middle East. Lack of clear policy direction and enablers are hindering growth and competitiveness of green SMEs”. Product market regulations which stifle competition pose a big hurdle to SMEs operating in renewables, energy, environment and sustainability sectors.  For example, state-owned companies in GCC have almost complete monopoly in network industries which have large environmental impacts (electricity/energy sector) or control strategic environmental services (water and waste management sector).

Restructuring

Restructuring of the SME sector in the Middle East is essential to allow small businesses to grow and prosper, thus catalyzing region’s transition to a green economy. SMEs account for vast majority of production units and employment across the Middle East, for example SMEs are responsible for around 60% of UAE’s GDP. Needless to say, participation of SMEs is essential in the transition to a low-carbon economy, thus paving the way for greening the business sector and development of green skills across all industrial segments.

Green SMEs require strong government support for growth, which is unfortunately lacking in several GCC countries. As Ruba Al-Zu’bi puts it, “Despite the humongous opportunity for green growth in the Middle East, magnified by climate change, water scarcity, oil dependency and environmental footprint, green SMEs are plagued by severe challenges and competition.”

Pressing Challenges

The Middle East region is facing multiple challenges in the growth of green SME sector. As Ruba Al-Zu’bi puts it, “The most pressing challenges are (1) increasing disconnect between education and market needs and (2) the disorientation of research and development from industry priorities and trends. Government agencies, business associations and NGOs need to play a bigger role in advocating more streamlined priorities for green growth across all industrial sectors.” Green SMEs in the region are facing significant barriers to entry despite their key role in developing locally appropriate technologies and eco-friendly business models.

Promising Initiatives

Abu Dhabi has taken a great step towards consolidation of green SME sector by creating the Masdar Free Zone. As a business cluster, Masdar Free Zone endeavors to provide SMEs and startups with an environment that inspires innovation, offers business development opportunities and provides a living lab and test bed for new technologies. However office rents has been a hurdle to overcome for green SMEs with limited financial capabilities.  “High office rents in Masdar Free Zone have been a major deterrent for small businesses desirous of setting shop in the business cluster”, says Dubai-based sustainability consultant Sunanda Swain.

In 2007, Qatar also launched a promising initiative to promote green growth in the form of Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) with core areas of focus being energy, environment, health sciences and information and communication technologies. During the initial phase, QSTP has been heavily focused on establishing infrastructure and attracting large companies. During the second phase, QSTP intends to target SMEs and provide them support on legal matters, finance, mentoring and business planning.

Future Perspectives

Policy interventions for supporting green SMEs in the Middle East are urgently required to overcome major barriers, including knowledge-sharing, raising environmental awareness, enhancing financial support, supporting skill development and skill formation, improving market access and implementing green taxation. In recent decades, entrepreneurship in the Middle East has been increasing at a rapid pace which should be channeled towards addressing water, energy, environment and waste management challenges, thereby converting environmental constraints into business opportunities.

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Peak Oil: Perspectives for Saudi Arabia

PeakOil-SaudiArabiaThe term ‘peak oil’ is ominous to the Middle East, as most of the countries in the region are heavily dependent on oil and natural gas for industrial, economic and social development. Petroleum is considered one of the world’s most important sources of energy generation, after uranium, of course. Many other substances have been tested in order to be used as alternatives to petroleum, but none have hitherto been successful. Scientific research illustrates how the world is facing catastrophe if it doesn’t find an alternative to oil, as it is currently impossible for the global economy to grow without sufficient amounts of energy which are adapted to the demands of this growth. There is more discussion now than ever before about how the world is definitely starting to approach a stage of peak oil.

What is Peak Oil

Peak oil is a termed coined by the renowned American geologist King Hubbert in the fifties. He managed to predict an oil peak in several regions in America which would occur in the seventies; and exactly what this scientist predicted did in fact happen. For when oil extraction reaches extreme levels it begins to decline and gradually ends. Oil is considered a finite resource, or one which isn’t renewed as it is used up.

