Architecture can be a tool for social change, and the belief in this statement is what motivates the work of many architectural NGOs who strive to address the lack of adequate shelter, generate social and economic change, and build resilience in communities. These NGOs operate in two major areas, disaster relief, and community development, with many organisations pursuing both types of actions. This article rounds-up several architecture-related foundations that act in emergencies, covering their expertise, past involvement in humanitarian crises, as well as the means to join them in their efforts.
Natural disasters affect more than 250 million people each year, and according to UNHCR statistics, 70.8 million people have been displaced worldwide due to conflict and violence. One billion people live in slums, and the number is expected to grow to two billion by 2030. Add the lack of clean water and sanitation, and you have a comprehensive picture of a silent humanitarian crisis, with the need for adequate shelter at its core. Nonetheless, NGOs aside, the profession has recently started to reclaim its social responsibility, as more and more architects engage with humanitarian architecture. For those looking for ways to use their professional skills for the betterment of society, these NGOs are an excellent place to start.
Habitat for Humanity
The well-established non-profit housing organisation works to help vulnerable communities overcome the lack of adequate shelter. Created in 1976, the foundation works in over 70 countries and since its inception has helped more than 29 million people attain a suitable home. The organisation pursues its vision of affordable, decent housing for everyone in several different ways. In a participatory process, volunteers and future dwellers work together, creating suitable housing solutions, in the form of new construction or repairs and improvements to existing homes. Habitat for Humanity also participates in disaster response, through its dedicated program and addresses the need for sanitation and clean water by creating the necessary infrastructure. From local, long-term or as part of an event, there are several types of volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, which are covered in detail here.
Architectes de l’Urgence
Founded in 2001, the NGO Architectes de l’Urgence (AU) focuses on re-establishing essential infrastructure (hospitals, schools, water supply, roads) in post-disaster situations. With branches in France, Canada and Switzerland, the organisation benefits from 19 years of experience with more than 30 reconstruction programs in 33 countries. Since its inception, over 1600 architects, engineers and additional support staff have participated in AU’s diverse aid initiatives. Most of their projects are not limited to immediate post-disaster response but incorporate rebuilding strategies stretching over several years. To catch a glimpse of their sustained endeavour, over the course of eight years, AU has rebuilt 12 healthcare facilities, 12 schools, one orphanage and over 1500 houses in Haiti, following the devastating tsunami. The organisation also helped in the Philippines, Sri Lanka, or Afghanistan. The foundation recruits architects and civil engineers on a regular basis for international solidarity missions. The type of involvement varies, from student internships, long-term volunteer work, short missions for experienced professionals. All information regarding requirements, recruitment process and forms of participation is available here.
Open Architecture Collaborative
Open Architecture Collaborative is, to some extent, a successor to Architecture for Humanity. The latter filed for bankruptcy in 2015, stirring some controversy, but several of its international chapters picked up the pieces of the organisation, drew knowledge from the 16 years of experience with humanitarian architecture and created a new organism. The NGO’s philosophy is rooted in participatory design and its mission is achieving community engagement for marginalised people through architectural means. The new organisation is still in its infancy, but it derives its know-how from AfH’s successful past initiatives, like the Haiti rebuilding program. The NGO now focuses on local, small-scale projects like the Kids Skating Series in Nigeria. For information on how to get involved with the organisation, whether as a design firm or an individual volunteer visit their dedicated page.
Emergency Architecture & Human Rights
The NGO focusses on aiding socially vulnerable communities around the globe who are dealing with crises or face inequality of any kind. Regarding architecture as the embodiment of a universal human right, their mission centres around resilience, be it social, economic, or environmental. Founded in 2015 in Denmark and with sister organisations in Santiago de Chile and Rome, Emergency Architecture & Human Rights has completed various humanitarian projects in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South America. Within the NGO’s initiatives, the EAHR team, volunteers and the local communities work side by side to design and construct projects such as the school in the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan. The organisation focuses on working with the communities, using locally sourced materials, while advancing local construction methods. In addition, the foundation held workshops on architecture for humanitarian emergencies at several universities around the world. For upcoming internships and volunteer opportunities, get in touch with the organisation using the information provided on their website.
Architecture Sans Frontières International
This collaborative network of NGOs brings together more than 20 independent organisations in an effort to consolidate their individual endeavours. The history of the network began in 1979, with the creation of Architectes Sans Frontières in France, followed 13 years later by the namesake organisation in Spain. Now spread across 30 countries on all five continents, ASF International creates a framework for cooperation among the different entities and assists in the formation of new local organisations. With the stated mission of improving the built environment for people in need, all member foundations work for community development and engage in post-disaster and relief interventions. Each organisation has its own recruitment process and provides various types of volunteering and involvement for individuals who are interested in helping disadvantaged communities. See the complete list of member organisations and get in touch with any of them here.
GlobalData shares its forecasts for construction industries across the world in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
The revised and further-cut construction output growth forecast for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region for the year 2020 is -1.1%, down from the previous projection of -0.8% (as of mid-April) and 4.6% (Q4 2019 update) due to the soaring COVID-19 cases in the region, and the subsequent curfews and lockdown measures, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
Yasmine Ghozzi, Economist at GlobalData, says: “The slump in oil prices will dent the sector’s growth. GlobalData expects cutbacks in spending and, in particular, cuts to capital spending on infrastructure, especially for oil and gas dependent countries given that investment plans were set on assumptions for oil at US$50 – US$80 per barrel. The IMF currently predicts that GDP growth in the MENA region will fall to – 3.3% in 2020 because of its exposure to lower oil prices and the extensive disruption in travel and tourism.”
Governments across the MENA region offered direct support to boost activity in construction and infrastructure. In the case of Egypt, for example, the government guided construction companies operating in public projects are set to resume work in full capacity by early April, following a period of two weeks of reduced business.
