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Accelerated renewables-based electrification paves the way for a post-fossil future

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The hydrocarbon producing countries of the MENA region believe in their preeminent albeit shrinking source of revenues for decades. But, as shown by some counties of the Gulf net-zero recent pledge, they see economic and political opportunities in moving to the green energy transition. Accelerated renewables-based electrification paves the way for a post-fossil future by Nature Energy explains how the world and particularly the EU in order to achieve its climate and geopolitical goals, it will need to substantially increase its engagement with Gulf states.

The image above is for illustration and is about how Fossil Fuel Jobs Will Disappear, So Now What?

Accelerated renewables-based electrification paves the way for a post-fossil future

The research was published in Nature Energy.

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Cost-slashing innovations are underway in the electric power sector and could give electricity the lead over fossil-based combustion fuels in the world’s energy supply by mid-century. When combined with a global carbon price, these developments can catalyze emission reductions to reach the Paris climate targets, while reducing the need for controversial negative emissions, a new study finds.

“Today, 80 percent of all energy demands for industry, mobility or heating buildings is met by burning—mostly fossil—fuels directly, and only 20 percent by electricity. Our research finds that relation can be pretty much reversed by 2050, making the easy-to-decarbonise electricity the mainstay of global energy supply,” says Gunnar Luderer, author of the new study and researcher the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “For the longest time, fossil fuels were cheap and accessible, whilst electricity was the precious and pricier source of energy. Renewable electricity generation—especially from solar photovoltaics—has become cheaper at breath-taking speed, a pace that most climate models have so far underestimated. Over the last decade, alone prices for solar electricity fell by 80 percent, and further cost reductions are expected in the future. This development has the potential to fundamentally revolutionize energy systems. Our computer simulations show that together with global carbon pricing, green electricity can become the cheapest form of energy by 2050, and supply up to three quarters of all demand.”

The reasons lie mainly in the ground-breaking technological progress in solar and wind power generation, but also, in the end, uses of electric energy. Costs per kilowatt hour solar or wind power are steeply falling while battery technology e.g. in cars is improving at great speed. Heat pumps use less energy per unit of heat output than any type of boiler and are becoming increasingly competitive not only in buildings, but also in industrial applications. “You can electrify more end-uses than you think and for those cases actually reduce the energy consumption compared to current levels,” explains Silvia Madeddu, co-author and also researcher at the Potsdam Institute.

“Take steel production: Electrifying the melting of recycled steel, the so-called secondary steel, reduces the total process energy required and lowers the carbon intensity per ton of steel produced,” says Madeddu. “All in all, we find that more than half of all energy demand from industry can be electrified by 2050.” However, some bottlenecks to electrification do remain, the researchers point out. Slowest in the race to decarbonisation are long-haul aviation, shipping, and chemical feedstocks, i.e. fossil fuels used as raw materials in chemicals production.

Limiting the reliance on negative emissions

The scale of the technological progress holds great opportunities for countries to leapfrog and for investors alike. However, not every technology is a success story so far. “In this study, we constrained the reliance on technologies which aim at taking carbon out of the atmosphere, simply because they have proven to be more difficult to scale than previously anticipated: Carbon Capture and Storage has not seen the sharp fall in costs that, say, solar power has. Biomass, in turn, crucially competes with food production for land use,” Luderer lays out. “Interestingly, we found that the accelerated electrification of energy demands can more than compensate for a shortfall of biomass and CCS, still keeping the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal within reach while reducing land requirements for energy crops by two thirds.”

