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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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If Qatar can silence critics with a strong tournament

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Hosting the World Cup is what many countries dream of, but hosting does not come without its drawbacks. It is a very costly event with no guarantees on economic return.

Any country that hosts the World Cup must meet strict infrastructure requirements, amongst many other standards required by all. These minimum requirements include criteria for all infrastructures, stadiums, hotels, transit, and communications and electrical grids. Despite all that is allowed by the accumulated petrodollars, fans could face accommodation shortages.  

For that, Qatar will make a newly built and yet to be completed City in the Desert available for the event. Meanwhile, here is another aspect of the fothcoming tournament.

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World Cup 2022: if Qatar can silence critics with a strong tournament, an Olympic bid could be next

By Leon Davis, Teesside University and Dan Plumley, Sheffield Hallam University

The above image is for illustration and is of beIN SPORTS.

A prize for the taking. Shutterstock/fifg

When FIFA picked Qatar as the first Middle Eastern country to host the men’s football World Cup in 2022, some considered it a bold gamble. Others thought it was a mistake – including former FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

Since then, controversy has never been far from a mega-event which is now less than a year away. Aside from allegations of bribery during the bidding process, there have been serious concerns raised about human rights, with particular focus on the migrant workers building the new stadia.

Whether these issues will ultimately dissuade supporters from travelling to Qatar in late 2022 remains to be seen. The organisers will certainly not want a repeat of what happened when Qatar hosted the IAAF World Athletics Championships of 2019, which took place in half empty stadia.

Football has more global appeal than athletics, of course, and so far both Qatar and FIFA remain bullish that millions of fans will travel to the Gulf from all over the world. The event is certainly “unique” in sport event terms and that may drive fan interest. No expense has been spared by Qatar to deliver this unique experience, that is for sure. They have certainly spent big in the lead up to the tournament.

Even as early as 2010, estimates of the total cost for Qatar were in the region of US$65 billion (£48 billion) – a different level to the then record-breaking US$14 billion which Russia spent hosting the tournament in 2018. More recent reports, however, cite costs closer to US$300 billion.

The reason for such staggering sums is not just grandeur. The actual stadium costs, at around US$10 billion, are low in relation to the overall estimated total. The bulk of the money has been spent on infrastructure and transport projects in the country. Some of these were planned anyway, with the forthcoming tournament merely accelerating developments.

Different goals

There is also a bigger picture at play here. In many ways, it has never been about the money for Qatar, one of the richest countries in the world.

The primary gains Qatar is seeking are non-commercial, with international relations at their heart, and and an opportunity to introduce itself to billions of people across the world. This has led to accusations of “sportswashing”. This can be defined as using sporting events as a way of seeking legitimacy or improving reputations and has been used in the context of Qatar 2022 given the controversies cited above.

Despite the negative press, Qatar will be encouraged by its latest foray into major international sporting events, including the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix in Formula One. The race was the first of a three-part Middle-East finale to the F1 season which also includes races in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. This could help place Qatar on a comparable level to its Arab neighbours in another very marketable sport.

Education City Stadium in Doha, Qatar. EPA-EFE/ NOUSHAD THEKKAYIL

Events like these, alongside the 2022 men’s World Cup, are designed to provide a legacy both socially and culturally – a legacy which creates national identity and places Qatar as a legitimate actor on the world stage.

Yet although money may be no object to the hosts, one organisation hoping to make some is FIFA. Their entire business model is geared around a successful World Cup. Russia 2018 helped FIFA to generate record revenues of US$6.4 billion, much of which is spent on “education and development”, and it will be hoping for similar takings from Qatar 2022. In the same way, FIFA’s (widely condemned) proposals to hold the tournament every two years are largely driven by the desire for more income.

So while the goals for Qatar and FIFA are different, both parties need the rest of the world to play ball. It’s worth bearing in mind that to make this happen, the majority of men’s domestic professional football leagues have altered their schedules to allow the 2022 competition to be staged, for the first time ever, in the months of November and December.

If the timing works, and Qatar’s non-commercial plans are achieved, it will then surely aim to become a regular major player in the sports event hosting market – so expect to see a bid to host a future Olympic Games. Money again here will be no object. Qatar will no doubt put on a show for the World Cup. A show that it hopes the rest of the world will be watching.

Leon Davis, Senior Lecturer in Events Management, Teesside University and Dan Plumley, Senior Lecturer in Sport Finance, Sheffield Hallam University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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What is the smart city, and why is cloud storage key?

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David Friend, a specialist in cloud storage elaborates on What is the smart city, and why is cloud storage key?

Smart cities will demand a new paradigm for storage

(The image above is of Jamesteohart / Shutterstock)

Today, analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) have become big business. Throughout the 2020s, Harvard Business Review[1] estimates that these technologies will add $13 trillion to the global economy, impacting virtually every sector in the process.