For Saudi Arabia, the biggest construction market in the region, the country’s finance minister announced plans to make deep cuts to public spending, so any further stimulus to the construction sector would rely on the amount of reserves the government is willing to draw upon, given the limit that lower oil prices have put on government revenues.
It remains to be seen whether governments in the region will lend direct support to companies facing acute financial pressure in the sector.
Ghozzi concludes: “In addition, construction, real estate, and oil and gas sectors are among the most exposed to the business risks created by COVID-19. Force majeure clauses in contracts are being more widely used by firms needing to scale back or rearrange their business plans amid the pandemic. The issue came under the spotlight when the Iraqi government announced the pandemic as an event of force majeure for all projects and contracts. Although construction sites are generally exempted from the lockdowns imposed in many countries in the MENA region, there is an expectation that legal claims, especially from contractors, will be filed citing the crisis as a justifiable reason for failure to deliver work on time.”
There are some problems we never seem able to solve. The shortage of electrical power is one of them. Ever since President Carter proclaimed an energy crisis in the 1970s, people have been talking about all kinds of weird and wonderful solutions to the issue of energy and – thus far – no one has come up with one single answer.
While solar power is now providing as much as 4 per cent of British electricity, few people appreciate just how quickly electricity production will have to increase. If the internal combustion engine is on its way out then the western world will need to double its electrical supply just to recharge its battery-powered vehicles.
Progress on this scale demands a fundamental rethink of our entire energy supply industry. The beginning of the 21st century saw a group of German engineers doing just that. They developed a plan to harvest solar power in the Sahara desert and transmit the stuff across the Mediterranean using very high-voltage, direct-current cables.
Just as Carter had been influenced by the oil shock of 1973, the Germans had been influenced by the disaster in Chernobyl and a mounting recognition that all technology is associated with risk. At that stage, large scale solar power plants still sounded like science fiction but the potential of solar power had long been recognised.
One German engineer calculated that the amount of solar energy absorbed by the world’s deserts exceeds the total amount of energy consumed by man in an entire year. We’d only need to harness a small proportion of this energy to provide us with all the electricity we are likely to need without any of the usual headaches surrounding pollution or fuel supply.
The Sahara is a vast area of land, larger, even, than the continental United States and extending over several national boundaries. It would take only one or two per cent of the land here to provide the whole of Europe with electrical power. There isn’t a lot of wildlife to destroy in the desert and since the population density is close to zero, we can probably avoid the nimbyists too.
At first sight, though, the Sahara isn’t quite as perfect since much of the land here is still some distance north of the equator. As we approach the equatorial regions of the world, it seems logical to assume that the intensity of sunlight ought to go up. However, the equatorial region of the planet is associated with a much higher level of cloud cover than the Sahara and on balance, about 20 to 30 degrees north of the equator turns out to be the ideal location for a large scale solar power plant.
Plenty of land, plenty of sun, not a lot of cloud and not that far from the nearest major market for electrical power, western Europe.
Some manufacturers are now producing photovoltaic panels that are cosmetically indistinguishable from traditional roofing tiles. It’s easy to envisage a future where it becomes compulsory
Many of the nation states in the region are quite poor with little or nothing in the way of oil or gas reserves. Ever since the 1970s, countries with significant oil reserves have been able to cash in on the oil boom and increase its standard of living overnight, whereas a nation that lacks oil reserves is forced to import at potentially enormous cost. Thus far, this kind of prosperity has been based on geological accident, but solar power is different. Soon, relatively poor countries might have access to a major energy resource of their own, enabling them to generate their own power at home and to export anything left over to western Europe.
So why isn’t it happening?
Part of the appeal of large-scale solar power generation is the opportunity it provides for a secure energy supply. Ever since the early 1970s, western governments have been living in fear of another Opec crisis or – at the very least – some sort of military and political confrontation that might interrupt the supply of energy. When we try to calculate how many lives might be lost or damaged by one source of energy or another, we really ought to factor in how many lives we’d be likely to lose by fighting another war for oil. Politicians who are too young to remember the Yom Kippur War are old enough to understand Putin and the fear that he might try to suddenly cut off the supply of natural gas to western Europe as part of some alternative economic warfare. What will Nato actually do if that happens?
But our friction with the Middle East goes back even further than Yom Kippur. A generation older than my own has not forgotten the Suez Crisis. During the 1950s, the Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser decided to seize the Suez Canal and nationalise the entire project. The countries, companies and investors who had paid for its construction were far from pleased. Attempts at recapturing the canal ended in fiasco. The Egyptians came out of the 1950s quite well.
Against this is the relentless march of progress and the emergence of new tech that has thrown the whole equation into disarray. Just 10 years ago, the environmental movement was obsessed with the idea that western governments should continue to subsidise solar power. In those dim and distant days, solar power was so costly that people had to be bribed to actually use it. This is no longer the case and governments believe that it is entirely reasonable to phase out their solar power subsidies. Whilst this decision may be premature, it’s hard to ignore just how quickly the price of a photovoltaic panel has fallen. Part of the reason for this is mass production and part is the Chinese desire to subsidise their own industry, effectively destroying their competitors.
Panels are falling in cost so rapidly that it is not unreasonable to suggest that we should delay buying them just to wait for the next major price fall. Some manufacturers are now producing photovoltaic panels that are cosmetically indistinguishable from traditional roofing tiles. It’s easy to envisage a future where it becomes compulsory for all new housing to be built with a photovoltaic roof. Given that Britain turns over about 1 per cent of our housing stock every year, it also isn’t difficult to envisage a future where the majority of homes in the country are self-sufficient in energy.
But if the vogue towards a cheap and efficient energy-powered future continues, people are bound to look at the Sahara again. A vision of the desert practically covered in solar power panels is now a reality with a number of projects already having been established in North America and north Africa.
