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Renewables: A focus of the UAE and the Caribbean

Bader
Almatrooshi

Sunday, June 16, 2019

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One of the challenges encountered these days in the Caribbean is access to energy. This region is highly dependent on imported oil and other fossil fuels for transport and electricity, accounting for huge amounts of money spent every year in this sector.

No doubt, this dependency negatively impacts the overall competitiveness of the region. On the other hand, climate change has contributed to unprecedented natural disaster, urging people to transit to a resilience revolution.

The potential for renewable energy, based on the geographical position, is limitless — which opens the door for transforming the energy sector. International cooperation plays a major role in supporting renewable initiatives in Caribbean countries. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), understanding the consequences of climate change and supporting the ideals of a greener and modern world, has stepped forward in extending a hand to the region through the launch of the US$50-million UAE Caribbean Renewable Energy Fund (CREF) in 2017, on the sidelines of the Sustainability Week celebrated in Abu Dhabi.

The initiative celebrates the similarities shared by both the UAE and the Caribbean, such as the high potential for solar energy and the willingness to diversify their energy matrix. In addition, the initiative is also in line with the UAE's principles of international cooperation and in compass with their commitment to the sustainable development goals, especially to those of climate action and clean energy.

The fund is administered by a steering committee consisting of the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, and Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company. The primary objective of this bilateral cooperation is to support renewable energy projects across 15 Caribbean countries: Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname, across different cycles.

The fruits of this partnership are already visible. Recently, the Bahamas, Barbados, and St Vincent and the Grenadines, which belong to cycle number one, inaugurated their projects under the fund, setting the leading pace of a brighter renewable energy future to come. Altogether, the three projects, which broke ground in November 2018, will deliver 2.35 MW of solar and 637 kWh of battery storage capacity, while displacing more than 2.6 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.

In total, diesel savings will account for more than 895,000 litres per year, worth approximately US$1.1 million. The three projects are also designed to withstand up to 160 miles per hour winds and extreme weather, following a new requirement introduced in the UAE-CREF in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Maria.

The second cycle of the fund was announced in January 2018 during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Assembly. It involves renewable energy projects in Belize, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, St Kitts and Nevis, and St Lucia, most of whose projects will proceed to procurement soon. On the other hand, Jamaica was announced in January 2019, part of the third cycle along with Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname.

On a national scale, the UAE has embarked on a number of initiatives that demonstrate the importance given to the renewable energy sources. For example, the UAE has plans to increase the contribution of clean energy in the total energy mix from 25 per cent to 50 per cent by 2050, and reduce carbon footprint of power generation by 70 per cent — thus saving around US$190 billion by 2050.

In addition, since 2009 Abu Dhabi has hosted IRENA, the first inter-governmental organisation to have its headquarters in the Middle East. IRENA supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future and serves as the principal platform for international cooperation — a centre of excellence, and a repository of policy, technology, resource and financial knowledge on renewable energy.

Furthermore, the UAE has also built a zero-carbon city Masdar City which has become a greenprint for the sustainable development of cities through the application of real world solutions in water, energy efficiency, and the reduction of waste.

The UAE-CREF is just the beginning of a long-term partnership between the UAE and the Caribbean, proving that cooperation will always be the correct path for those who believe that binding efforts build up for greater outcomes. As the founding father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan used to say: “There is no true benefit for us from the wealth we have unless it also reaches those in need, wherever they may be, and regardless of their nationality or belief.”

— Bader Almatrooshi is the ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the United Arab Emirates to the Republic of Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, and UAE representative to the Association of Caribbean States.


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