This theory confirms that global oil production has reached its peak today and has started declining inexorably now that 50% of the world’s oil reserves have been consumed. This proves that oil could be on the brink of depletion if clear and serious plans are not put in place to guide consumption and therefore encourage using provisional reserves in the best way. However, this theory is not accepted by many or by those who continue to focus on how large the earth’s oil reserves are, and how they only need investment so that they can be drilled.

Peak Oil Scenario for Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is considered one of the largest global oil exporters and the only one able to regulate and stabilise the global oil market, thanks to its reserve stocks. These reserves are calculated to be at 265.4 billion barrels, or what is enough to last, at the current level of production, for more than 72 years. According to ARAMCO reports, there are around a trillion barrels that will be discovered in the future and will satisfy global demands, despite current consumption, for one whole century.

 Saudi Arabia is currently focussing its efforts on drilling and extracting natural gas, as it doesn’t import it but depends on domestic production. Alongside this, the Saudi Kingdom is currently making huge investments in nuclear energy and solar power.

But can natural gas and renewable energy be relied upon as alternatives to oil in order to satisfy Saudi Arabia’s domestic needs, which are rapidly growing each day? According to a recent report by America’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), Saudi Arabia is the largest oil-consuming nation in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia consumed 2.9 million barrels per day of oil in 2013, almost double the consumption in 2000, because of strong industrial growth and subsidised prices. One important contributor to Saudi oil demand is the direct crude oil burn for power generation. There is not just enough fuel oil and natural gas to meet the demand and hence the resorting to crude oil.

Has peak oil really arrived? If not today, then when? And how will it look, especially for countries totally dependent on oil? Will its consequences be different for both developed and under-developed nations?  Given that global demand for oil will only grow to exceed 100 million barrels a day after 2020, according to the most extreme estimates, I believe that the time may have come for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to start planning for what follows the oil era.

Despite looming threat of peak oil, power generation capacity in KSA is expected to rise from current level of 58GW to 120GW by 2032, however Saudi Arabia cannot afford to burn rising crude oil volumes for power generation. In spite of the fifth largest natural gas reserves in the world, it does not produce sufficient gas for power generation and for its vast petrochemical industry. The only solution at this point of time is transition to low-carbon economy whereby Saudi Arabia make use of its massive solar energy potential, implement effective measures for improving energy efficiency in the industrial sector and remove huge energy subsidies for industrial and domestic users.

 

Note: The article has been translated from Arabic by Katie Holland who graduated from Durham University in 2015 with a degree in Arabic and French, having also studied Persian. Currently working in London, she hopes to develop a career that uses her knowledge of Arabic and the Middle East, alongside pursuing her various interests in the arts. 

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Green Finance: Powering Sustainable Tomorrow

Green finance provides linkage between the financial industry, protection of the environment and economic growth. Simply speaking, green finance refers to use of financial products and services, such as loans, insurance, stocks, private equity and bonds in green (or eco-friendly) projects. Green finance, which has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, provides public well-being and social equity while reducing environmental risks and improving ecological integrity. For example, global interest in green energy finance is increasing at a rapid pace – in 2015, investments in green energy reached an all-time high figure of US$ 348.5 billion, which underscores the significance of green finance.

Potential and Promise

Environmental sustainability, climate change mitigation, resource conservation and sustainable development play a vital role in access to green finance. During the past few years, green finance (also known as climate finance) has gained increasing relevance mainly due to the urgency of financing climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, and scale of sustainable development projects around the world.

The impetus has been provided by three major agreements adopted in 2015 – Paris Agreement on climate change, a new set of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the ‘financing for development’ package. The implementation of these agreements is strongly dependent on finance, and realizing its importance the G20 nations established Green Finance Study Group (GFSG) in February 2016, co-chaired by China and the UK, with UNEP serving as secretariat.

According to Sustainable Energy for All, a global initiative launched by the UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon, annual global investments in energy will need to increase from roughly US$400 billion at present to US$1-1.25 trillion, out of which US$40-100 billion annually is needed to achieve universal access to electricity. On the other hand, around US$5-7 trillion a year is needed to implement the SDGs globally. Such a massive investment is a big handicap for developing countries as they will face an annual investment gap of US$2.5 trillion in infrastructure, clean energy, water, sanitation, and agriculture projects. Green finance is expected to fill this gap by aligning financial systems with the financing needs of a sustainable or low-carbon economy.