There are already accusations that North African Solar Power represents a rebirth of colonialism with European powers attempting to snatch resources from Africa and seize it for themselves
Engineers in Morocco have built one of the most ambitious solar energy projects on the planet. Using Spanish technology, they have built a system of mirrors designed to reflect the sun’s rays onto a large box that has been placed on a pedestal in the centre of the solar farm. This kind of energy generation is different from photovoltaic panels. It requires moving parts and a different attitude, but it has advantages too.
The mirrors are placed on rotating platforms so they can move throughout the day to follow the sun. By synchronising the position of each mirror to the day-night cycle, the maximum possible energy can be directed at one point. That point is a box containing salt. The salt soon melts into a sort of man-made lava and can be moved as a fluid along pipes where it is used to heat water, which in turn generates steam. The steam can then drive turbines creating electricity. This kind of installation involves multiple moving components and would require more maintenance than a standard PV panel. However, the molten salt can remain hot well after sundown and continue to generate electricity for up to seven hours into the night. Given that a country like Morocco would typically experience about 12 hours of daylight, this still leaves the problem of the energy gap in the early hours of the morning while the system waits for the new dawn, but it’s much more comprehensive than PV. This kind of technology uses a lot of water for cooling purposes and this might restrict its use. But it’s already quite popular and a number of such systems have been built in the United States.
This kind of vision requires us to believe that it might be possible to transmit energy over vast distances. Electricity is pretty ephemeral stuff; it doesn’t lend itself to long-distance transportation. In complete contrast, crude oil is a liquid that can be pumped on and off a cargo ship quite easily. They say that if you stand on the bridge of an oil tanker sailing to Japan you can see the smoke from the funnel of the tanker ahead of you and the tanker behind you. Such is the hunger of the Japanese economy for the dark black liquid.
We still don’t know how to bottle electricity and the problems associated with battery storage remain formidable but progress has been made. There have been major electrical cables under the North Sea and the English Channel for many years now. In the southern hemisphere, the Australian government has also built a cable linking Tasmania with the Australian mainland so the idea of using high-energy, direct-current transmission from north Africa to Europe isn’t quite as far-fetched as it sounds. In these circumstances about 12 per cent of the power generated in the Sahara would be lost during transmission. Most authorities believe that the advantages of increased sunlight intensity associated with the north African environment outweigh the problems associated with this power loss.
And if the north African power plant succeeds? What then? Many of the countries involved have a clear memory of their days as European colonies and for some African politicians this is a difficult memory to forget. There are already accusations that north African solar power represents a rebirth of colonialism with European powers attempting to seize resources from Africa for themselves. Some of the optimists for solar power in the Sahara have suggested that most of our power could be generated in the desert but while this kind of political friction still exists, it’s hard to imagine European governments allowing more than 10 per cent of their grid to be supplied from overseas.
University of Southampton gives us an idea of the current situation through this article on Solar and wind energy sites mapped globally for the first time.
Researchers at the University of Southampton have mapped the global locations of major renewable energy sites, providing a valuable resource to help assess their potential environmental impact.
Their study, published in the Nature journal Scientific Data, shows where solar and wind farms are based around the world—demonstrating both their infrastructure density in different regions and approximate power output. It is the first ever global, open-access dataset of wind and solar power generating sites.
The estimated share of renewable energy in global electricity generation was more than 26 per cent by the end of 2018 and solar panels and wind turbines are by far the biggest drivers of a rapid increase in renewables. Despite this, until now, little has been known about the geographic spread of wind and solar farms and very little accessible data exists.
Lead researcher and Southampton Ph.D. student Sebastian Dunnett explains: “While global land planners are promising more of the planet’s limited space to wind and solar energy, governments are struggling to maintain geospatial information on the rapid expansion of renewables. Most existing studies use land suitability and socioeconomic data to estimate the geographical spread of such technologies, but we hope our study will provide more robust publicly available data.”
While bringing many environmental benefits, solar and wind energy can also have an adverse effect locally on ecology and wildlife. The researchers hope that by accurately mapping the development of farms they can provide an insight into the footprint of renewable energy on vulnerable ecosystems and help planners assess such effects.
The study authors used data from OpenStreetMap (OSM), an open-access, collaborative global mapping project. They extracted grouped data records tagged ‘solar’ or ‘wind’ and then cross-referenced these with select national datasets in order to get a best estimate of power capacity and create their own maps of solar and wind energy sites. The data show Europe, North America and East Asia’s dominance of the renewable energy sector, and results correlate extremely well with official independent statistics of the renewable energy capacity of countries.
Study supervisor, Professor Felix Eigenbrod of Geography and Environmental Science at the Southampton comments: “This study represents a real milestone in our understanding of where the global green energy revolution is occurring. It should be an invaluable resource for researchers for years to come, as we have designed it so it can be updated with the latest information at any point to allow for changes in what is a quickly expanding industry.”
Renewable electricity may be only source to withstand biggest shock in 70 years because as reported by Jillian Ambrose Energy correspondent of The Guardian of April 30, 2020, Covid-19 crisis will wipe out demand for fossil fuels, says IEA.
Renewable electricity will be the only source resilient to the biggest global energy shock in 70 years triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, according to the world’s energy watchdog.
The International Energy Agency said the outbreak of Covid-19 would wipe out demand for fossil fuels by prompting a collapse in energy demand seven times greater than the slump caused by the global financial crisis.
The steady rise of renewable energy combined with the collapse in demand for fossil fuels means clean electricity will play its largest ever role in the global energy system this year, and help erase a decade’s growth of global carbon emissions.
Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, said: “The plunge in demand for nearly all major fuels is staggering, especially for coal, oil and gas. Only renewables are holding up during the previously unheard of slump in electricity use.”
Demand for gas is expected to fall by 5%, after a decade of uninterrupted growth. It is the steepest drop since gas became widely used as an energy source in the second half of the previous century.
Coal demand is forecast to fall by 8% compared with 2019, its largest decline since the end of the second world war.
The Paris-based energy authority used data from every country and across each energy sector to analyse the impact of the pandemic on the global system.