Era of electricity will come—but global climate policy must accelerate it to meet climate goals

“The era of electricity will come either way. But only sweeping regulation of fossil fuels across sectors and world regions—most importantly some form of carbon pricing—can ensure it happens in due time to reach 1.5 degrees,” Luderer says. Indeed, the simulations show that even if no climate policy at all is enacted, electricity will double in share over the course of the century. Yet in order to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement of limiting global warming to well below two degrees, decisive and global political coordination is crucial: pricing carbon, scrapping levies on electricity, expanding grid infrastructure, and redesigning electricity markets to reward storage and flexible demands. Here, hydrogen will be a crucial chain link, as it can flexibly convert renewable electricity into green fuels for sectors that cannot be electrified directly. “If these elements come together, the prospects of a renewables-based green energy future look truly electrifying,” says Luderer.

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The MENA Region: A Key Scenario for the Energy Transition

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A Key Scenario for the Energy Transition in the MENA Region written by Roberto Vigotti could be a time-saver for all countries producing and nonproducing alike of hydrocarbon resources. Or as proposed by the IEA, it is a matter of Supporting the Middle East and North Africa countries to help them diversify their economies towards clean and low-carbon energy

The operations of the COP26 were closed just a couple of weeks ago, and it is now time to reflect upon relevant takeaways and how to translate them into action. Despite not being the theatre of the bold breakthrough we wished to see, Glasgow reiterated the importance of some key recommendations that, to this day, are our sharpest weapon in the fight against climate change: limiting the growth of the average temperature of the Earth below 1,5 °C, cutting by 45% the CO2 emissions before 2030, and pushing for a quick and worldwide deployment of renewable energy sources, acknowledging the importance of developing countries.

One of the clue scenarios of the recommended transformations is and will be the MENA region, for some self-explanatory reasons: MENA countries are endowed with an enormous renewable energy potential and a steady growth in their internal energy demand, making them illustrious candidates to lead the so yearned global energy transformation. This belief is reinforced by a positive trend of growth of some renewable energy sources in the Mediterranean countries: in the last decade, solar and wind power grew from less than 6% to 35% in the total amount of deployed renewables.

Nonetheless, the MENA’s contribution to the energy transition is still negligible: its share of renewable energy sources amounts to just 1% of the REs installed globally in the last 10 years with the lion’s share in the national energy mixes still being owned by fossil fuels. The data speak loud and clear: the majority of locally generated energy is based on gas and oil, which respectively amount to 72% and 20% of the total. In addition to the obvious environmental repercussions, the economy and internal welfare of many MENA countries is still tightly bound to fossil fuels, which provide more than a half of the national fiscal revenues in many countries (peaking In Kuwait, with approximately 90%), and are still largely financed by public institutions. Finally, the situation is worsened by the vulnerability to climate change: the local environmental features are a natural pre-condition for extreme weather phenomena, such as droughts, temperature raise, etc.

Hence, many trends of the MENA region appear to be in stark contrast with the recommendations outlined in the COP26, despite some isolated encouraging changes. It is urgent and overriding for local decision-makers to drastically re-shape the local approach to generation, transmission and distribution of energy, as well as related policy frameworks and market segments.

In this direction goes the last report produced by RES4Africa Foundation (“Connecting the Dots, 10 Years of Renewable Energy in MENA: What Has (not) Happened?”). In addition to portraying the current energy status quo of the MENA region, the analysis advocates for a fact-based shift towards renewable energy. The starting point would be the formulation and implementation of far-sighted energy policies, characterised by an adequate degree of boldness without losing touch with the reality: bright examples are Morocco, Jordan and Egypt. The regulatory framework should also be welcoming for private investments in REs, which are crucial to expand the energy access while simultaneously pushing for innovation, exchange of best practices, and a stimulation towards digitalisation and efficiency in MENA energy infrastructures. Complementary to these reforms should be safeguarding the transparency of local markets, thanks to new independent energy institutions and clear tender procedures.

The final step of such a virtuous process will be a progressive reduction of subsidies dedicated to fossil fuels: it is an ambitious and tricky target, especially considering the fact that a consistent part of oil and gas sources In MENA countries is still unexploited. However, we are confident that the renewable sector, if properly boosted and reformed, will provide incommensurably higher benefits, creating fertile soil for the energy transition and its related social and economic improvements.