Bonding with Green

An emerging way to raise debt capital for green projects is through green bonds. Green bonds are fixed income, liquid financial instruments dedicated exclusively to climate change mitigation and adaption projects, and other environment-friendly activities. The prime beneficiaries of green bonds are renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean transport, forest management, water management, sustainable land use and other low-carbon projects.

A record US$41 billion worth of green bonds was issued in 2015 which is estimated to rise to US$80 billion by the end of 2016. Notably, the World Bank issued its first green bond in 2008, and has since issued about US$8.5 billion in green bonds in 18 currencies. In addition, the International Finance Corporation issued US$3.7 billion, including two US$1 billion green bond sales in 2013.

Green bonds enable fund raising for new and existing projects with environmental benefits

Green bonds have the potential to raise tens of billions of dollars required each year to finance the global transition to a green economy. According to International Energy Agency, around $53 trillion of energy investments are required till 2035 to put the world on a two-degree path, as agreed during the historic Paris Climate Conference COP21. The main drivers of green bonds for investors includes positive environmental impact of investments, greater visibility in fight against climate change and a strong urge for ‘responsible investment’.

Key Bottlenecks

Many developing countries experience hurdles in raising capital for green investment due lack of awareness and to inadequate technical capacities of financial institutions. Many banks, for instance, are not familiar with the earnings and risk structure of green investments, which makes them reluctant to grant the necessary loans or to offer suitable financing products. With rising popularity of green finance, it is expected that financial institutions will quickly adapt to funding requirements of environment-friendly projects.

Sustainability Perspectives for Amman

amman-sustainabilityIs Amman a sustainable city? No, it is not. That isn't a very surprising statement if you've ever lived in or visited Amman. By all means, it's a beautiful city, with plenty to offer visitors and residents alike. It is a diverse city with a wide range of experiences to offer between East and West Amman or Downtown to Abdoun.

The fact remains however that it is not a very sustainable city. We as residents are not being kind to the city we call home. When I look at Amman I happen to see all the things I like, but also all the potential our city has to improve.

Below I examine only a few factors that contribute to the unsustainability of Amman. These are not the only issues we are facing as Ammanis but they are some of the factors affected by high level policy making in Greater Amman Municipality.

Transportation in Amman
"Amman is a city that is built for the convenience of cars and drivers". This is a statement I heard from a TEDxAmman speaker just weeks after I moved back to Jordan from abroad, and it was a shock to hear it phrased in that way. Although I was aware of the obvious lack of public transport and alternative means of getting around the city, I had never realized the extent of how true that statement is.

Any investment in the city’s transport infrastructure goes to build and improve the quality of our roads, bridges and tunnels with no consideration of public transport investment. The one time that Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) attempted to invest in a bus rapid transit (BRT) system, it turned into a very controversial topic, with accusations of corruption and mismanagement of resources all around with the project still not close to being completed.

Amman is also not a very pedestrian friendly city, with virtually no sidewalks found on the streets. Or even worse, the sidewalks we do have are in fact pots to plant trees which makes it very difficult for pedestrians to use it for what it's meant for; to walk. Additionally, there are barely any pedestrian crossings.

Amman is indeed a city built for the convenience of cars and their owners, with almost a 10% increase in car ownership annually in the city, even in low income families. 

Historically speaking, our current transportation system worked well up until the mid-1900s when the population of the city grew from a few hundred thousand people to 2 million. Recently the city has reached a little under 3 million inhabitants with the same road infrastructure minus a few improvements here and there. 

This is obviously a challenge that our 3 million Jordanians have to endure on a daily basis, whether it is by fighting traffic every day or by long waits on the very little number of buses that we have. 

Even less obvious is the environmental impact of such transport habits, with one estimate being that for each passenger in the city we need to plant 17 trees every year to cover our annual CO2 emissions of 1,464.4kgs. 51 million trees need to be planted every year in Amman to cover our transport emissions!

