a model for France?

Methods for rationalizing – and forecasting – economic decisions have been used in the Emirates for more than a decade. While Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan has been favored by the media since 2016, the Emirates had launched a “2020 plan” much earlier, the results of which could be seen in the areas of finance, urban development and technology.

But the country’s leaders have no intention of betting their future solely on these areas and remain constrained by their subsurface carbon resources. A global plan, previously only identified by companies in the energy sector, is being implemented quickly. This plan, which focuses on renewable energy sources, will be rolled out in the fields of hydraulics, hydrogen and solar.

This global plan is ambitious, coherent and can serve as a model for advocates of the energy transition model. Shouldn’t France be inspired by this to become a real “climate champion”?

An amazing hydroelectric power station

If the Emirates’ entry into the technological sectors is no longer surprising, the construction of a hydroelectric power station in a country in the south of the Arabian Peninsula is far more amazing.

The topography of the UAE features an interesting mountainous part, the Hajar Mountains, on its eastern border with the Sultanate of Oman. It has adequate hydrography and therefore the opportunity to use these water resources. This is how the Hatta hydroelectric power project came about, named after the nearby town that lies on the Dubai-Oman road link.

This achievement is of course a first in the region. It represents an investment of 300 million euros and a power generation capacity of 250 megawatts. Its construction occupies an important place in the plan for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The French company EDF contributes to this success as part of a project management support contract.

This plant is the first in the Persian Gulf to use the STEP (Energy Transfer Station by Pumping) technique, already implemented by EDF in 6 plants in France.

France has an incomparable water network. EDF owns the technologies. Shouldn’t we design and implement a National Hydraulics plan? What is France doing in a coordinated and ambitious way on tidal energy? We have real potential there.

The plan to diversify renewable energy sources in the Emirates is also being implemented with the construction of hydrogen production units.

The hydrogen revolution

The UAE Minister of Energy and Infrastructure wanted to use COP 26 in Glasgow to give greater symbolic value to the announcement of the launch of a “hydrogen roadmap” in his country.

The Emirates’ ambitious goal is to become one of the main players in the global market, aiming to achieve a 25% market share in 2030 in the main energy importing countries such as Germany, Japan, South Korea and India. Today, the economic prospects of this hydrogen market are estimated at hundreds of billions of dollars…

The hydrogen plan thus includes more than 7 industrial projects that are nearing completion or in development. It is positive that France is an integral part of this strategy by signing a strategic alliance agreement between the ENGIE Group and the Ministry of Energy to develop a “hydrogen hub” in the Emirates with a planned capacity of 2 GW for 20230 to to meet the needs of all Gulf Council countries.

France certainly has a National Hydrogen Council and a National Hydrogen Development Strategy. But we have to combine planning methods and industrial, fast and reliable results as efficiently as possible. It is only under this condition that market shares can be advantageously conquered. Wouldn’t the Emirates be a role model in this regard? Our bureaucracy is a handicap for our responsiveness and competitiveness. In the Emirates, the diversification towards renewable energies is also supplemented by a significant solar component.

The Sun Rush

The United Arab Emirates has a Solar Innovation Center which is currently led by a woman. Located in the perimeter of the world’s largest single-site solar power plant, this center develops and tests new production and maintenance technologies. Indeed, dusting the panels is a key part of maintenance. The accumulation of dust on the surface very quickly reduces the efficiency of the photovoltaic cells.

The Ile-de-France Photovoltaic Institute (IPVF), supported by Total Energies, EDF and the CNRS, was created in 2014. It took more than 2 years until the first stone was laid. Once again, agility and speed in this technological area is a key success factor, as it is emerging in Dubai.

Six months ago, as part of a consortium with the Chinese company Jinco Power, EDF Renewables won the contract for the world’s largest solar power plant, which is to be built 35 km from Abu Dhabi. With an installed capacity of 2 GW, it will supply 160,000 local households.

This new installation will be the first facility of this size to use bifacial modules. The technology consists in capturing solar radiation through both sides of the photovoltaic panels, which significantly increases the performance of the installation. EDF’s success is part of the group’s CAP 2030 strategy, which aims to double installed renewable capacity between 2015 and 2030 to bring it to 50 GW net worldwide.

This model is excellent for the EDF Group and therefore excellent for France by continuing to export technologies. The UAE model helps us with this.

Regional energy exchange

In 2021, the Emirates have finally embarked on a very large deployment in the Middle East by building solar power plant projects in their neighbors. The Emirati company Masdar signed an agreement with the Iraqi government on October 6, 2021, which provides for the construction of five solar power plants with an initial production phase of 1,000 megawatts.

Within the framework of the meeting between Crown Prince Mohammed ben Zayed and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on November 24, energy investment agreements between the Emirates and Turkey were also signed.

The Emirates combine their vision of technological and energetic development of net-zero CO2 emissions in 2050 with the geopolitical development of the Middle East. In doing so, they are overtaking their large neighbor on the Arabian Peninsula, which is not aiming for climate neutrality until 2060. The Emirates are taking on regional leadership within the framework of alliances, and France is playing a key role.

The development of clean and renewable energies in a regional vision falls within the framework of diplomatic actions and options, an intelligent and long-term strategy that France should emulate.

France should even take inspiration from it to manage the implementation of its renewable energy sectors. Through its technologies, energy is a geopolitical and diplomatic tool. We have experienced it in the nuclear power plant area. Shouldn’t we elevate our “renewable energy” sectors to that level of excellence and influence?

These innovations are certainly costly, but the partnerships already established prove that France has the power to go beyond traditional models and firmly establish itself as a pioneer in low-carbon energy on its soil and abroad.

The strength of the Emirates is that they thought early on about getting out of their dependence on hydrocarbons and anticipating new ways of generating energy. It’s up to us to follow this model by proposing ambitious and agile projects to prepare France to become a “climate champion”.


ISC Paris graduate, Master in Management, DEA in Finance, Paris Dauphine PSL University

Website author: www.le-monde-decrypte.com