10 priorities for a successful energy transformation pathway

03 DEC 2020

The energy transition is gathering pace, as countries and companies around the world are increasingly switching to more decarbonized energy solutions such as renewables.

This transition will evolve into a transformation, which will see the utilization of new decarbonized energy sources such as green hydrogen, which has usages in a variety of applications from energy production to industrial manufacturing and chemicals production.

But each country or company is at its own starting point and will progress through this transition at different speeds. Each requires its own customized, individualized plan, to effectively navigate the transition and implement these changes.

The energy transition and transformation can appear daunting. On the face of it, it requires a fundamental restructuring of current energy systems and networks. But this isn’t always the case and the benefits significantly outweigh the costs and difficulties.

As part of a recent regional energy conference, Middle East and Africa Energy Week, which Siemens Energy hosted in partnership with Masdar, we condensed the conclusions from the frank and insightful discussions into a list of the 10 key priorities for the successful energy transformation pathway.

These priorities, backed up by quotes from participants at the event, highlight the benefits of the energy transformation and lay the groundwork for what is required:

1. Access to stable, affordable, and sustainable energy supply is a basic human right

“Renewables can improve human welfare in a way not captured by statistics. They can promote social justice, local empowerment and wealth generation, equality and educational opportunities,” Dr. Raja Al Gurg Managing Director, Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group 

2.  Availability of sustainable energy is the foundation for long-term economic prosperity

“Quite simply access to energy gives everyone the opportunity to fulfill their complete and full potential. We take for granted we are all fortunate to have access to reliable energy, to power our lives, from better healthcare and education, clean, prosperous job growth, to sustainable cooling and food security. Access to sustainable clean energy is the key that can help unlock a prosperous future for billions of people.” Damilola Ogunbiyi, CEO and Special Representation of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for all (SEforALL)

3.  Bespoke national energy roadmaps are vital to effectively realize the energy transition

“The UAE Energy Strategy 2050 aims to increase the contribution of clean energy in the total energy mix from 25 percent to 50 percent by 2050 and reduce the carbon footprint of power generation by 70 percent. The UAE is working also to diversify the energy mix through combining renewable, nuclear and clean energy sources to meet the country’s economic requirements.” - H.E. Sharif Al Olama, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Energy & Industry, UAE 

4.  Leverage the individual strengths and power of multilateral relationships to accelerate the pace of the energy transition

“As renewables have become cheaper and more versatile, they have found their way into more solutions. We see today electric mobility picking up globally. Energy storage, building infrastructure, they are also making other technologies more viable.” Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, CEO, Masdar

5.  Utilizing highly efficient existing technology is paramount to bridge to a zero-carbon world

“The UAE is working also to diversify the energy mix through combining renewable, nuclear and clean energy sources to meet the country’s economic requirements. Though the world relies on energy from hydrocarbon sources, there has been a move to greener and more innovative energy sources. There is a conviction that diversification is key.” H.E. Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation, UAE  

6.  The energy system will transform into one integrated ecosystem for all new clean technologies

“Hydrogen allows low carbon energy to move from electricity to many other sectors, including sectors that are hard to decarbonize. Renewables have traditionally been constrained to one geography. We can now integrate renewable energy systems and conventional hydrocarbon systems – a circular carbon economy concept.” Ahmad Al Khowaiter, CTO, Saudi Aramco

7.  Highly flexible and reliable transmission and distribution networks will be the intelligent backbone of a de-carbonized energy system

“We are working hard to prepare grid networks to meet the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s ambitious targets of generating 30 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2025 and 60 gigawatts by 2030.” Ibrahim Al Jarbou, CEO, National Grid Saudi Arabia

8.  Access to capital at reasonable costs will play a critical role in the energy transition

“I think we see some ambitious energy transition agendas in the Middle East and Africa. I think there are ambitious agendas which will make things happen. From our perspective as an ECA [Export Credit Agency], the agenda of the region fits in with Germany. I believe we will see more projects in the region in the coming years and hopefully we will be able to support those.” Edna Schöne, Member of the Board, Euler Hermes

9.  Collaboration of strong partners will solve the challenges in financing the energy transition

"Capital markets can reward companies that are taking green technology into consideration, and that can be done through investing in these companies, or even creating a stock exchange that rewards companies that are proactively adopting an ESG [Environmental, Social, Governance] agenda, or a sustainable agenda in the way that they do business.” Badr Al-Olama, Executive Director, Aerospace at Mubadala; Head of Organizing Committee, GMIS

10.  Now is the time to act, 2020 marks the year of change in many aspects

“We have a unique opportunity to fast track the energy transition. Covid-19 has dramatically impacted economies around the world. Effort and capital is being directed towards a fast recovery. Uniting, and focusing our efforts, will enable developing and developed countries alike to advance to a prosperous and zero carbon future extremely quickly. Dietmar Siersdorfer, Managing Director, Siemens Energy Middle East and UAE


27 JUL 2020

COVID-19 pandemic hampering efforts to prevent biodiversity loss

While global measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic have temporarily reduced air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, they have also hampered efforts to prevent biodiversity loss, Her Excellency Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak said this month. Recovery plans must not only facilitate an economic rebound, they must also deliver a biodiversity stimulus, she said at a company event. 

