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Dubai Future Foundation Forecasts Opportunities, Challenges in Outlook for Energy Sector

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Highlighting the importance of diversifying energy sources and localizing materials and supply chains to avoid the impact of fluctuations in production as well as investment across global markets, Dubai Future Foundation (DFF), in partnership with Dubai Future Council on Energy, today launched a report titled ‘Future Trends: Energy’. The report also emphasizes the role of artificial intelligence, blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT) in energy production to keep pace with changing demand and supply equations, and to boost resilience through mitigating the risks of climate change and harmful carbon emissions.

The report reviewed the most prominent transformations and radical changes sweeping the energy sector at the local, regional, and global levels. The anticipated challenges of producing, storing, and transporting energy, as well as ways to enhance energy generation from renewable and sustainable sources, and initiatives underway to adopt emerging technology in energy production have been examined at length.

The report highlighted the efforts of Dubai and the UAE to improve energy security, which has increasingly become a pivotal factor in enabling the progress of countries and societies. These efforts include increasing capacity, ensuring continuity of supplies, building and expanding power transmission systems, adopting integrated plans to anticipate contingencies, and safeguarding the reliability of power transmission and distribution networks.

His Excellency Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, Managing Director and CEO of Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) and Chairman of Dubai Future Council on Energy, said: “In line with the directives of our wise leadership, the UAE is working to anticipate and convert the most obvious as well as the most unlikely challenges into opportunities for our young people. These efforts are part of the country’s ongoing drive to promote sustainable development in its preparations for the historic UAE Centennial – that aim to make the UAE the best country in the world by 2071. As part of this priority, we continue to expand clean and renewable energy projects, and focus on integrating digital and disruptive Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies.

“We are endeavoring to expand the clean energy sector initiatives through tackling a spectrum of areas – from digitalization to advanced research and development in smart grids to the integration of renewable and clean energy and energy storage systems, thereby successfully harnessing national capacities in the energy sector. In addition, through leveraging the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence in power generation, and through integrating robotics and drone technology, we have witnessed a ramping up of energy efficiency and cybersecurity.”

For his part, His Excellency Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation, said: “That the leadership of the UAE adopts a unique vision for the energy sector and its pivotal role in the future of sustainable development based on foresight, anticipating challenges, studying changes in demand and consumption, and harnessing future opportunities through the use of advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, and others.

Belhoul pointed to the importance of accelerating the implementation of national initiatives aimed at employing the latest advanced technologies in the field of energy production, enhancing reliance on renewable energy sources, encouraging innovative ideas in the field energy, expanding the scope of sustainable energy use in the manufacturing and electricity production sectors, and learning from best practices globally within the energy sector.”

The report forecasts that digitalization and emerging technology, such as AI, blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT), are becoming key drivers in energy production and enable greater disruption of the sector for the benefit of the consumers. Experts predict that in the next five years, digitalization could result in more greenhouse gas emissions globally than road traffic causes today. However, digitalization has also brought greater efficiency and transparency to the energy sector, as well as more robust infrastructures. In addition, artificial intelligence (AI) has enhanced renewable energy generation. One example is through supporting solar farm managers in monitoring and adjusting panels based on energy generation patterns.

The report notes that machine learning can be used to identify locations for new solar installations through analyzing patterns to source optimal venues for energy generation. The Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain technology have also become more prevalent in the energy sector. IoT sensors are already widely used to monitor energy consumption in homes and offices. Other technologies, such as quantum computing and 5G, are gaining uptake in the management of smart energy grids.

According to a recently launched report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the decline of global energy investment. Fuel supply has been among the most affected, due to the reduced in oil prices, whereas the power sector has been less affected with a 10 percent decrease in investment. Energy efficiency is suffering too. Investment in energy efficient technologies dwindled, and applications leveraging clean energy reportedly dropped by 10-15 percent in 2020. However, experts believe that investment in renewable energy will eventually pick up again post-COVID-19, and replace other forms of energy production.

The report also points out that the MENA region has been dependent on oil and fossil fuel production as a source of energy and income for a long time. A quarter of the region’s power generation is from oil, compared to three percent currently from renewable energy. Given this scenario, renewable energy is becoming more crucial in the region, with infrastructure projects such as solar and wind farms underway in several countries.

Renewable technology also has other benefits – providing employment opportunities that are set to become more critical post-COVID-19, as individuals will need to manage and monitor the systems. Due to the global decrease in production, and limited operations in the energy sector generally, job growth will be vital. In 2018, some 11 million people worldwide were employed in the renewables sector and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates that this figure could surge to 42 million globally by 2050.

The Future Trends: Energy report recommends that there will be an imperative need for greater investment in renewable and alternative energy. Digitalization initiatives, if not already in place, will need to be developed further to allow for greater interconnectedness within the local energy market. To achieve this goal, stakeholders will need to incorporate technologies such as AI, IoT, and blockchain. Localization of materials and supply chains will become even more necessary during and post COVID-19.