Waste Management in Amman

"Out of sight, out of mind" is probably best applied to our waste in Amman, or indeed in all of Jordan. We all know that we have garbage trucks passing around the neighborhoods collecting garbage once or twice a week. And we all remember the garbage collecting "crisis" Amman went through in 2012 when garbage was piling up and the out of maintenance trucks couldn't collect it all. 

However what we forget is what happens to all our waste once it's collected. If we had a developed recycling system, we could slightly reduce the amount of waste produced by residents of Amman. Since recycling is not an option we cannot ignore the 1,400 tons of waste produced every year by Ammanis. This translates to more than half of the waste produced in the country – the remaining cities across Jordan only produce 1.1 tons of waste.

This means that 1,400 tons of waste is transported to landfills outside of Amman, but very close to residents of other cities. Once the garbage in those landfills becomes too much to handle, they burn it to empty up space for even more trash. If you've ever been to Zarqa, you are very well aware of the smell from the burning garbage in the landfill along the way.

Urban Sprawl
In my opinion, urban sprawl in Amman is the most important issue Amman is facing. It is also an issue largely ignored by our officials and citizens alike. It has reached a very critical condition because large areas of previously agriculture land is now all converted to residential areas and the very little agricultural land we have left is under immediate threat to be converted to residential neighborhoods. 

I was actually very surprised to find out that areas such as Sweileh, Wadi Alseer, and Al Jubayha were separate towns in the early 1900s and not a part of Amman. Now however they're so urbanized that they're considered another district in the city.

There were actually some recommendations in the 1950s by a group of international experts to separate Amman from these towns by designating green belts around them to limit construction in those areas. All their recommendations were of course ignored. Now other areas are under the same threat of urbanization and loss of agricultural land especially on the road between 7th circle and the Airport.

Of course, till now GAM is licensing agricultural land around Amman for construction of residential areas with no consideration to its importance to our agriculture which is already suffering greatly. 

Ingredient of a Sustainable City

There are quite a few factors combined that affect the sustainability of a city, or lack thereof.  Based on the broad definition of Sustainability (meeting present needs while ensuring that resources are available to meet future needs), the definition of sustainable cities broadly would be cities that ensure that the current needs of its residents are meet without compromising on the needs of its future inhabitants.

Some of the criteria that help create sustainable cities are the following:

  • Resource recovery and waste management – collection and disposal of non-recyclable materials, frequent and adequate collection of bins as well as creating a broader waste management strategy
  • Litter prevention  – well placed litter bins in public areas and city centers, litter education and awareness programs and integration of litter management with a broader waste management strategy
  • Environmental innovation and protection – establishing partnerships between community, government and industry to protect environmental resources, establishing local conservation groups, develop and implement public/open space plans for local community, among many others.
  • Water Conservation – innovative water conservation and re-use initiatives. 
  • Energy Innovation – innovative energy efficiency measures, renewable energy, and addressing climate change issues.

How Can Amman Actually Become Sustainable?
Obviously there is quite a journey ahead of Amman, and Jordan as a whole in fact, in becoming sustainable. While GAM is the main entity able to create the needed environmental regulations, channel investments into sustainable public transport, allow innovations in renewable energy,  and guide the many other initiatives we cannot ignore the role of individual citizens. 

In a micro level, each individuals behavior, regardless of how insignificant it may seem to them does indeed influence the overall sustainability of the city. Enumerating the various water conservation, energy efficiency, or waste management methods would probably be repetitive however one request I make of myself and other Ammanis is to be constantly thoughtful of our impact and try to reduce it as much as possible.

One way to remain thoughtful is to remain informed. We should all be aware what the impact of our actions is. Whether it pertain to CO2 emissions of our cars, or the lack of actual waste management. 

We should be informed to be able to influence decision making as well. There will come a day when we have proper communication channels with GAM and other government officials and we will be able to shape the decisions that will make our city more sustainable.

Till that day comes, don't ignore your responsibility as an aware, thoughtful citizen of our beautiful city.