This goal can be achieved just with a constant and structure cooperation with the MENA countries: let’s roll up our sleeves and work together for a sustainable tomorrow.

Roberto Vigotti is the Secretary General of RES4Africa Foundation, which gathers more than 30 stakeholders to accelerate the renewable energy transformation in Africa, with Africa and for Africa. In his 30+ year-long career he has covered various positions at Enel, University of Pisa, IEA and IRENA. When it was still considered an unlikely option, he was already convinced that deploying renewable energy in Africa would result in a positive socioeconomic impact for its population. In 2012, he therefore embarked on the RES4Africa adventure, to support a wider participation of private players in delivering investments in Africa. He also coordinates renewAfrica, an industry-backed Initiative that advocates the creation of a European comprehensive Programme for RE investments in Africa, to be promoted and owned by EU institutions

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CEO appointments in the UAE surpass pre-pandemic highs

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ZAWYA informs that 42% of UAE CEOs are non-nationals, and 5% are women, compared to global averages of 24% and 6%, therefore CEO appointments in the UAE surpass pre-pandemic highs per a recent report. Would this statement of fact have any meaning other than those consequent to the pandemic?

The image above is for illustration and is of the UAE appointing a new Governor.

Businessman wearing a mask in the office for safety during the pandemic. Image used for illustrative purpose. Getty Images

The appointment of new CEOs has surpassed pre-pandemic highs as companies demonstrate confidence about their prospects and their ability to find the right leader, according to a new report.

The Route to the Top 2021 by Heidrick & Struggles showed that the number of CEOs appointed across 14 countries was up 22.6 percent in the first half of 2021 when compared with the first half of 2018, and up 181 percent compared with the second half of 2020.

The report showed that 42 percent of CEOs in the UAE are non-nationals, compared with a global average of 24 percent, and five percent are women, compared with a global average of six percent. Of the 14 countries surveyed, Ireland had the highest proportion of female CEOs at 14 percent, while Hong Kong had the highest proportion of non-national CEOs at 76 percent.

More than a third of UAE CEOs (35 percent) had previous CEO experience in their last two roles.

Globally, newly appointed CEOs are more likely to be women (11 percent) and to be from countries other than where the company is headquartered (30 percent) and to have cross-border experience 46 percent.

In the UAE, 42 percent of new CEOs have advanced degrees, 16 percent have cross-border experience, and 23 percent have less than one year of experience as CEOs.

Other findings are that 42 percent of UAE CEOs were appointed before the age of 45 but the average age is 55, 30 percent were formerly heads of divisions but only two percent had previous COO experience, compared to 14 percent globally.

“Looking ahead, COVID 19 has raised expectations on the role of businesses in addressing concerns such as climate, equality, cybersecurity and other external realities; boards are rethinking the process of the CEO succession to cope with these changes, said Alain Deniau, head of CEO and board of directors practice, Heidrick & Struggles, MENA.

“This means that companies will open up to new perspectives and ideas. In addition, we expect more attention to shift towards leadership skills rather than specific skills.”

(Writing by Imogen Lillywhite; Editing by Seban Scaria)

Imogen.lillywhite@refinitiv.com 

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Challenges Facing the Cement Industry in the MENA Region

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The full version of this article titled ‘Musings on MENA’ could be found in the November issue of World Cement.  It is published by David Bizley, Editor of World Cement and is about all those Challenges facing the Cement Industry in the MENA Region.

Here it is:


Musings on MENA

Ahmad Al-Rousan, Secretary-General of the Arab Union for Cement and Building Materials (AUCBM), provides an overview of the challenges facing the cement industry in the MENA region.

It is a fact that the cement industry of the MENA region has, for the most part, fairly recent origins, with some exceptions being small scale and limited productivity operations in countries such as Egypt, Morocco and Syria.

