Decarbonizing the Energy Sector
The Mena region gathers momentum in the global shift towards greater decarbonization.
Getting to net-zero emissions and stabilizing climate change by keeping average global temperature increase well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, preferably to 1.5°C, as agreed in COP26 conference, will require transforming how the world uses energy.
A series of initiatives have been taken across the globe to produce energy more efficiently and to reduce the carbon footprint.
Though the Mena region has collectively less GHG emissions compared with China and the US, but the intensity of emissions per capita in some GCC countries is alarmingly high. In order to decarbonize the regional energy system while decreasing hydrocarbon reliance, the 2030 Visions of Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Qatar incorporate strategy to work towards operating more sustainably.
With approximately 40% of global carbon emissions from fuel combustion attributable to electricity and heat production, particular focus is on decarbonizing the power sector.
The GCC countries are among the highest per capita consumers of electricity in the world, ranging from 103% to 430% above the global average of 3.5 MWh per capita.
By deploying renewables and natural gas, while transitioning away from higher carbon intensity liquid fuels such as oil and diesel, will enable substantive reductions in emissions due to the lower carbon footprint of the former and can provide stable and reliable energy.
Expanding renewables capacity is at the top of the Mena region’s energy agenda. Over $104bn worth of renewable energy projects have been planned and about $21.5bn projects are likely to be awarded in 2021 and 2022. However, renewable energy alone is not enough to achieve the goal of decarbonized energy systems.
Green hydrogen is as an important emerging element in the energy landscape. It is a clean burning, renewably produced element which when used as a fuel in electricity generation emits only vapour and no carbon dioxide. It has the potential to decarbonize almost every sector including transport and petrochemical industry.
Another important means to decarbonize power in the short term is to enhance the performance of the region’s existing gas power infrastructure by converting simple-cycle gas turbines to a combined cycle configuration and upgrading existing assets. These conversions can help generate up to 50% more power without additional fuel or emissions. CCUS solutions are also being deployed with gas-fired power plants, to produce on-demand electricity with very low carbon emissions.
The way forward for the industry is to enable continued investment in transformative innovations and achieve climate neutrality in the long term.