One of the biggest drivers of the value-add provided by AI/ML will come from smart cities: cities that leverage enhancements in such technologies to deliver improved services for citizens. Smart cities promise to provide data-driven decisions for essential public services like sanitation, transportation, and communications. In this way, they can help improve the quality of life for both the general public and public sector employees, while also reducing environmental footprints and providing more efficient and more cost-effective public services.

Whether it be improved traffic flow, better waste collection practices, video surveillance, or maintenance schedules for infrastructure – the smart city represents a cleaner, safer, and more affordable future for our urban centers. But realizing these benefits will require us to redefine our approach towards networking, data storage, and the systems underpinning and connecting both. To capitalize on the smart city paradigm, we’ll need to adopt a new and dynamic approach to computing and storage.

Providing bottomless storage for the urban environment

In practice, the smart city will require the use of vast arrays of interconnected devices, whether it be sensors, networked vehicles, and machinery for service delivery. These will all generate an ever-growing quantity and variety of data that must be processed and stored, and made accessible to the rest of the smart city’s network for both ongoing tasks and city-wide analytics. While a smart city may not need access to all the relevant data at once, there’s always the possibility of historic data needing to be accessed on recall to help train and calibrate ML models or perform detailed analytics.

All of this means that a more traditional system architecture that processes data through a central enterprise data center – whether it be on-premise or cloud – can’t meet the scaling or performance requirements of the smart city.

This is because, given its geographic removal from the places where data is generated and used, a centralized store can’t be counted on to provide the rapid and reliable service that’s needed for smart city analytics or delivery. Ultimately, the smart city will demand a decentralized approach to data storage. Such a decentralized approach will enable data from devices, sensors, and applications that serve the smart city to be analyzed and processed locally before being transferred to an enterprise data center or the cloud, reducing latency and response times.

To achieve the cost-effectiveness needed when operating at the scale of data variety and volume expected of a smart city, they’ll need access to “bottomless clouds”: storage arrangements where prices per terabyte are so low that development and IT teams won’t need to worry about the costs of provisioning for smart city infrastructure. This gives teams the ability to store all the data they need without the stress of draining their budget, or having to arbitrarily reduce the data pool they’ll be able to draw from for smart city applications or analytics.

Freeing up resources for the smart city with IaaS

Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) is based around a simple principle: users should only pay for the resources they actually use. When it comes to computing and storage resources, this is going to be essential to economically deliver on the vision of the smart city, given the ever-expanding need for provisioning while also keeping down costs within the public sector.

For the smart city in particular, IaaS offers managed, on-demand, and secure edge computing and storage services. IaaS will furnish cities with the components needed to deliver on their vision – whether it be storage, virtualization environments, or network structures. Through being able to scale up provisioning based on current demand while also removing the procurement and administrative burden of handling the actual hardware to a specialist third party, smart cities can benefit from economies of scale that have underpinned much of the cloud computing revolution over the past decade.

In fact, IaaS may be the only way to go, when it comes to ensuring that the data of the smart city is stored and delivered in a reliable way. While handling infrastructure in-house may be tempting from a security perspective, market competition between IaaS providers incentivizes better service provision from all angles, whether customer experience, reliability and redundancy, or the latest standards in security.

Delivering the smart city is a 21st century necessity

The world’s top cities are already transforming to keep up with ever-expanding populations and in turn their ever-expanding needs. Before we know it, various sectors of urban life will have to be connected through intelligent technology to optimize the use of shared resources – not because we want to, but because we need to.

Whether it be a question of social justice, fiscal prudence, or environmental conscience, intelligently allocating and using the resources of the city is the big question facing our urban centers in this century. But the smart city can only be delivered through a smart approach to data handling and storage. Optimizing a city’s cloud infrastructure and guaranteeing cost-effective and quality provisioning through IaaS will be essential to delivering on the promise of the smart city, and thus meet some of our time’ most pressing challenges.

David Friend is the co-founder and CEO of Wasabi Technologies, a revolutionary cloud storage company. David’s first company, ARP Instruments developed synthesizers used by Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and even helped Steven Spielberg communicate with aliens providing that legendary five-note communication in Close Encounters of the ThirdKind. Friend founded or co-founded five other companies: Computer Pictures Corporation – an early player in computer graphics, Pilot Software – a company that pioneered multidimensional databases for crunching large amounts of customer data, Faxnet – which became the world’s largest provider of fax-to-email services, Sonexis – a VoIP conferencing company, and immediately prior to Wasabi, what is now one of the world’s leading cloud backup companies, Carbonite. David is a respected philanthropist and is on the board of Berklee College of Music, where there is a concert hall named in his honor, serves as president of the board of Boston Baroque, an orchestra and chorus that has received 7 Grammy nominations. An avid mineral and gem collector he donated Friend Gem and Mineral Hall at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. David graduated from Yale and attended the Princeton University Graduate School of Engineering where he was a David Sarnoff Fellow.

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