How is Sharjah promoting alternative energy?
KHALED AL HURAIMEL: Investment in alternative energy is a strategic objective for both Sharjah and the UAE, as the government has a target of achieving 44% of power generation from clean energies by 2050. The diversification of the energy mix will help meet the projected growth in demand, and a stable power supply is crucial to maintain the industrial and commercial base, and meet the needs of a growing population. Although Abu Dhabi and Dubai have promoted investment in solar power, renewable energies are increasingly cost effective and attractive to producers due to lower installation and generation costs. Sharjah is promoting renewable energy sources and increasing consumption efficiencies to address supply-demand gaps. Our waste-to-energy (WtE) plant will be the first in the region and will provide 30 MW of capacity from late 2020, which will later be expanded. Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority and the government are exploring other initiatives, introducing LEED-certified outdoor lighting, and education and outreach programmes to promote more sustainable consumption.
What initiatives are being implemented to develop new waste-management facilities?
AL HURAIMEL: As restrictions on exported waste change, particularly in China, long-term investment in local recycling and waste-management facilities will become a requirement across the Middle East. Sharjah has the highest waste diversion rate – approximately 76% – in the region, and the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment aims to achieve a national diversion rate of 75% by 2025. Facilities in Sharjah, including one to segregate household waste and the upcoming WtE plant, will help us achieve our long-term target of 100% diversion by 2020. We are looking to recover and recycle as much material as possible, with the remaining materials processed in the WtE facility. Investment in new facilities and technologies to address other categories, including electronic and medical waste, will help develop the local circular economy. The UAE produces around 17 tonnes of electronic waste (e-waste) annually, and there is demand for facilities to recycle this. Other potential growth segments include wood waste processing and recycling, industrial liquid and oil waste processing and treatment, plastic film and PET plastic recycling, and paper and cardboard recycling.
What opportunities do sustainability initiatives offer for new business models?
AL HURAIMEL: Sustainability and waste management are increasingly profitable, as both the public and private sectors recognise the value of promoting the circular economy. Recovering and recycling materials offers strong revenue streams for businesses that previously focused on waste collection rather than processing. Sharjah has always been open to public-private partnerships (PPPs), and a public sector stakeholder is crucial for many businesses in the environmental and energy sectors. PPPs also allow companies to bring in technology and expertise, and invest in local research and education. For example, we have partnered with the American University of Sharjah to promote environmental research through the Gulf Ecosystems Research Centre and to install air quality-monitoring stations across Sharjah. The upcoming e-waste project is a joint venture between Sharjah-based government entities and specialised private sector firms, and highlights the opportunities for collaboration and technological exchange. Given the expertise of local companies in sustainability, there are opportunities for regional expansion through further PPPs. The GCC region is very similar in terms of consumption rates and waste characterisation, despite operational differences. As the private sector recognises the benefits of cost-effective initiatives to promote sustainability, environmental companies can share their expertise with businesses, including energy-saving measures and waste reduction.
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