It found that global energy demand was likely to plummet by 6% this year, the equivalent of losing the entire energy demand of India – the world’s third largest energy consumer – or the combined energy demand of France, Germany, Italy and the UK.
The impact of the pandemic on energy use will be more keenly felt in advanced economies where demand is expected to fall by 11% across the EU and 9% across the US.
The collapse of fossil fuel demand could lead global emissions to fall by 8% compared with 2019, a drop six times larger than the record fall after the financial crisis in 2009 to lows not seen in the past decade.
Study: Middle Eastern Countries Would Save Money by Ditching Fossil Fuels in Power Mix
More renewables and transmission lines would save MENA countries money. (Credit: Total)
Abandoning fossil fuels for electricity generation by 2030 would save money for countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), according to new research into renewable energy in the area.
A feasibility study of 100 percent renewable electricity systems across MENA found that relinquishing fossil fuels in favor of generation based mainly on solar and wind could help cut costs by between 55 percent and 69 percent compared to a business-as-usual scenario. The study, published last month in Energy Strategy Reviews, is believed to be the first to look at how renewable energy generation might meet hourly loads across MENA.
The study looks at several scenarios, including establishing fully renewable electricity grids independently in most MENA countries, or having the whole area interconnected by high voltage DC transmission links.
A third scenario looks at the effect of adding loads from seawater desalination and the industrial gas sector onto a MENA-wide interconnected electricity system.
The researchers estimated the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) arising from fully renewable electricity systems would vary between €40.30 and €52.80 ($43.53 and $57.04) per megawatt-hour, depending on the scenario. The estimated business-as-usual LCOE is €118.60 per megawatt-hour, and that’s without including the cost of greenhouse gas emissions.
Unsurprisingly, the most expensive scenario was the one without interconnections between countries. Evening out supply and demand with a MENA-wide transmission network would cut LCOE from €52.80 down to €48.30 ($52.16) per megawatt-hour, the study found.
Importantly, though, the research also showed that coupling the desalination and industrial gas sectors to renewable energy generation could cut LCOE even further, reducing it by 17 percent compared to simply having an interconnected grid.
The integration would be achieved using power-to-gas technology, with 90 percent of electrical energy generation coming from onshore wind and large-scale PV.
“Power-to-gas technology not only functions as a seasonal storage by storing surplus electricity produced mainly from wind power and partially from solar PV but provides also the required gas for the non-energetic industrial gas sector,” said the study.
Middle East solar energy prices continue to fall
The research poses interesting questions for MENA policymakers. While the lowest LCOE can be achieved by interlinking nations and integrating their industrial operations, going down this route could be challenging in practice given the fragile geopolitics of the region.
It would also require by far the highest level of capital investment: almost €1.9 trillion ($2 trillion), compared to €908 billion ($981 billion) for a MENA-wide electrical grid and €962 billion ($1 trillion) for each country to have its own renewable energy supply.
Based on International Monetary Fund data, this investment would equate to 60 percent, 29 percent and 31 percent of total MENA gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019, respectively.
However, said lead author Arman Aghahosseini, of Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology in Finland, given an average energy infrastructure lifetime of around 30 years the annual capital expenditure required under any scenario would likely be only 1 percent or 2 percent of GDP.
This “seems to be very well affordable,” said Aghahosseini. “Of course, we agree that tackling the geopolitical issues is not so easy and implementing such a project [with full integration] requires significant cooperation and solidarity between the countries.”
The study’s LCOE figures do not seem far-fetched in view of pricing seen in recent MENA solar auctions.
Four countries in the area were already seeing solar bids of less than $25 per megawatt-hour last year before Dubai attracted a $17-per-megawatt-hour bid for the next phase of its Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park.
And in January, Qatar claimed to have gone even lower, without disclosing figures. Despite this, some observers remain cautious about accepting studies that claim to show how regions can achieve full decarbonization of the electricity system.
Noting that many places, including a growing number of U.S. states, now have 100 percent renewable targets for the electricity sector, Menlo Energy Economics president Fereidoon Sioshansi said: “I think you start getting into problems at 50 percent.”
A study last year by Energy and Environmental Economics for Calpine Corporation in the U.S. had shown that balancing variable loads with intermittent renewable energy supplies became prohibitively challenging and expensive at penetrations beyond 85 percent, Sioshansi said.
“Moving towards 100 percent is a good idea, but getting to actual 100 percent doesn’t really make sense,” he said.
Sustainability Times in its Economic development and energy in the age of climate change elaborates on how the times are changing and all we need to do is to do away with anything that is unethical or morally ambiguous. Anthonie Cilliers, author of the article tells how.
April 25, 2020
Over the last 140 years, burning coal for electricity generation has provided the backbone of economic development, supporting industrialization and becoming the backbone of an exponential improvement in the quality of life. Just more than a 100 years ago, the discovery of oil in the Middle East has resulted in similar advances in quality of life as well as accumulation of wealth, and supports now the world economy to such an extent that seems virtually impossible to break our dependence on it.
Of course, this fossil-fuel based economic growth was made possible by the 2 to 3.5-fold increase in energy density compared to burning wood for our energy needs. Subsequent economic development has enabled people in developed countries to afford being more environmentally conscious – and that is a good thing. However, large parts of the world have been left out of this massive development: wealth gaps have grown to such an extent that countries in Africa and many in Asia will remain dependent on support from developed countries. In fact, energy poverty is the largest limiting factor to economic growth facing the developing world today.
If that was the only challenge facing the developing world today, it would have been relatively simple to overcome. But with all the advances that came from the use of fossil fuels came hefty impacts on the environment, including ocean acidification and changes in climate that have resulted in more arid regions, especially in Africa. The world needs to break its reliance on fossil fuels at the expense of the developing world – no doubt a tough pill to swallow.
How can we overcome fossil fuel reliance?
