Thursday 01 October 2015

Developing a future national vision is fundamental to security in our complex age. Crafting such a vision requires an understanding of future geopolitical circumstances and best approaches for achieving national interests. To do that one must understand how national power and influence might be used in the future international system. One domain that will certainly impact the future of the Arabian Gulf is renewable energy; luckily the UAE is now host to IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency. IRENA’s presence here in Abu Dhabi demonstrates real progress towards the inspiring energy vision of the UAE.

Renewable energy involves drawing from resources which are naturally replenished on a human timescale such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. Renewable energy can supplement or replace conventional fuels in four distinct areas: electricity generation, air and water heating/cooling, fuels, and rural energy services. As a major oil producing nation, one might think the UAE would resist renewable initiatives, but the truth is quite the opposite.

According to the latest Climate Group Report, the UAE is leading in the development of solar energy and pushing down the cost of renewable energy. According to the report, the UAE’s green economy is expected to provide 160,000 jobs by 2030 and boost our GDP by 5 per cent. And, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority’s 200-megawatt solar plant is expected to be producing green electricity at the lowest price in the world by 2017. “The UAE is strategically located to take advantage of a rapid increase in demand for renewable power,” the report said; “clean technology innovation and international collaboration is earning the UAE a reputation as a leading clean energy innovation hub as the world looks – once again – to the region to help drive the next global energy revolution.”

Our renewable energy community is large, resourceful, and rapidly evolving. Mubadala’s Masdar Institute is focused on making profitable and sound investments in renewable energy and sustainable technology. Elsewhere the UAE has signed partnerships to develop renewable energy projects in the Pacific island countries of Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Those projects will be financed from the $50 million UAE-Pacific Partnership Fund, with grant financing from the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development. And now the UAE also hosts IRENA.

IRENA seeks to provide reliable renewable energy services plus gather existing, but scattered, activities around a central hub. The principal components of IRENA include: the Assembly, the Council and the Secretariat. The Assembly, made up of one representative from each member state, convenes annually as IRENA’s ultimate decision-making authority. The Council is accountable to the Assembly is composed of 21 members, elected for a two-year terms, tasked with ensuring the fair and equitable distribution of the Council’s work. The Secretariat, which comprises the Director-General and his staff, provides administrative and technical support to IRENA. The ninth meeting of the IRENA Council took place 10 - 11 June 2015 in Abu Dhabi and included representatives from the UAE and countries as diverse as China, Ethiopia, Gambia, India, Japan, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Poland, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey and Uruguay. Such support for renewable energy innovation and the hosting of IRENA will enhance the strategic flexibility of the UAE as it approaches 2050.

The UAE vision for renewable energy will help ensure the strategic security and prosperity of the UAE by providing parallel pathways for success even in uncertain times. The UAE has huge potential as a leading renewable energy innovator in the Gulf and the wider Middle East region, and there is no doubt that the presence of IRENA in the UAE will enhance the global reputation of the nation and give the UAE influence in ways it has not had before – both of which enhance national security.