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United Arab Emirates Sectors

What is United Arab Emiratesʼ pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

How to citeLast update: June 2021
1.5°C aligned targets
Current targets

Power sector in 2030

Power generation in the UAE is currently dominated by natural gas. In recent years, there have been rapid developments in the installation of solar PV and CSP technologies, which reached 2.4 GW in 2020.6 In April 2021, the first nuclear power plant in the UAE started operations, a first step in reaching its target of a 6% share of the electricity mix by 2050.7 The UAE aims to reach installed capacity of 14 GW of energy from renewables or nuclear in its power mix by 2030.2

To be consistent with the 1.5°C temperature limit, the share of renewable energy generation needs to ramp up to 30-50% by 2030. The share of gas needs to be halved in the power mix by 2030 and phased out completely by 2040. This would result in a two thirds reduction in emissions intensity by 2030, reaching zero between 2040 and 2046.

Towards a fully decarbonised power sector

Phasing out gas from the electricity generation mix in the UAE between 2040 and 2047 is necessary to achieve a Paris Agreement compatible pathway. Emissions intensity from power grid would reach zero between 2040 and 2046.9

Some scenarios show emissions intensity becoming negative, reaching -40 gCO₂/kWh by 2050 mostly due to bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). Delaying the phasing out of fossil fuels in the power sector would require the country to rely more heavily on carbon dioxide removal technologies in the future.

1 Climate Action Tracker. CAT Climate Target Update Tracker: UAE December 2020 Update. (2020).

2 Government of UAE. Second Nationally Determined Contribution of the United Arab Emirates. (2020).

3 IEA. World Energy Balances 2019. (2019).

4 International Energy Agency. Energy data and statistics. (2021).

5 US.Energy Information Administration (EIA). Country Analysis Executive Summary: United Arab Emirates. (2020).

6 International Renewable Energy Agency. Statistics Time Series. (2021).

7 Power Technology News. Barakah nuclear plant’s first unit begins operations. (2021).

8 While global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C provide useful guidance for an upper-limit of emissions trajectories for developed countries, they underestimate the feasible space for such countries to reach net zero earlier. The current generation of models tend to depend strongly on land-use sinks outside of currently developed countries and include fossil fuel use well beyond the time at which these could be phased out, compared to what is understood from bottom-up approaches. The scientific teams which provide these global pathways constantly improve the technologies represented in their models – and novel CDR technologies are now being included in new studies focused on deep mitigation scenarios meeting the Paris Agreement. A wide assessment database of these new scenarios is not yet available; thus, we rely on available scenarios which focus particularly on BECCS as a net-negative emission technology. Accordingly, we do not yet consider land-sector emissions (LULUCF) and other CDR approaches which developed countries will need to implement in order to counterbalance their remaining emissions and reach net zero GHG are not considered here due to data availability.

9 In some of the analysed pathways, the energy sector assumes already a certain amount of carbon dioxide removal technologies, in this case bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

United Arab Emiratesʼ power mix

terawatt-hour per year

Scaling
Dimension
SSP1 Low CDR reliance
2019203020402050400600
100%RE
2019203020402050400600
SSP1 High CDR reliance
2019203020402050400600
Low energy demand
2019203020402050400600
High energy demand - Low CDR reliance
2019203020402050400600
  • Negative emissions technologies via BECCS
  • Unabated fossil
  • Nuclear and/or fossil with CCS
  • Renewables incl. biomass

United Arab Emiratesʼ power sector emissions and carbon intensity

MtCO₂/yr

Unit
−2002040608019902010203020502070
  • Historical emissions
  • SSP1 High CDR reliance
  • SSP1 Low CDR reliance
  • High energy demand - Low CDR reliance
  • Low energy demand
  • 100%RE

1.5°C compatible power sector benchmarks

Carbon intensity, renewable generation share, and fossil fuel generation share from illustrative 1.5°C pathways for United Arab Emirates

Indicator
2019
2030
2040
2050
Decarbonised power sector by
Carbon intensity of power
gCO₂/kWh
500
90 to 180
0 to 10
−20 to 0
2040 to 2043
Relative to reference year in %
−82 to −65%
−100 to −98%
−104 to −101%
Indicator
2019
2030
2040
2050
Year of phase-out
Share of unabated coal
Percent
0
0
0
0
Share of unabated gas
Percent
97
21 to 38
0 to 2
0
2040 to 2044
Share of renewable energy
Percent
3
59 to 79
97 to 98
98 to 100
Share of unabated fossil fuel
Percent
97
21 to 39
0 to 2
0

Investments

Demand shifting towards the power sector

The 1.5°C compatible pathways analysed here tend to show a strong increase in power generation and installed capacities across time. This is because end-use sectors (such as transport, buildings or industry) are increasingly electrified under 1.5°C compatible pathways, shifting energy demand to the power sector. Globally, the “high energy demand” pathway entails a particularly high degree of renewable energy-based electrification across the various sectors, and sees a considerable increase in renewable energy capacities over time. See the power section for capacities deployment under the various models.

United Arab Emiratesʼ renewable electricity investments

Billion USD / yr

203020402050206020

Yearly investment requirements in renewable energy

Across the set of 1.5°C pathways that we have analysed, annual investments in renewable energy excluding BECCS increase in United Arab Emirates to be on the order of USD 2.2 to 9.5 by 2030 and 4.5 to 15.6 billion by 2040 depending on the scenario considered. The ‘high energy demand, low CDR reliance’ pathway shows a particularly high increase in renewable capacity investments, which could be driven by an increase of electrification of end-use sectors, and growing energy demand. Other modelled pathways have relatively lower investments in renewables and rely to varying degrees on other technologies and measures such as energy efficiency and negative emissions technologies, of which the latter can require high up-front investments.

Footnotes