29 MAY 2021

How to Hydrogen: The 3 golden rules to fuel the future

By Dietmar Siersdorfer, Managing Director, Siemens Energy Middle East and UAE.

The lightest element in the periodic table, the most abundant chemical substance in the universe, and the long-promised secret weapon to win our battle against climate change. These are all common features of Hydrogen. A clean-burning molecule, that can help to decarbonize a range of sectors that have proved hard to clean up in the past. 
Hydrogen has been touted as the ‘fuel of the future’ since the 1970’s but five decades later, that vision has yet to materialize. Perhaps part of the problem is using the label ‘future’. That always gives us the illusion that we have the luxury of time. But today, in a post-pandemic world where the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is the highest it has ever been in human history, it seems like that future has arrived. 
With green hydrogen gaining traction around the world and in the region, it is the right time to make the dream of a cleaner future a reality today. So what are the three golden rules we need to remember to make that happen?

1. Being realistic
With more and more nations committing to green hydrogen strategies and new ground-breaking projects taking place around us, it is important to not lose track of where we stand in this journey. We are still at the very beginning. Knowing where we stand means knowing exactly what needs be done to reach our targets. The reality is that we still have many challenges to overcome when it comes to the production, transportation, and storage of an element like Hydrogen. 

It all starts with the conundrum of ‘green’ hydrogen, which can be produced from water with electrolysis, an energy-intensive but carbon-free process if powered by renewable electricity. That sounds like a perfect solution, but of course there’s a catch. According to Bernstein analysts, hydrogen made from fossil fuels currently costs between $1-$1.8/kg. Green hydrogen can cost around $6/kg today, making it significantly more expensive than the fossil fuel alternatives. However, as is the case with all production processes, increased demand could drastically reduce these costs.

The transport and storing of hydrogen are also one of the main stumbling blocks in the road to a hydrogen-based economy. The nature of H2 as an element particularly makes this difficult. Its flammability, low density as a gas and liquid, and high diffusivity pose serious safety risks throughout every step of the distribution mechanism. Its transportation, storage, and final delivery to the point of use also incur significant costs. Other chemical alternatives for hydrogen storage, such as methanol and ammonia, could be the answer due to their high storage density and less electricity demand for storage. Some of the infrastructure required to pull this off is already in place because hydrogen has long been used in industrial applications. However, we are still lacking the means to support widespread consumer use of hydrogen as an energy carrier.

2. Building on momentum
Hydrogen has been in use for many decades in sectors like refining and chemical industries. However, its use as an energy source has started receiving increased interest in recent years. Over the past year alone, we saw great progress with industrial giants like Germany, Netherlands, Britain, Australia and Japan, announcing hydrogen strategies. 

2020 was dubbed ‘The Year of Green Hydrogen’ and it’s crucial to build up on this momentum. At Siemens Energy we are also playing a massive role, with our partners, in steering this momentum toward the region. One of the major milestones occurred last week as we inaugurated the first industrial scale, solar-driven green hydrogen facility in the Middle East and North Africa in partnership with Expo 2020 Dubai and DEWA. The integrated facility is regarded as a pilot project and was developed with electrolysis, storage, and re-electrification capabilities, to maximize the benefits of the pilot project. Daylight solar power from the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, where the facility is located, will enable the production of around 20.5 kilograms of hydrogen per hour at 1.25MWe of peak power. This is the first time green hydrogen is being produced at an industrial scale in the region. How did we make this happen? Partnerships. Collaboration between the private and public sectors is the only way forward to transform the energy sector. The real value of these pilots is not in the numbers, but in the lessons that we will learn along the way that will guide us in the development of a green hydrogen industry across the region.

3. Learning from solar and wind 
The good news is that we have been on a similar path before. Once upon a time, the integration of solar and wind power into the energy mix felt like a sought-after dream. Today, we are emerging from a record-breaking year for renewable energy in 2020. New renewable energy capacity – primarily solar and wind – made up a whopping 90 percent of the power sector’s growth globally last year, according to the International Energy Agency. And it’s not a one-off. The agency forecasts renewables to again account for 90 percent of the power sector’s expansion in 2021 and 2022. 