Recent data from the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi indicates nitrogen dioxide levels are down 50 percent on their seasonal average, following restrictions to limit the spread of coronavirus, with similar reductions seen across North America, Europe and Asia. Reduced human and vehicle movement is also allowing some animals to roam more freely – in Abu Dhabi, mountain gazelle have been spotted close to the golf course on Saadiyat Island, while an increase in sea turtle activity has been reported along the mainland coasts. 

While the reduction in emissions demonstrates that it is possible to take positive action against climate change, Al Mubarak, Managing Director of the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, told Masdar employees that “what is interesting, especially in my line of work, is what happens to nature – is there enough investment in nature protection? To be honest, there isn’t.

“What the science actually shows is that nature is not rebounding as quickly as perhaps emissions are [abating]. We may have more time to visibly notice nature, we can hear more birds in our backyard because we don’t hear the traffic as much perhaps. But the numbers in terms of biodiversity are still going down,” she said.  

A survey of organizations that have received grants from the fund indicates 40 percent have been negatively affected during this period, Al Mubarak said, and “we anticipate a continuous reduction in funding going toward biodiversity.” 

While environmental tourism, zoo visit, safaris and other activities that support biodiversity funding have been halted, “the threat to species and their habitats has not stopped and in fact has increased” as millions of people lose jobs and return to rural communities where they will look to nature for sustenance. 

With an estimated 1.6 million viruses existing today in the natural world, this encroachment could lead to more pandemics, Al Mubarak warned. “With these pathogens in wildlife, when we essentially go into their habitats due to a demand in our products, palm oil, agriculture, mining and so forth, we are mixing with wildlife, we are putting wildlife where they don’t belong and that’s where you have these diseases. In order to protect our own health, one must protect the health of welfare and habitats.”


02 FEB 2021

2021: A year for climate action with a focus on green recovery

Almost exactly one year ago, I believed that 2020 would be remembered as the year the world finally got its act together on climate action. All the signs were positive: public pressure was being matched by political will. Ambitious milestones and targets were to be put in place, and, fuelled by footage of wildfires and storm damage, climate change was high on the media agenda. 

The pandemic put those hopes on hold, with climate change being eclipsed by a news cycle dominated by COVID-19. This year, it is my sincere hope that 2020 was just a bump in the road: opportunities delayed, rather than thwarted. In fact, with the world pinning its hopes on a post-COVID ‘green recovery’ fueled by infrastructure spending, I believe that this year we are looking at the best opportunity of our lifetimes to enact real, long-term change and limit global warming to 1.5C by the end of the century.

The pandemic may well have focused our collective will: unchecked climate change, after all, will be far more devastating for the world than COVID-19. The response to the pandemic, and particularly the speed in which numerous effective vaccines were developed, tested and rolled out, showed us that governments, businesses, investors and researchers can work together to ensure funding, personnel and resources can be allocated where they can be most effective.

It is my hope that this year’s Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) will be remembered as a platform through which we helped forge this collective will in regard to the green recovery and to climate action. As one of the world’s most recognized sustainability gatherings for more than a decade now, ADSW is this year being held virtually, and bringing together more of the world’s most influential experts and leaders in sustainability and climate action than ever before.

We’re building on solid momentum: between 2015 and 2020, solar and wind capacity around the world more than doubled, from less than 700GW to more than 1,400GW, and by early 2020 renewable sources were accounting for 28 percent of global energy generation. At the same time, US President-elect Joe Biden, through his Build Back Better initiative, is putting sustainable infrastructure investment and clean energy transition at the top of his agenda. (We had the honor of hosting the president-elect at Masdar City, when he visited the UAE in 2016, and he expressed a keenness to enhance co-operation between the US and UAE in clean energy.)

For over a decade now, the UAE and Masdar have been playing a leading role in supporting climate action, both here and abroad. At Masdar City, for example, we have created a complete sustainability ecosystem that allows new ideas to develop and to thrive, and which is home to more than 900 innovative enterprises from around the world today. And, with partners including Taqa and EDF Renewables we are proud to be part of the 2 GW Al Dhafra solar project – a testament to the UAE’s commitment to clean energy.

This commitment was further reinforced at the end of 2020, with the UAE’s leadership announcing we would reduce our carbon emissions by 23.5 percent by 2030, in line with our commitment to the Paris Agreement. This translates into absolute emission reduction of about 70 million tonnes and will be achieved through more clean energy capacity as well as boosting energy efficiency; increasing carbon capture; promoting sustainable agriculture; and implementing environment-friendly waste management.

In the UAE, our clean power capacity – including solar and nuclear – is set to meet the target of 14GW by 2030, increasing from just over 100 MW in 2015, and 2.4 GW in 2020. Masdar pledged in 2019 to double the capacity of our generation portfolio – then at 4 GW – within five years. In fact, we have already exceeded that target in 2020. Our portfolio including operational projects and those under delivery, has a capacity of more than 10 GW, displacing some 16 million tonnes of CO2 each year.

