Green in the desert... decarbonizing the Middle East

Published on
August 5, 2022
August 4, 2022

CO2 emissions in the Middle East are relatively small when we put them side to side with most other regions. Data from 2018 show that the MENA region emits 25,3 million tons per capita compared to 55,6 in North America, 66,1 in Europe and Central Asia and a shockingly 148,1 in East Asia and the Pacific region. However, the six countries of the GCC by themselves are amongst the top 20 emitters in the world. For this reason, there is a high pressure on oil and gas producing countries to reduce their carbon footprint. Fortunately, even though the state of progress is different for each country, each of them is making an effort in converting to clean energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As an example of those efforts, in the first semester of 2021 the MENA region awarded $2.8bn of renewable energy projects to contractors. This number is expected to trend higher for a number of reasons...

Green in the desert

The UAE and Saudi Arabia, both known for their vast desert landscapes, cheap land prices and abundant solar heat, are leading the way for the Middle East in adopting new ways and (eventually, hopefully) becoming carbon neutral. The UAE stated that by 2050 it will be the first GCC country to reach net zero.

For the last ten years the focus has been on converting domestic electricity from fossil fuels to renewable energy and nuclear power. Eventhough there was a delay, caused by the pandemic, large solar power plants started operations, in both countries and more solar power projects are in development. The two countries have also launched a series of joint projects with Europe, the United States and Asia in the hydrogen and ammonia field. Saudi Arabia plans to produce and export 4 million tons of zero-carbon fuel including hydrogen by 2030. Another ambitious goal for 2030 is to have half of the kingdom’s electricity to be drawn from renewables and nuclear. The United Arab Emirates have as goal to increase their share of the global hydrogen market to 25%.

The PTC team recently met the head of strategy of one of the largest Port Groups globally, including with operations in the Middle East. It was great to get insights of what some of the key (tech) challenges are + the opportunity in hydrogen and how this all ties into the bigger ESG conversation.

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Constructive sustainability

Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia are very familiar with major construction projects. KSA is building its famous NEOM and also the UAE is very ambitious in the upcoming years. In the light of decarbonization it is very important that the use of renewable energy, environmentally sustainable materials and sustainable waste management is a top priority in the construction sector. Modular construction is one of the ways to achieve a more sustainable building process. Modular housing offers high quality construction in a controlled space that lessens on-site carbon heavy activities. Factory built units can be reliably and repeatedly produced with minimal waste and still meet the highest specifications. A recent Market Research Future report expects the global modular construction market to reach $118.3bn by 2027. Modular building is very suitable for many of Saudi Arabia’s mega projects, for a number of reasons, and at the same time fits perfectly in the UAE government’s vision for sustainability. The UAE also formed the Emirates Green Building Council with the objective to keep a close eye on protecting the environment and ensuring sustainability in the country with the help of (more) green building principles.

Print your house

Dubai has taken prefab building and 3D printing to the next level as the country claims that by 2025 25% of new building will be constructed using 3D printers. This as part of the 3D-printing strategy that was announced by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 2016. Across different sectors, the strategy is meant to reduce labor by 70% and costs by 90%! In the building sector specifically, labor costs were cut by more than 50% in comparison to traditional construction. Apart from the energy efficient building processes, the entire office is built to meet very ambitious sustainability requirements. It is designed to maximize light and minimize direct solar heating at the same time to reduce the need for air conditioning and lighting.

It looks like the Middle East is doing more and more in finding innovative ways in a post-oil era.

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