These numbers would have sounded like pure fiction only a decade ago. But here we are. We have many lessons to learn from the journey of solar and wind energy, which can inform our quest for a hydrogen-fueled world. Going back to my first point, it all starts with setting ambitious and realistic targets that are grounded in comprehensive and integrated national energy plans. National plans and roadmaps mean government backing which has proven momentously integral in the growth of the renewable energy sector. Wind farms and solar parks have become an indispensable part of the generation expansion plans of almost every country in the world. That came after years of consistent planning, raising awareness and commitments made on global level from the major stakeholders in the industry. 

Hydrogen has the potential, and certainly the merits, to get there eventually but it is in our hands to make that possible. Are we doing enough? That’s a question every private and public entity should be asking themselves. It all starts with asking the right questions.

03 OCT 2021

Why collective innovation is key to a sustainable future for MENA

By Prashant Saran / Director of Operations, Amazon MENA

You click ‘buy’ and a short while later your package arrives at your door – a simple, seamless experience that conceals the technology, scale, and operational excellence behind it.

At Amazon’s DXB3 fulfilment centre in Dubai, our largest in the UAE, our customer-obsessed employees pick and pack millions of products1 . More and more customers are demanding the convenience this sports stadium-sized space provides. But they are calling for it at a crucial moment for the planet.

That same fulfilment centre is now home to a glistening new solar photovoltaic rooftop2 . Expected to have an emissions-reducing impact equivalent to the planting of more than 40,000 tree seedlings, it is a fantastic achievement and an important milestone.

However, it is just the beginning of a long and complex journey in terms of what needs to be done to mitigate the severe repercussions of climate change. For Amazon, solar rooftops are only one part of our endeavour. We have committed to reducing the environmental impact of our operations in the MENA region at every stage3  − from our network of buildings, to our packaging, transportation, and last mile delivery.

But no one organisation, or country for that matter, can fight the climate crisis alone.

The scale and speed of change requires focused and simultaneous action across industries and nations. We have to work together to implement a collaborative cycle of change – one that encompasses innovative technology and business models, public policy environment to foster the innovation, and the businesses and organisations to adopt and implement them in their core strategy.

In short, the need to work together to solve this issue has never been more urgent.

An appetite for change

Scientists tell us that we have a small window of opportunity to make headway on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 20504 . In MENA, the situation is perhaps even starker – the region has been described as a climate change hotspot5  where summers warm faster than the rest of the world. The related impacts of failing to act − on living conditions, on agriculture, on water scarcity6  − will be felt across societies.

The MENA region clearly recognises the scale of this challenge. Across the countries where we operate – UAE7 , Saudi Arabia8  and Egypt9  – governments are indeed acting, and they have announced sustainability agendas with an intent to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy such as solar.

This is being backed financially, with institutions including the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund10 , Mubadala and others integrating sustainability into their investment decisions11 . Mubadala subsidiary Masdar, for example, has invested nearly $20 billion globally in renewable and sustainable projects12 , including Saudi Arabia’s first wind farm13 .

This imperative for change has created a fertile environment for businesses to embrace innovations in technology and business models and drive the cycle that will help us achieve our climate goals.

The missing piece of the puzzle

Amazon’s MENA sustainability roadmap focuses on creating energy-efficient infrastructure, transforming our transportation network and reducing waste in our packaging. And while we’ve been inventing heavily in this area, this is also an area where we are calling for collaboration from innovators across the region.

This provides a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs and start-ups. Globally, there are compelling examples of how this can work with pay off for all parties involved.

Take our transportation network. In 2019, Amazon partnered with electric truck start-up Rivian after seeing the potential in its customisable skateboard platform14 . Together we developed a first-of-its-kind delivery vehicle, and an order for 100,000 electric vehicles was placed. Some of these vehicles are already delivering products in the US, and 10,000 in total will be on the road by 2022. Meanwhile, Rivian’s latest round of funding raised $2.65 billion15 .

On the infrastructure front, Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund invested in CarbonCure16 . The company manufactures technologies that consume carbon dioxide in concrete during production, permanently sequestering the CO2 and enabling the reduction of cement content in mixes without compromising performance. Amazon will use the technology to help reduce the impact of many of its new buildings, including HQ2 in the US state of Virginia.