Any green recovery that is committed to mitigating climate change will require the highest levels of collaboration and partnership between countries, businesses, and societies, and here, too, we see opportunities in 2021. With technology, we must invest more into the potential energy sources of the future, such as green hydrogen, as well as finding more efficient battery and storage solutions, developing smart grids, and introducing mobility infrastructure such as charging stations. 
The historic Abraham Accords between Israel and the UAE will bring about a new era of cooperation and co-investment in clean energy, among other opportunities. And, at the end of this year, we at Masdar will be part of the UAE’s delegation to COP26, the UN climate talks, where real progress must be made on drawing a roadmap to achieving the UN Sustainability Goals. 

In 2021, the stakes may never have been higher, but the opportunities have never been greater. 

By Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Masdar


24 MAR 2021

Taking the sustainable road to success

Sustainability is increasingly becoming a business imperative rather than a nice-to-have as consumers and investors are actively fuelling their decision-making by placing a high value on businesses acting with greater responsibility in regard to how they operate and the wider impact they have on the world. For businesses, it is fast becoming the mindset of no longer simply being survival of the fittest, it is survival of the most sustainable.

Companies now realize they must measure the impact they are making on the environment and the people they engage with directly or indirectly. Increasingly, gone are the days when the terms sustainability and corporate social responsibility were side initiatives in a business, they are now more central to the business strategy and operation. 
As a responsible business, CAFU takes sustainability very seriously by focusing efforts that help to improve the environment and wider community with practical measures that can make a difference. For CAFU, this takes the form of the company strategy, the CAFU Sustainability Deal, towards being responsible and embedding sustainability into practical actions that can make a difference to the world around us. 

Sustainability Driving Business Decisions

The case for climate change is a compelling one. The role of business in contributing positive action to this agenda is vitally important – it is why at Dubai born start-up CAFU, we believe that we, like others, should and must act responsibly in delivering a positive impact in the world.
At the heart of the sustainability approach by CAFU is the aim to plant one million Ghaf seeds which forms the central pillar of the CAFU Sustainability Deal in its mission towards becoming carbon neutral. 

As an innovative technology company born in Dubai, CAFU is harnessing its home-grown technology development towards helping to solve challenges faced by the world today and in the future in the efforts towards enabling a more sustainable world. 

Through CAFU’s bespoke technology solution and combined with an extensive R&D programme, it is using drone technology to map, plant, and monitor at scale the Ghaf tree plantation in the UAE desert environment.  Native to the UAE, the Ghaf tree is perfect for these harsh desert conditions found in the Emirates. The tree survives on very little water, improves the quality of the soil, and helps battle climate change by taking in up to 34.65 kg of Co2 emissions per tree, per year.  

With one million trees planted, they could absorb up to 34,650 tonnes of Co2 emissions per year. With a Ghaf tree able to live up to 120 years, that could mean that over 4.1 million tonnes of Co2 could be absorbed over their lifetime which would make an immense positive contribution to our world. 

Through the CAFU Sustainability Deal, the company is making business decisions to be responsible to the wider environment. It is why the company recently introduced a waterless car wash that delivers a high-quality service to its consumers but at the same is more environmentally friendly, it means business decisions focused on the sustainability agenda that can achieve both objectives, acting responsibly whilst also being of high value to the consumer. 

Green Human Resource

Bold leadership combined with a desire to act and live more responsibility can steer the business towards profit with sustainability. With this focus, the company is taking a raft of measures to operationalise several sustainability initiatives from plastic recycling across our estate through to reduction to the amount of paper we consume. In the newly created role of Sustainability and Community Manager, I am driving the leadership agenda of the company into practical steps to reduce the impact that we have as a company on the world. 

Purpose is the Key

Leading businesses now realize that purpose is just as important as profit. This may call for tough decision making at times, but supported by the right resources, both financial and intellectual, companies can serve a much greater purpose whilst also making profits – purely by acting responsibly. Increasingly, consumers are looking at the impact that brands have on the world around them and driving their purchasing and consumption decision making around sustainability values and practices being implemented by companies. 

Align to Sustainable Goals

Aligning your sustainability journey to pre-set goals is a great way to embark on this road towards a brighter future for the business as well as future generations. Our own efforts towards sustainability have led us to align CAFU with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 13 on Climate Action that is focused on creating a better environment through innovation and transformation in a rapidly evolving world. Having also signed-up to the SDG Ambition Accelerator programme, we are now able to align CAFU with the SDG objectives to improve measurement and performance towards achieving our sustainability goals.

At CAFU, we believe sustainability and innovation are perfect partners in making a positive impact to our customers, our community, and ultimately to the world. Organizations need to consider the wider impact of their business on the world and establish ways to reduce any negative impact on the environment by adapting to more eco-friendly solutions. The business community can achieve both excellent and innovative services to their customers, but also with careful consideration, they can take actions to positively impact the world, and ensure a bright future for generations to come.

By Nabra Al Busaidi / Sustainability and Community Manager at CAFU