IRENA introduces Global Renewable Energy Atlas at meeting on resource mapping

Research institutions, policymakers, and utilities from the six GCC countries convened for the first time to identify collaboration opportunities in resource mapping activities and discuss renewable energy plans, especially sharing past experiences and requirements in resource assessment, at a workshop in Abu Dhabi.

During the workshop titled ‘Renewable energy assessment in the GCC: Networking competencies’, IRENA introduced the Global Renewable Energy Atlas, which is set to become the world’s most comprehensive source of information on renewable energy assessments, including those for the GCC countries.

The workshop was co-organized by the Directorate of Energy and Climate Change at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA-DECC), the Abu Dhabi-headquartered International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), and Masdar Institute of Science and Technology’s Research Center for Renewable Energy Mapping and Assessment.

In addition to officials from King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE) in Saudi Arabia, other participating GCC officials represented organizations such as Abu Dhabi Water Electricity Authority (ADWEA), UAE National Center of Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS), Gulf Research Center, The Oman Research Council, Sultan Qaboos University, Oman’s Meteorological Office-Civil Aviation, Qatar National Food Security Program, Qatar Environment Energy Research Institute, Ministry of Energy and Industry (Qatar Petroleum), National Electricity and Water Research Centre (NEWRC), and Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research.

Dr. Thani Al Zeyoudi, Director of MoFA-DECC, said: “The UAE’s energy mix will have a sizeable portion of power supply from renewable sources and the official releasing of the Solar Atlas at the Rio+20 Summit strongly reinforces this commitment. The first-ever meeting of GCC policy experts in Abu Dhabi also validates the region’s intention to adopt clean energy as a key component in the energy policy. We are confident the outcome of the workshop will be assessed by individual GCC members while implementing sustainable measures for their social and economic progress.”

Gauri Singh, Director of Knowledge Management and Technology Cooperation at IRENA, said: “Providing a range of reliable and well-understood services is part of our mandate to help the global community adopt clean energy sources. The Global Renewable Energy Atlas that is being unveiled here today marks another significant step that we believe will benefit all stakeholders. The workshop in Abu Dhabi is part of our efforts towards knowledge sharing, enabling policies and enhanced capacity, as well as the encouragement of investment flows and strengthened technology and innovation. As a convening instrument, we are delighted to offer our services to support the implementation of GCC region’s clean energy policies.”

Dr Steve Griffiths, Executive Director, Institute Initiatives, Masdar Institute, said: “Resource assessment and mapping has gained significance as part of the GCC region’s rapid ongoing adoption of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, which complement abundant hydrocarbon resources. Such assessment and mapping will be the foundation of this diversification, as it allows countries and project developers to identify geographic locations where renewable resources can be tapped to deliver energy at the lowest cost. The workshop at Masdar Institute highlighted the need for greater collaborations among the GCC countries and we believe the discussions will lead to productive results over the coming months.”

The GCC has initiated several renewable energy projects. Some of the major solar thermal plants in the pipeline include the 100 MW Shams-1 in Abu Dhabi, a 60MW integrated solar combined cycle in Kuwait and a 200MW CSP plant in Oman.

The GCC countries have also set ambitious strategic renewable energy goals. Bahrain and Kuwait each aim to produce 5% and Oman 10% of their energy from renewable sources by 2030, 2020 and 2030, respectively. The Qatar General Electricity & Water Corp (Kahramaa) has announced 3,500MW will be generated using solar technologies by 2013, which may increase to 4,500MW by 2036. Saudi Arabia announced an ambitious target of 41GW solar capacity by 2030, with a technology split of 25GW concentrated solar power (CSP) and 16GW photovoltaics (PV) that is expected to contribute up to 16-22% of the country’s total energy generation.

Such projects exemplify the relevance of the GCC workshop in Abu Dhabi that aimed to emphasize the use of special tools that account for the region’s climatic conditions and provide accurate mapping of renewable energy resources critical to the success of the energy sector.

After welcome remarks by Dr Fred Moavenzadeh, President of Masdar Institute, a summary of renewable energies in the GCC, status and prospects was provided by Gauri Singh of IRENA. IRENA officials then unveiled the Global Renewable Energy Atlas. Hamza Kazim, Vice-President for Operations and Finance, Masdar Institute, offered an overview of EU-GCC Clean Energy Network’s activities at the event.

The Global Renewable Energy Atlas is set to become a platform for high quality renewable energy resource data and a catalyst to trigger planning, and policy development, attracting investors in emerging and new renewable energy markets. It will also facilitate investments in new solar energy capacity which requires an accurate assessment of solar resources with detailed and bankable data for specific candidate sites.

Dr. Hosni Ghedira, Director, UAE Research Center for Renewable Energy Mapping and Assessment, Masdar Institute, said: “Accurate mapping of renewable energy resources — using adapted tools for the GCC’s climate — will be critical to the success of the GCC energy sector.

"The GCC is an emerging center for renewable energy research, as countries have announced major building programs to complement their hydrocarbon strengths, but face unique climate challenges in identifying the best locations for renewable energy projects. In particular, the assessment of renewable energy resources in the GCC should account for the impacts of dust, humidity, and heat.”

During a session titled ‘Possible synergies at technical level’ that was moderated by IRENA, delegates focused on the potential value and structure of a network among GCC technical institutes and governments to build and refine competencies in renewable resource assessments and mapping, with a view to reducing project costs and improving accuracy.

The UAE Solar Atlas, supported by the country’s leadership, is expected to encourage other countries in the region to implement renewable energy projects. At the same time, it also paves way for developing regional knowledge and leadership in renewable energy assessment and mapping in the Arabian Peninsula and countries with climate similar to that of the UAE, mainly in Africa.

Established as an on-going collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Masdar Institute integrates theory and practice to incubate a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, working to develop the critical thinkers and leaders of tomorrow. With its world-class faculty and top-tier students, the Institute is committed to finding solutions to the challenges of clean energy and climate change through education and research.

Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (Masdar Institute) was established by the government of Abu Dhabi as a not-for-profit, private graduate university to develop indigenous R&D capacity in Abu Dhabi addressing issues of importance to the region.
In collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Masdar Institute has developed an academic and research platform that articulates its mission and vision according to critical energy and sustainability challenges.

An important characteristic of Masdar Institute is its focus on complex real-world problems that require a multidisciplinary approach for the development of solutions from an integrated technology, systems and policy perspective. This multi-interdisciplinary and integrated approach is supported by the structure of its academic programs and by the emphasis placed on engaging external partners from industry, government, and other academic institutions in collaborative activities.