Interview : Awaidha Murshed Al Marar
What are Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy generation goals, and how will these be met?
AWAIDHA MURSHED AL MARAR: The emirate is currently working towards its goal to have 7% of total generation come from renewable sources by 2020. Due to record low prices of energy generated by solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, this is already one of the cheapest energy options for the emirate. All current generation planning studies include a large amount of PV capacity that will enable us to surpass any current and future targets for renewables. Building on the success of our last independent power plant, the 1177-MW Sweihan solar PV facility, we will be launching a number of similar large-scale renewable projects in the coming months and years to help us meet our wider targets and attract investment.
How can Abu Dhabi’s grid be upgraded to better cope with greater use of renewables?
AL MARAR: The bulk of generation in the sector is connected directly to the transmission system, while smaller renewable capacity is embedded in the distribution system. The transmission economic dispatch process factors in the intermittent nature of renewable generation, with alternative sources on standby for when renewables are unavailable. The Abu Dhabi Transmission and Despatch Company has also taken the limited capability of renewable sources into consideration, making primary and secondary responses available where required.
How is the DoE pursuing opportunities for standalone desalination plants?
AL MARAR: The sector is making plans for future capacity requirements, with considerations of how to meet growth in demand and ensure economic dispatch. The ongoing decoupling strategy has demonstrated that reverse osmosis is the best technology for standalone desalination due to its reliability and proven compatibility with seawater conditions in the Gulf, as well as its improved energy recovery system efficiency and the reduced cost per cu metre of desalinated water over the last decade.
What strategies are in place to strengthen water security in light of growing climate risks?
AL MARAR: Around 20 years ago the water and electricity sectors underwent major restructuring. Both industries were privatised, and sector regulations were overhauled with the objective of improving efficiency and enhancing plans for capital investment to ensure a sustainable local water supply.
In Abu Dhabi, we have three main water sources: supply desalination, groundwater and recycled water. These sources are used to support all types of consumption, from domestic, to industrial and landscaping, to agriculture, with the latter being the biggest consumer of the three. Given the high reliance on desalination for domestic water use, as well as elevated groundwater abstraction rates to support the emirate’s rich agricultural environment, recycled water – or treated sewage effluent – is the only source that has not yet realised its full potential.
The emirate’s strategy has been developed to deliver a secure water supply in both normal conditions and emergency cases by enhancing our production capacity, along with an adequate reserve margin. This has been coupled with the construction of a modern transmission and distribution system with sufficient operational storage, as well as the development of contingency plans in preparation for any unforeseen shortages. In addition, we are working to increase the utilisation of recycled water to reach almost 100% by 2020. A key long-term water security initiative is the man-made aquifer facility at Liwa, some 200 km inland from Abu Dhabi City, which is the first of its kind internationally, able to hold some 5bn imperial gallons of potable water.
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