Calling all innovators


Technology innovators in MENA should take inspiration from these global examples. Green solutions that not only help the environment but also create value in terms of cost savings, new revenue streams, or improving supply chain resilience are the blueprint for success.

Amazon is a young company in this region and, as we continue to grow, we are committed to doing so sustainably and responsibly. We encourage local entrepreneurs, start-ups, and innovators to join us to help deliver the solutions that combat climate change and do so with innovations that are specifically designed to withstand our region’s unique climate conditions.

So, if you’re working on a game-changing innovation that could help as we progress along our roadmap, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.

With swift, collective action between businesses, innovators, and governments, we can build an ecosystem of change that will secure a brighter future for our communities – and for the planet.

27 JUN 2021

The shift toward sustainable investments

By Cornelius Matthes, Chief Executive Officer / Dii Desert Energy

Is it often good to look at capital markets as an indicator for important future trends. They generally value companies on future expectations and sometimes anticipate important trends via massive shifts in flows and portfolio allocations. Last year has seen a crazy ride, with some of the strongest corrections in recent times, as also shown by the volatility indicator VIX at a historic high even above the financial crisis, so sometimes capital markets tend to exaggerate and create bubbles as well.

Early movers into renewable energy have been highly rewarded, as long term stock prices of companies like Orsted or Iberdrola show. This is in sharp contrast to utility and energy companies that did not move in this direction - while the early movers have multiplied their market value, the latter have lost in some cases up to over 80 percent and been completely marginalised. 

A recent study by the IEA/Imperial College finds that renewable energy stocks not only massively outperform conventional energy, but even at a lower volatility. The fact that climate change risks were finally widely recognized caused a big paradigm shift toward sustainable investments, accelerating this development.

While we need to be wary of greenwashing, this trend is very powerful and more and more banks completely abandon any financing of fossil fuels. Insurers dump utilities not exiting from coal and the question is how long capital will actually be available for fossil fuel projects.

All of this has profound implications and points towards a truly exciting and disruptive decade with fast defossilization.

We need to deliver the main chunk of the energy transition in this decade, otherwise it will be too late. So act now and fast and join us on our mission 'No Emissions'.

30 MAY 2021

Need to Know: 10 key facts about World Environment Day

By United Nations

Ecosystem loss is depriving the world of carbon sinks, like forests and peatlands, at a time humanity can least afford it. The emergence of COVID-19 has also shown just how disastrous the consequences of ecosystem loss can be. By shrinking the area of natural habitat for animals, we have created ideal conditions for pathogens – including coronaviruses – to spread.
Ecosystem restoration means preventing, halting and reversing this damage – to go from exploiting nature to healing it. Only with healthy ecosystems can we enhance people’s livelihoods, counteract climate change and stop the collapse of biodiversity.

This year, World Environment Day is focused on ecosystem restoration and its theme is “Reimagine. Recreate. Restore.”
This World Environment Day will kick off the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030), a global mission to revive billions of hectares, from forests to farmlands, from the top of mountains to the depth of the sea.
Ecosystem restoration is a global undertaking at massive scale. It means repairing billions of hectares of land – an area greater than China or the USA – so that people have access to food, clean water and jobs.
Global greenhouse gas emissions have grown for three consecutive years and the planet is on pace for potentially catastrophic climate change.
Every three seconds, the world loses enough forest to cover a football pitch and over the last century we have destroyed half of our wetlands. 
As much as 50 percent of our coral reefs have already been lost and up to 90 percent of coral reefs could be lost by 2050, even if global warming is limited to an increase of 1.5°C.
Over 4.7 million hectares of forests – an area larger than Denmark – are lost every year.
Nearly 80 percent of the world’s wastewater is discharged to our oceans and rivers without treatment.
Wetlands are being drained for agriculture, with some 87 percent lost globally in the last 300 years.
Present in more than 180 countries, peatlands are vital, super-powered ecosystems. Though they cover only 3 per cent of the world’s land, they store nearly 30 per cent of its soil carbon.