Luckily, several solutions to these problems have been developed over the last few decades. Renewable energy, spearheaded by wind and solar, have shown some promise. A drawback is that these represent a major step back in energy density, and even if harvesting the energy from wind and solar has developed into an exact science, they remain the most resource-intensive sources of energy per unit. Add to this the issue of intermittency, and we’re left with a climate conundrum – the availability of clean dispatchable energy sources to support intermittent energy sources are limited to only two: large-scale hydro, and nuclear power, neither without its own challenges.
While the use of hydropower is limited geographically to countries with large river systems that flow year-round, nuclear power is the only all-round viable low carbon dispatchable energy solution – but it’s struggling to get real momentum behind it in the drive to carbon neutrality. One of the main reasons for this are economic, given that conventional nuclear power plants (NPPs) are large in size and therefore require lots of capital to plan and construct. The significant price tag is often limiting the appetite of private capital to invest in these plants. NPP also take long to build, costing money and accumulating interest during construction.
The nuclear option
These factors are undeniable, but a singular focus on them distorts how these costs level out in the long-run, which make nuclear in fact a viable option. For example, pressurized water reactors are big, but also produce output between 1000MW to 1650MW electrical, per reactor. Important to note here is that they can sustain this output for decades, as reactor design life is typically 60 years, with an option to extend to 80 years.
As a result, the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) over the NPP’s life are in actuality quite low and very competitive. For this reason, nuclear power has been more successful within long term government programmes to support economic growth. The long plant life also means that once a large build programme, such as what happened in the US and France, is complete, new installations become few and far between.
Because of the large capital investment, and the low variable cost of operations, nuclear plants are most cost effective when they can run all the time to provide a return on the investment. Hence, plant operators now consistently achieve 92 percent capacity factor (average power produced of maximum capacity). The higher the capacity factor, the lower the cost per unit of electricity.
Unfortunately, with electricity grids utilizing more intermittent solar and wind, maintaining a high capacity factor becomes a challenge. Intermittent sources displace power produced by other sources when they come online, forcing NPPs to ramp down. The cost of that unserved energy often makes nuclear power artificially uneconomical on high penetration intermittent grids.
Considering the generally positive long-term cost calculation, a number of countries in the Middle East, North Africa region (MENA), including the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Turkey and Jordan, have expressed strong interest in nuclear power. These countries have been willing to (partially) support the large capital outlay required for NPPS, and either already possess or have the ability to set up the grid infrastructure to support them.
Planning is key
That leaves the planning for a cost-effective realization of the technology. Here, the correct and accurate cost assumptions are key: consistent operation at around 92% needs to be ensured, that is, their capacity should not be changed by adding intermittent power to the grid. Only then can long-term reliable electricity that reduces in cost over time in nominal terms be realised.
Finally, the cost of capital needs to be reflective of the real world. A good discount rate to assume for funding nuclear power plants is around 3 percent. This rate rewards longer plant lives and does not penalize longer construction delays. If overnight cost of $6000/kW can be secured, over 60 years at a discount rate of 3 percent, no low carbon dispatchable energy source will match the cost effectiveness of nuclear power.
Considering the massive challenges ahead of us, nuclear power deserves a seat at the clean energy table. Now that the UAE, Egypt, Turkey, Bangladesh, China and India are in the process of building and commissioning new NPPs, we can expect to see massive drops in CO2-emissions for each unit coming online – not to mention the benefits of the socio-economic injection coming from embarking on these mega-projects. It is now time to up the game if we hope to reduce global reliance on fossil fuels.
Sustainability Times on April 15, 2020, delivered some thoughts on how MENA is pondering its energy options. A good example is that after several years of hesitation, Algeria and Germany have finally reached an agreement to promote the gigantic Desertec project, aimed at making North Africa and the Middle East full of sunshine, vast reservoirs of energy. The aim is to provide Europe with no less than 17% of its energy needs from this inexhaustible source.
Until not that long ago, the energy needs of most countries in North Africa and the Middle East (MENA) were relatively modest. That’s no longer the case. Rapid economic development and robust population growth across this up-and-coming region have caused energy needs to increase greatly.
Growing demand for air conditioning and desalination, as well as industrial expansion, is especially driving local energy needs. The Arab Petroleum Investment Corporation has estimated that the MENA region will need to expand capacity at 7.4% on average annually, adding 138GW in total. Even as demand for electricity is growing, however, the region’s nations are seeking to wean themselves off fossil fuels in a bid to mitigate the effects of climate change, which is expected to have a marked impact on the environment in an already hot and arid region.
Per capita carbon emissions in Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have been among the highest in the world. Therefore, low-carbon energy sources will be vital and renewables, especially solar, could provide much of the region’s electricity thanks to the ready availability of sunshine all year round. Yet some energy experts stress that enhancing the supply and security of domestic electricity generation can’t be done with renewables alone owing to their inherently intermittent nature. Thus, the diversification of the energy sector will be key to economic stability and prosperity across the region.
Advanced nuclear technology is increasingly seen as a viable alternative to fossil fuels to complement solar and wind in the energy mix. In contrast to the low power density and unit power of renewable energy sources, nuclear offers a means to add significant capacity at speed while not compromising the dependability of supply. For nuclear to come into its own in MENA, however, local governments will need to create favorable market conditions to reap its benefits. The technology requires initial investments that are steep, yet over time nuclear power, if handled well, can be a viable investment. Studies have shown that the system costs of nuclear decrease with a higher market share whereas those of renewables tend to increase.
Still, “It would be too simplistic to pretend that you can compare all system costs and lifecycle costs for these two technologies, particularly as both renewables and nuclear have benefitted one way or another from massive government support in their early days, and both have different roles on the merit curve,” stresses Dr Leila Benali, who is a member of Morocco’s Royal Special Committee for the Development Model, as well as Chief Economist and Head of Strategy at APICORP.
“Over the next 10 years, the massive deployment of grid-scale storage solutions might totally change the current dynamic, particularly in a lower demand growth environment,” she adds.