Since the mid-1970s, the cement industry across the Arab world began to expand as demand for construction and infrastructure in these countries grew. At present, the number of companies and factories in operation has reached 171, with 32 additional cement mills. Design capacity for the region has thus reached 355 million tpy.

In recent years, prior to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for cement fell in several Arab countries as a result of difficult economic conditions and war; a number of factories were shut down or destroyed, and some projects were suspended or postponed. Currently, Egypt and Saudi Arabia lead the region in terms of factory numbers and production capacity. Cement consumption also declined during 2018 and 2019 in the GCC countries, across North Africa, Jordan, and Lebanon at rates ranging from 1.5% to 17%.

With the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic at the beginning of 2020, measures such as factory closures and the halting of operations were seen across the world, including the MENA region, which lead to significant declines in both production and demand, with the decrease in demand exceeding 39%.

With a view to ensuring that factories continue to operate at an acceptable rate while maintaining preventive measures, AUCBM has circulated a roadmap that details the health measures to be taken in order to maintain the continuity of production. Many factories managed to endure this epidemic and have resumed their operations. Some countries recorded growth in consumption during the second half of 2020, such as Saudi Arabia, where sales increased by more than 20%.

In addition to the above, the challenges facing the cement industry of the Arab world can, at this stage, be summarised as follows:

  • Some of the measures taken to combat the COVID-19 pandemic still constitute an obstacle to factories, especially those involving reductions in the number of workers on site.
  • The tough economic conditions faced by many Arab countries and the suspension or postponement of numerous planned projects (especially in the GCC countries), though the execution phase of some of these projects has already started this year.
  • Decreased market demand for cement, occurring naturally as a result of the difficult economic conditions and ongoing conflict in the region.
  • Security problems and ongoing conflicts in some countries.
  • Recent expansions of cement factories in some countries created large production surpluses, which were compounded by the fact that some countries already export cement (Algeria and Saudi Arabia, for example).

The increase of cement consumption in the MENA region, primarily requires the existence of construction and infrastructure projects, which the Arab world still needs. It is true that modest consumption growth has been recorded in some countries since mid-2020, but these rates continue to fluctuate due to the absence of constant and continuous projects.

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Greening deserts: India powers renewable energy ambitions

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Greening deserts in which India powers renewable energy ambitions with solar push could be a good inspiring move for all those countries of the MENA region. An initiative commensurate with this country’s Prime Minister’s words at the COP26.

Greening deserts: India powers renewable energy ambitions with solar push.

By AFPRELAXNEWS


The image above is of The arid state of Rajasthan, where Bhadla Park takes up an area almost the size of San Marino, sees 325 sunny days each year, making it perfectly placed for the solar power revolution, officials say. Image by Money Sharma/AFP via Getty Images

The arid state of Rajasthan sees 325 sunny days each year, making it perfectly placed for the solar power revolution


As camels munch on the fringes of Thar desert, an oasis of blue solar panels stretches further than the eye can see at Bhadla Park—a cornerstone of India’s bid to become a clean energy powerhouse. Currently, coal powers 70 percent of the nation’s electricity generation, but Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pledged that by 2030, India will produce more energy through solar and other renewables than its entire grid now.

“First, India will increase its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 gigawatts… Second, by 2030, 50 percent of our energy requirements will come from renewable resources,” Modi told the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

The arid state of Rajasthan, where Bhadla Park takes up an area almost the size of San Marino, sees 325 sunny days each year, making it perfectly placed for the solar power revolution, officials say.

Once an expanse of desert, authorities have capitalised on the sparsely populated area, claiming minimal displacement of local communities. Today robots clean dust and sand off an estimated 10 million solar panels, while a few hundred humans monitor.

This pursuit of a greener future is fuelled by necessity.

India, home to 1.3 billion people and poised to overtake China as the most populous country, has a growing and voracious appetite for energy—but it is also on the frontline of climate change.

In the next two decades, it has to add a power system the size of Europe’s to meet demand for its swelling population, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), but it also has to tackle toxic air quality in its big cities.

