Interview: Khaled Al Huraimel

In what ways can waste-to-energy innovations help meet objectives related to long-term energy security and environmental sustainability?

KHALED AL HURAIMEL: The region has seen significant advancements in the waste-to-energy segment in recent years, with various opportunities for energy recovery from waste being identified and pursued. These innovations have made a considerable impact in Sharjah, contributing to the UAE’s long-term energy security and environmental sustainability objectives.

One notable example is the Sharjah Waste to Energy plant, a first in the region. The facility generates enough electricity to supply tens of thousands of homes. Such infrastructure is part of an integrated approach to waste management, where recoverable waste is maximised and the remainder is used to generate energy, thereby reducing landfill use. This approach has led to high rates of landfill waste diversion, which is a significant achievement in the region.

How can the sustainability ecosystem capitalise on opportunities in the green economy?

AL HURAIMEL: There are emerging business opportunities in areas such as integrated waste management, waste-to-energy, green mobility and green architecture. Sharjah, with its focus on sustainability, is well positioned to capitalise on these opportunities. Advancing green mobility is essential for achieving net-zero emissions. This includes the development of electric vehicle (EV) charging networks, hydrogen fuelling stations and the introduction of more zero-emissions vehicles. There is a trend in the region towards the development of infrastructure to support this shift through cross-sector collaboration. For example, our firm recently began collaborating with companies to repurpose end-of-life vehicles into EVs and test hydrogen-fuelled vehicles.

Sustainable and smart infrastructure is another critical area of focus. The region has seen the development of iconic structures that integrate smart technology, including our headquarters, a LEED Platinum-certified building with an on-site solar farm. These innovative buildings not only enhance the workplace but also showcase the potential for net-zero communities.

The UAE, and Sharjah in particular, has established itself as a favourable environment for doing business, especially in sectors aligned with sustainability and green development. The leadership in Sharjah is committed to being a leader in sustainability, diversifying its economy and leveraging its development goals to create a wide array of business opportunities across various sectors in the green economy.

What more can be done to encourage entrepreneurs and skilled graduates to seek opportunities in the sustainable economy?

AL HURAIMEL: Various sustainability education initiatives in Sharjah and throughout the country are engaging a wide audience. At BEEAH, we are emphasising the importance of every action towards sustainability. Community engagement initiatives encourage individuals to participate in waste segregation at the source and foster learning about the importance of sustainability, shaping them into future sustainability ambassadors or professionals in the sector.

Sharjah has launched programmes to recognise and reward innovative efforts in sustainability. These include awards for start-ups, students and organisations making significant contributions to a sustainable future to encourage entrepreneurship and attract skilled graduates to the green economy.

Programmes designed for younger students provide a foundation in green principles, and prepare them for future careers or studies in this field. Greater collaboration, especially between the public and private sectors, will further enhance these educational initiatives. This approach is crucial in unifying efforts to educate the youth, encourage entrepreneurial innovation in sustainability and drive progress towards sustainability targets.