As matters stand now, however, several nations in the MENA region are seeking to take advantage of the benefits of nuclear technology for electricity generation with hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of planned investment. Turkey is leading the way by developing the country’s first nuclear power plant in Akkuyu in collaboration with Russia’s state-owned Rosatom energy company. The construction of the plant’s first unit will be finished in 2023 and Ankara is planning to install several more reactors in coming years.
Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates, a regional economic powerhouse, expects to meet nearly a quarter of its electricity needs with a new nuclear power plant, which is currently under construction in Abu Dhabi and will consist of four APR-1400 nuclear reactors with a total capacity of 5,600 MW. Jordan, too, is working on a commercial nuclear power plant with several helium-cooled small modular reactors, which is expected to be completed by the mid-2020s. Neighboring Saudi Arabia, which is home to a fifth of global oil reserves, is looking to build a number of reactors for energy generation. Several other nations in the region have expressed a similar desire to launch nuclear energy programs of their own.
Yet the financing of such ambitious nuclear projects in MENA will need to be done judiciously. In November 2015, Russia and Egypt signed an intergovernmental agreement to finance the construction and operation of a nuclear power plant. According to the plan Russia would cover 85% of project costs to the tune of $25 billion via a state-backed loan while Egypt would provide the rest via private investments.
A larger role for private financing behind new nuclear has been described as a potential model for the region – and not just for power generation. “It is true that private financing has historically been missed in nuclear power,” Benali says. “One interesting trend in the region could be nuclear for desalination and that could be an area where private capital could be much more active if we see a few projects developing in the region,” she explains.
Ultimately, Benali says, nuclear technology will require not only economic but some societal changes as well. “Given the large share of youth in several countries in the region where they account for more than 70 per cent of the population, the most relevant angle should be R&D-related,” Benali says. “Equally important should be the inducing of a virtuous cycle of attendant technological research related to nuclear with applications extending beyond nuclear power,” she adds. “These should include medical use and desalination projects.”
However, it is clear that the region’s countries will have their work cut out for them if they are to exploit nuclear power technology in a safe and dependable manner. “The main requirements on nuclear cooperation and safeguards on enrichment and nuclear fuel recycling are key [if the region’s countries want] to introduce nuclear,” Benali stresses.
Construction is the well-known process for men of building houses with some unskilled labours. Thank you for reading the misconcepted sentence. Yes, It’s often seen with an eye of simplicity and frivolous job, which isn’t. We are in much of society’s mindset that a myth is more nurtured than a fact.
Call me old fashioned, but I believe there’s something to be said for doing good, honest work. Construction is sort of the unsung hero of our culture; vital to our infrastructure. Skilled tradesmen build the places we work in, the homes we live and play in, the roads we commute on, and more. Economy’s strength is tightly linked to the construction industry keeping country to move forward. A construction site is moreover different from a person sitting in front of laptop obeying a 9 to 5 cubicle job; it’s an area of daily new challenges to pass on to the next level. It requires a diversity of skills employing everyone deserving to choose as a career.
This is a technical journey of any structure or thoughts right from the foundation to finishing and external works. In building construction, we study how the civil works are carried out in the field after they have been planned by an architect and structurally designed by an engineer. A toddler whenever points his finger towards the swinging tower crane enjoying like the dance of a robot, it’s the duty of the project team to work successfully building block by block over heights.
As we are talking about the heights, so let me take you to the most heighted man-made structure! No required nominees, it’s Burj Khalifa, Dubai (or you can even argue with one of the most famous buildings because 830 metres is really a good number).
Heard about World One? A structure finding it’s place to be the tallest residential skyscraper, yet under construction of Lodha group, Mumbai.
I’ve my stomach full with all these heights as you will mostly get in my next blog; until then let’s see some amazing constructions. The great man-made river project in Libya has listed as the biggest irrigation project in the world. Underneath of the Sahara Desert, it consists of 2800 pipes carrying 6.5 million cubic metres of freshwater every day.
The most beautiful building in Jakarta, Regatta Hotel complex was designed by Atelier Enam. The project’s centrepiece is the aerodynamic hotel itself that overlooks the Java sea. Now wondered that struggle to be in top 10 beautiful buildings!
But, who knew that continuous endless building of structures would permit to cease for a no while. Because of the nature of his projects, all industries and companies are surged down to a force majeure. The workers are avoiding the work at construction sites due to fear of coronavirus infection. Threatening situations are discovered due to this pandemic endangering future of the construction world.
People are particularly trying to reach out finding alternatives as I mentioned in my previous blog (A virus outside the computer). Also, many cities have adopted a definition of essential construction that allows any work necessary to build, operate, maintain or manufacture essential infrastructure without limitation construction or the constructions required in response to this public health emergency, hospital constructions, etc.
According to the industry body, there are around 20,000 ongoing projects across the country and construction work is being undertaken in around 18,000 of them i.e. involvement of workforce of about 8.5 million in construction work alone! These numbers are breath-taking when health concerns. The scenario implies that the construction work will be slow, pushing costs upward given the interest and debt servicing needed for that extra period. Definitely it will have its own consequences but would be better far than doing nothing. Hoping the same as everyone to defeat this monster, hiding myself from the fact that I’m bored writing about it ; )
Put simply, Asia is the main source of solar technology and demand for it seems to be however tumbling everywhere as confined resistance to the pandemic is hampering its dynamics. It remains that all renewables account for something like 26 percent of all capacity expansion in the Middle East region. As an exception amongst the most engaged would be Egypt. This emerging economy bets big on Solar as elaborated on by Oxford Business Group could be indicative of all that is happening nowadays.
This Emerging Economy Bets Big On Solar
April 06, 2020
Egypt’s total of 1173 recorded Covid-19 cases and 78 deaths, as of April 5, places Africa’s third-most populous country significantly below the global per capita averages for both counts as the pandemic continues to disrupt the global economy.
