Interview: Jasim Husain Thabet

How can energy and utility players help the UAE achieve its energy transition goals?

JASIM HUSAIN THABET: Key energy and utility stakeholders in the country, including TAQA, are committed to achieving the UAE’s net-zero target by 2050. Utility companies are playing a key role in driving progress across multiple fronts, for example, by launching additional renewable energy projects, enhancing grid capacity and interconnectivity, and managing the demand side to optimise energy consumption.

By examining how energy is used, utility companies can help promote the adoption of more efficient technologies and practices in both residential and commercial areas. An example of this is the creation of Abu Dhabi Energy Services, established with the aim of helping businesses reduce their carbon footprint. To ensure maximum impact, utility providers should collaborate with industry players to enhance efficiencies, share best industrial practices and drive innovation in renewable energy technologies. By joining forces, these companies can collectively address the challenges facing the energy sector.

While there is considerable discussion about investing in renewables, we should not overlook the infrastructure, capital and space required. Harnessing resources calls for a coordinated effort among utilities, energy companies and government agencies. By working together, these entities can identify areas of synergy and maximise the potential of energy projects.

What are the implications of green hydrogen development in the UAE and Abu Dhabi from an infrastructure investment perspective?

THABET: As the world is still in the early stages of hydrogen adoption, there is a need for greater specificity regarding the targeted sectors for implementation. Masdar, in which TAQA is the largest shareholder, serves as a vehicle for the development of new renewable and hydrogen projects. Hydrogen is important since it has the capability to help decarbonise heavy industries such as steel production, though it should be noted that this alternative energy source must compete with existing legacy solutions.

Two key components required for green hydrogen power are renewable energy and water, both of which are readily available in the UAE. TAQA has the Al Dhafra Solar Photovoltaic Project, one of the world’s largest single-site and most cost-effective solar projects, and Taweelah Reverse Osmosis (RO), one of the world’s largest seawater desalination projects using RO technology, which is nearing its final stages of commissioning. This kind of infrastructure improves the feasibility of developing hydrogen power projects and provides the country with a technical advantage. By capitalising on such resources and focusing on their strategic implementation, the UAE can emerge as a leader in the hydrogen industry, contributing to the global transition towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly energy landscape.

In what ways can private investment further support the UAE’s net-zero 2050 initiative?

THABET: Historically, the UAE has been at the forefront of renewable energy advancements. The country established Masdar in 2006 with the goal of investing in renewable energy long before it became a key topic in global discussions. Within the country, Abu Dhabi has been a pioneer in privatising several power and water utility companies. All major power generation plants typically operate under public-private partnership models, with 40% of shares held by international stakeholders. Forward-thinking infrastructure investment is evidenced by TAQA’s recent $1b green bond issuance plus a $500m conventional bond that was approximately 10 times oversubscribed. This indicates that there is widespread confidence in the country’s ongoing commitment to renewable energy and sustainable development, as well as in TAQA’s strategy.