References

  1. The Road Not Taken, Jordan Business, Hazem Zureiqat 
  2. Traffic in Amman, Jordan, Numbeo.com
  3. Municipal Solid Waste Landfills in Jordan – Current Conditions and Perspective Future, Mohammad Al Jaradin & Kenneth Persson
  4. Urban Sprawl, Center for the Study of the Built Environment (CSBE), Mohammad Al Asad
  5. Sustainable City Criteria, 2012

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Energy Efficiency Perspectives for UAE

With Abu Dhabi alone on track to generate more than 10,000 megawatts of electricity for the first time, discussion about improving energy efficiency in the United Arab Emirates is taking on a more critical tone. Daytime energy use in the hot summer months is still experiencing rampant year-on-year growth, with peak demand this year growing by 12 per cent. Lying at the heart of these consumption levels is the need for air conditioning, which accounts for about half of total electricity demand.

Business and Government Action

At the commercial level, considerable steps are being taken to reduce the Emirate’s carbon footprint. A building insulation program in Dubai has resulted in claims that all buildings there have become twice as energy efficient since completion of the program. Further steps are also underway in other ecological areas such as water efficiency and waste management with the intention of ensuring the green credentials of every building meet international environmental standards and expectations.

At the official level the Emirates’ Authority for Standardization and Metrology continues to implement its Energy Efficiency Standardization and Labelling (EESL) program. This introduced specific efficiency and labelling requirements for non-ducted room air-conditioners in 2011.

These measures were joined this year by requirements under the same program for many other household electrical goods including lamps, washing machines and refrigerating appliances. The labelling requirements under this program will become mandatory by 2013 enabling consumers to see which machines are the most efficient and make sound environmental choices that will also save them money on running costs. The EESL programme will be further extended in 2013 to include ducted air-conditioners and chillers.

The UAE’s oil and gas sector also is recognising the importance of the energy efficiency agenda. It might seem counterintuitive that a sector with oil reserves of about 97 billion barrels and natural gas reserves of six trillion cubic meters should be thinking about how to save energy. The issue is that these reserves, despite their size, are not finite and that oil for export produces greater revenue generation than oil for the domestic market. It is, therefore, in the oil and gas sector’s interest to work with those trying to drive down domestic consumption, as it will maximise the sector’s longer term sustainability.  

The Emirates Energy Award was launched in 2007 to recognize the best implemented practices in energy conservation and management that showcase innovative, cost effective and replicable energy efficiency measures. Such acknowledged practices should manifest a sound impact on the Gulf region to stir energy awareness on a broad level and across the different facets of society.

Significance of Behavioural Change

As much as formal initiatives and programmes have their place in the battle for a more energy efficient UAE, there also needs to be a general shift in culture by the public. Improving public perception of green issues and encouraging behaviours that support energy efficiency can contribute significantly towards the overall goal. As fuel prices increase in the domestic market, the UAE’s citizens are already adding more weight to fuel efficiency when considering what cars they will buy.

SUVs and 4x4s might still be the biggest sellers but household budgets are becoming increasingly stretched and many ordinary citizens are looking for smaller more efficient cars. Perhaps for the first time, the entire running costs of cars are being considered and the UAE’s car dealers and their suppliers are looking to accommodate this change in their customers’ attitudes. This trend is so significant that some car dealerships are seeing large year-on-year increases in sales of their smaller, more efficient models.

Car rental companies are seeing this trend also and in Dubai, at least one is making hiring a car with green credentials more appealing to a wider cross-section of the public – offering everything from the more familiar Chevrolet Volts and Nissan Leafs to the most exotic hybrid and fully electric cars available to hire or lease.

Capitalising on these trends makes both environmental and business sense but economic drivers cannot alone be left to change public behaviour. There are really simple measures that government and business should be encouraging people to take. Some may argue that switching-off computers, lights and air-conditioning at the end of the working day may save energy but is not sufficiently worthwhile promoting – voluntary measures of this sort will not impact on overall energy trends.

There is evidence however that if these behaviours are added to measures like installing energy efficient lighting, lowering thermostats and optimising EESL five-star rated air-conditioners, the energy savings really do become significant – potentially halving a building’s energy consumption.

Conserving energy may not yet be a way of life in the UAE but the rapid changes being seen there are an indicator of what is to come. Formal energy efficiency programs and voluntary measures combined will help the UAE maintain its economic strength in the region and because of this it is one agenda that will not be going away.

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