However, as a result of the sharp growth in international cases and the gradual closing of national borders, in mid-March the government decided to implement travel restrictions.
Egyptian airports were closed to international flights on March 19 for an initial period of two weeks. This shutdown has since been extended to internal flights and will last until at least April 15.
Additionally, on March 25 the government announced a two-week curfew from 7pm to 6am, while pharmacies and food shops will be the only retail establishments allowed to open on weekends and past 5pm on weekdays. Restaurants may only open for deliveries.
Pre-emptive economic stimulus
As the potential economic fallout of the pandemic began to become clear, on March 22 President Abdel Fattah El Sisi announced a comprehensive LE100bn ($6.4bn) package of measures. This included a LE22bn ($1.4bn) stimulus to support the Egyptian Exchange, which should also benefit from a 50% reduction in taxes on the dividends of listed companies.
In addition, the Central Bank of Egypt announced a 3% interest rate cut in what it described as a “pre-emptive move” to support the wider economy.
In a further bid to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on key sectors, the government has committed to support exporters by allocating LE1bn ($63.5m) for export subsidies during March and April, and will furthermore postpone tax payments for three months on facilities and properties occupied by tourism companies.
Energy prices cut
Following the country’s IMF-backed reforms beginning in 2016, energy subsidies have been gradually removed, resulting in a projected price rise for both households and businesses into 2020.
However, in a bid to offset the impact of the pandemic on industrial output, on March 17 the government announced that the price of gas for industrial providers would be reduced from $5.50 to $4.50 per 1m British thermal units.
As part of the same package of measures, the government also announced that the price of electricity would be reduced for heavy industry consumption, from LE1.10 ($0.07) to LE0.10 ($0.006) per KWh. For other industries, the price is to be kept stable for between three and five years.
Boosting solar capacity
Against the current backdrop of challenging economic circumstances, on April 1 it was announced that the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) would provide funding for six new solar power plants at Benban Solar Park in the Aswan Governorate in Upper Egypt, one of the largest such installations in Africa.
The amount is guaranteed against the risk of currency inconvertibility and transfer restriction for up to 15 years. It is part of Egypt’s solar feed-in-tariff programme, which provides long-term contracts to private energy companies with a view to generating investment in renewable sources.
“In the face of uncertainty arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, MIGA remains committed to helping drive foreign direct investment (FDI) by supporting investors who are helping Egypt achieve its long-term goals of diversifying its energy mix,” Hiroshi Matano, executive vice-president of MIGA, said in a statement.
While the pandemic has caused a number of delays for the renewables segment, notably the postponement of the construction of four solar plants by domestic firm Inter Solar Egypt, the future bodes well for the expansion of the industry.
“In the current uncertain economic environment, solar energy has become popular, as it can be produced up to 80% more cheaply than other sources,” Yaseen Abdel-Ghaffar, Managing Director of SolarizEgypt and board member of The Solar Company, told OBG. “Although it was initially difficult to secure FDI for projects, banks are becoming increasingly receptive to renewables and a growth in financing is expected after regular economic conditions are re-established.”
Once considered a farfetched possibility by skeptics, global warming and climate change are now surfacing as palpable realities of the day. From wildfires in Australia to melting glaciers in Iceland, the year 2020 bid farewell to the hottest ever decade recorded on the planet. Fortunately, though, measures are being taken across all industries to curb our modern world’s carbon footprint, and the case of building and construction sector is no different.
According to a recent UNEP-supported report titled 2019 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction, construction sector in 2019 continued its notorious position as the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, resulting in 39% of the energy and process-related carbon emissions recorded during the year. The report further states that whilst as many as 136 countries have expressed intentions to work towards sustainable buildings, only a few have elaborated on tangible actions strategized to achieve such plans.
The global building stock is forecasted to grow twofold by 2050 as a direct consequence of increasing urbanization. If left unchecked, GHG emissions resulting from the building industry can rise to 50% of the global carbon emissions in the next three decades. While technological innovations have given way to reduced energy consumption, increasing cooling demand emerging from hot regions have overshadowed a significant positive trajectory. That said, countries across the world are increasingly targeting the urban built environment as a part of their national strategy towards a low-carbon future.
Within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, Qatar houses one of the highest collections of sustainable buildings. Concluding 2019, the country saw completion of more than 50 projects certified under the Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS) – MENA’s first performance-based assessment system for green buildings. Based on their overall sustainability credentials, projects registered under GSAS can achieve up to 5 Stars, representing the highest levels of sustainable features in terms of design and build. The award of final rating and certificates follows a comprehensive process whereby auditors from the Gulf Organisation for Research & Development (GORD) analyze several aspects of projects at multiple stages throughout the construction phase.
For the year 2019, here are some green projects successfully completed under GSAS.
During 2019, many recipients of outstanding sustainability ratings were linked with Qatar Rail’s Doha Metro project. With Mesheireb Station achieving the highest rating of 5 Stars, another 17 metro stations and 2 stabling yards at different locations within Doha received 4 Stars for their environmentally friendly design and build aspects. Doha Metro is by far the world’s first metro project with accredited sustainable certification specific to rating railway stations. This has been achieved through GSAS’ unique Railways Scheme that is used for rating the sustainability and ecological impacts of new main station buildings, including spaces that serve various functions of a metro station. According to Consolidated Contractors Company, sustainability of the project has been achieved through responsible site development, water saving, energy efficiency, materials selection, cultural and economic value support and innovation in design. Stations awarded GSAS accreditation during 2019 included those located in Msheireb Downtown, Ras Bu Abboud, Al Sadd, Al Sudan, Bin Mahmoud, Qatar University, Hamad International Airport Terminal 1, Al Doha Al Jadeda, Umm Ghuwailina, Ras Bu Fontas, Economic Zone, Al Wakrah, Al Bidda, Corniche, Hamad Hospital, Al Riffa, The White Palace and Education City.