“India is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world for climate change and that is why it has this big push on renewables to decarbonise the power sector, but also reduce air pollution,” Arunabha Ghosh, climate policy expert from the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, told AFP.

But experts say the country—the world’s third-biggest carbon emitter—is some way from reaching its green targets, with coal set to remain a key part of the energy mix in the coming years.

‘Huge transformation’

Although India’s green energy has increased five-fold in just over a decade to 100GW this year, the sector now needs to grow by the same proportion again to meet its 2030 goals.

“I believe this is more of an aspirational target… to show to the world that we are moving in the right direction,” Vinay Rustagi from renewable energy consultancy Bridge to India, told AFP.

“But it would be a big stretch and seems highly unrealistic, in view of various demand and supply challenges,” Rustagi said.

Proponents point to Bhadla Solar Park, one of the largest in the world, as an example of how innovation, technology, and public and private finance can drive swift change.

“We’ve huge chunks of land where there’s not a blade of grass. Now you don’t see the ground anymore. You just see solar panels. It’s such a huge transformation,” Subodh Agarwal, Rajasthan’s additional chief secretary for energy, told AFP.

Authorities are incentivising renewables firms to set up in the region, known as the “desert state”. Agarwal says demand has “accelerated” since 2019.

“It will be a different Rajasthan. It will be the solar state,” he said of the next decade.

If this surge is sustained then coal-fired power for electricity generation could peak by 2024, according to Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) projections.

Currently, solar power accounts for four percent of electricity generation. Before Modi’s announcement the IEA estimated solar and coal will converge at around 30 percent each by 2040 based on current policies.

India’s billionaires, including Asia’s two richest men Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani, are pledging huge investments, while Modi is setting up a renewables park the size of Singapore in his home state of Gujarat.

Show me the money

But reshaping an entire power network takes time and money, analysts warn.

Around 80 percent of India’s solar panels are still imported from China, the world’s biggest producer.

Gyanesh Chaudhary, chief executive of Indian panel manufacturer Vikram Solar, insisted there should be “more than 30” local firms like his already.

“That’s the kind of demand (and) ecosystem that India would essentially need… It should have happened sooner.”

Experts say domestic growth has been stymied by insufficient policies, funding shortages, cheaper panels from China, and infrastructure and energy storage issues.

“A lot of these plants are located at very long distances from power stations, so you have to think of linking them,” explained Apurba Mitra, World Resources Institute India’s climate policy chief.

Modi, who announced at COP26 that India would be carbon neutral by 2070, made it clear that such emissions-cutting pledges would require finance from rich, historic emitters.

“India expects developed countries to provide climate finance of $1 trillion at the earliest. Today it is necessary that as we track the progress made in climate mitigation, we should also track climate finance,” he told more than 120 leaders at the critical talks.

Empowering lives

Farmer and doctor Amit Singh’s three-acre family farmland in Rajasthan’s Bhaloji village was running out of water and hit by frequent power outages.

“I always saw the sun and its rays and wondered… why not harness it to generate electricity?,” he said.

Singh first installed rooftop panels at his small hospital which generated half of its energy needs.

He then invested family savings into a government-linked project on his land.

The mini-solar farm cost 35 million rupees ($450,000) and Singh sells electricity to the grid for 400,000 rupees a month.

“It’s the ultimate source of energy, which is otherwise going to waste… I feel I’m contributing to the developmental needs of my village,” he added.

Ghosh said it was vital to bring down costs.

“When a farmer is able to generate power from their solar plant near their farm and pump out water—we are then able to bring the energy transition closer to the people,” he added.

Pratibha Pai, the founder-director of Chirag Rural Development Foundation which has brought solar to more than 100,000 villagers, believes in clean energy’s transformative role.

She said: “We start with solar power… we end with safe drinking water, power for dark village roads, power for little rural schools which will hopefully script the story of a ‘big’ India.”

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