In the UAE, the race is on to reduce economic dependency upon oil. Recognition has come that the desert nation possesses another resource in even greater abundance than the black stuff.
My mum had itchy feet. The moment each seven-year stretch was up, we’d hobble off to pastures new. Her timing coincided neatly with Dad’s realisations of outdoor furniture and the maturation of his apple trees. Just as the fruit ripened, Mum would pull the plug.
I believe he enjoyed the suffering this entailed. Presumably, the new owners enjoyed the apples.
For us boys, the trauma was less redeeming. A child torn from all they know will respond well enough given explanations of the upside and a long enough lead-in—and I should know, having inflicted it myself. But parenting in those days lacked a certain quality, something called compassion, considered desirable of late.
Even so, each uprooting had its positives. One move befell us while I was transitioning in more ways than one, putting away childish things, exchanging the world of boys for the world of adolescents—a process I hope to complete before my eightieth.
I was clearing a closet when I came across an old pencil case, a sharp-edged wooden blockhouse of a thing. Inside was a forgotten toy, a ball of chewed gum and, low and behold, ten dollars I had long before stashed away for safekeeping.
In all my endeavors, I have never been as wildly successful as I was in this. Hoooowee!
It made me feel like a lottery winner, sparking dreams of a summer of snacks—great bags of mixed sweets, baths of Smarties, swimming pools of fried chicken into which one might bellyflop. In those days, ten bucks meant potential unlimited.
Last week I felt much the same when I came across a series of articles about renewable energy in the UAE.
At first glance it appears counter-intuitive that the UAE would move to divest itself from fossil fuels in favor of renewable technologies, especially with oil at thirty dollars a barrel. But it’s happening.
The motive is not so much the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, but the meeting of domestic energy demands which are swallowing a growing share of oil production. For the future of the UAE, it is better to export oil than burn it. But the country has to get its energy from somewhere. The question is, where?
The answer is outside Dubai. DEWA’s Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is a landmark project for the nation. The first 13MW stage is doing well enough, but the second stage has the makings of something truly special, having ignited international discussion and excitement around the cost competitiveness of utility-scale solar.
Initially, the winning bid of under six US cents per kilowatt hour met with skepticism. But since then the project has been fully financed, doubled in size to 200MW and the price (almost) repeated elsewhere in the Middle East and the US. The extraordinarily low cost has made competition extremely tough among tenders to build the final 800MW phase.
Sometime between now and the achievement of Dubai’s long term renewable energy targets, coal will be left for dead. With the cost of panels falling ten percent per year since the 1980s and a whole host of governments including India, France and the US pushing a renewable agenda, it looks increasingly like the future is solar.
In the UAE, where sun is plentiful, to say the least, it makes sense to let this inexhaustible resource work as hard for the nation’s goals as does oil.