Lusail City Projects:
A number of projects receiving green certifications during 2019 represented Lusail City – Qatar’s first smart city covering 38 square kilometers, that has mandated GSAS to ensure sustainability of all of its buildings. A flagship project of Qatari Diar, Lusail City has been dubbed as the “largest single sustainable development” ever undertaken in the State of Qatar. Use of native flora and water efficient landscaping mechanisms are some ways the city conserves water. Its integrated transport system reduces GHG emissions resulting from private vehicles. The city’s urban connectivity has been achieved through light rail, ample pedestrian walkways, bicycle tracks and park-and-ride facilities at the public transport stations. With a capacity to reduce up to 65 million tons of CO2 per annum, Lusail’s district cooling plant boasts of being one of the largest in the world. Other green credentials benefiting the entire city include a pneumatic waste collection system, sewage treatment plant and an interconnected natural gas network designed to cut down energy consumption.
Within Lusail, Marina Yacht Club Al Khaliji Tower received the highest sustainability rating of 4 Stars during 2019 followed by another 8 commercial, residential and mixed-use developments receiving 4, 3 and 2 stars. Once complete, the city will have the capacity to accommodate 200,000 residents, 170,000 employees and 80,000 visitors without significant impact on the environment.
Sustainable development is one of the four key pillars of Qatar National Vision 2030, a fact that has provided a natural impetus for public projects to be designed and constructed sustainably. Now, all government projects within Qatar are now mandated to pursue and achieve sustainability under GSAS certification system. To this end, health centers in Al Waab, Al Wajbah, Muaither and Qatar University were successfully completed with 3 Stars sustainability rating during 2019 under the supervision of Public Works Authority ‘Ashghal’. Interestingly, all projects undertaken by Ashghal have been designed and built following sustainability principles – a fact that has been reiterated by Ashghal’s President, Dr. Eng. Saad bin Ahmad Al Muhannadi, who recently emphasized that “Ashghal is implementing GSAS standards in all its public buildings in Qatar, specifically in educational and health buildings.” In the light of these comments, one can safely assume that the upcoming stock of health centers in Qatar will continue to have sustainability at the core of their design and construction.
Hamad Port Project Facilities:
Increasing Doha’s total port capacity, Hamad Port Project started operations in 2016. However, construction has been underway to develop new facilities aimed at enhancing the port’s functional efficiency. The year 2019 witnessed completion of multiple facilities inside the new port with sustainability certification. From accommodation and mosques to civil defense and business center buildings, 19 projects under the umbrella of Hamad Port received sustainability rating between 3 and 2 Stars. Development of the new port has followed comprehensive mechanisms aimed at preserving the environment. For instance, 39,117 mangroves, 14,252 sqm of sea grass and 11,595 hard corals were relocated prior to the construction phase. The relocated flora and fauna are being continuously monitored and have so far proven to be surviving.
Taking green sports infrastructure to another level, Al Janoub Stadium received GSAS 4 Stars during 2019, and rightly so. Soon to be a venue for FIFA 2022 World Cup games, the stadium consumes 30 percent less water in terms of international plumbing codes. More than 15% of its permanent building materials are made from recycled content and more than 85% of the waste generated during construction was processed to be reused or recycled, making it one of the most sustainable stadiums worldwide. Apart from Al Janoub, Qatar University’s Sports and Events Complex was another distinguishing project that received 4 Stars under GSAS Design & Build scheme.
Prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, leading data and analytics company GlobalData had predicted that there would be an acceleration in the pace of growth in the global construction industry, but given the severe disruption in China and other leading economies worldwide following the outbreak, the forecast for growth in 2020 has now been revised down to 0.5% (from 3.1 per cent previously).
The current forecast assumes that the outbreak is contained across all major markets by the end of the second quarter, following which, conditions would allow for a return to normalcy in terms of economic activity and freedom of movement in the second half of the year. However, there will be a lingering and potentially heavy impact on private investment owing to the financial toll that was inflicted upon businesses and investors across a wide range of sectors, stated the top analytics company in its ‘Global Construction Outlook to 2024 – COVID-19 Impact’ report.
While growth in 2021 will be marginally higher than previously expected owing to the projected rebound (and high year-on-year growth rate) in the first half of next year, in the event that the spread of the virus continues into the second half of 2020, further downward revisions to the growth outlook are likely, it added.
Danny Richards, the lead economist at GlobalData, said:
“With extreme quarantine measures including lockdowns of entire countries as well as international travel restrictions being imposed across many major economies, the supply shock is expected to dampen economic activity.”
“The direct impact on construction has been the halting of work with labour unable to get to sites or because of disruption in the delivery of key materials and equipment,” he noted.
“More generally, the construction industry will be heavily affected by the expected widespread disruption to economic activity and a likely drop in investment, with planned projects being delayed or cancelled,” he added.
GlobalData foresees particular struggles in the commercial and industrial sectors; businesses in these sectors are most at risk from the severe drop in economic activity, domestically and globally, and their immediate priorities will be on staying afloat and rebuilding their core operations, rather than expanding and investing in new premises or capacity.
The residential sector also will struggle as economic activity weakens and unemployment rises, despite low-interest rates and direct government support, revealed Richards. “There is a high risk that a considerable proportion of the early stage projects in these sectors will be cancelled or at least pushed back, with few new projects starting in the second quarter of 2020 as firms review their expansion plans,” he added.
According to Richards, the governments and public authorities would likely be aiming to advance spending on infrastructure projects as soon as normality returns so as to reinvigorate the industry.
“With interest rates falling to record lows, borrowing costs will be at a minimum, but the success of government efforts to spend heavily on infrastructure will be dependent in part on their current financial standing,” he explained.
“Moreover, with most governments prioritizing cash hand-outs, particularly to the economically weaker segment, their capability to invest in the infrastructure segment is likely to be constrained, especially in countries with high debts,” he added.
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