Sustainability Week, which was hosted in Abu Dhabi, opened doors for the future. Discussions at the annual assembly of the International Agency for Renewable Energy (IRENA), the World Future Energy Summit and the Water Summit showed indisputably that the world as we know it is changing. Countries that aspire to play an active role in a changing world have to adopt new vocabulary reflecting fresh way of
thinking and novel methods

Here are some of the figures revealed: the share of electricity produced from PV solar panels increased by 20 percent in 2013 and prices fell by half over the past two years. Share of renewable energy will double by 2030, when it will replace coal as the first source of primary energy. At the same time, the share of coal will be reduced by 26 percent, oil by 15 percent and nuclear electricity by 13 percent, while share of renewable energy will increase by 150 percent.

Apart from the overall global figures, many countries announced specific achievements and targets: in China, renewable energy accounted for 20 percent of total production in 2013. In Germany, share of renewable energy in electricity production will be 35 percent by 2020 and 50 percent in 2050. Uruguay declared that it is currently producing electricity from wind at a cost of 6 cents per kilowatt hour, and from the sun at a cost of 9 cents, which is cheaper than electricity produced using imported fuel.

The crucial relationship between energy and water in the Arab world overwhelmed the discussions, as the energy sector plays a key role in meeting the demand for water and food. This is primarily due to seawater desalination, in a region which accounts for fifty percent of the world’s desalination capacity, in addition to the energy required to pump and distribute groundwater.

A recent Chatham House report was cited, warning that if consumption levels of water and electricity in the GCC countries continue to rise at the same rates, demand will double by the year 2024. This means an increase in groundwater depletion as well as energy used for desalination. The report pointed out that the growth in energy consumption does not generate equal growth in the economy, because of low efficiency levels. It warned that, if no corrective measures are taken, most of the oil production will be consumed locally, depriving producing countries of significant export revenues.

In the face of this challenge, Abu Dhabi announced during the summit a ground-breaking strategy for water management, based mainly on improving efficiency and rationalizing consumption. Pumping from underground reservoirs is currently estimated at more than 15 times the normal rates for regeneration capacity, ac-companied with bigger amounts of desalinated seawater, carrying high financial and environmental cost. The Abu Dhabi strategy comprises re-using all the wastewater treated by the year 2018, and banning growing animal feed locally, as it consumes 60 percent of the irrigation water, coupled with limiting the production of agricultural crops to those essential for food security, and the use of native plants in gardens and recreational areas, which require less water. The results began to emerge, as water used in agriculture already dropped by 40 percent in 2013.

Sultan Al-Jaber, UAE’s Secretary of State for Climate Change and CEO of MASDAR Future Energy company, said that in 2030 the world will need 50 percent more power and 30 percent more water, which will only be possible by improving efficiency rates, checking waste, diversifying the energy mix and switching to cleaner use of conventional energy and renewable energy sources. We must secure the supply of energy and water to those who need it, without ruining the planet and waste non-renewable resources, said Al-Jaber, confirming that “solutions to achieve development without destruction exist, but require the political will.

UAE Energy Minister Sohail Al-Mazrouie stated that the consumption of energy in the UAE is 3 times higher than the global average, and prices should increase to encourage consumers to change their habits. Pointing out that huge subsidies for the prices of fuel and electricity do not give the residents of the Gulf states any motive to switch to cars that consume less petrol or efficient home appliances, he said that water and electricity prices need to be reconsidered. This confirmed an earlier statement by Omani Minister of Oil and Gas Mohammed al-Ramhi on the need to reconsider subsidy policies, by increasing prices of fuel and electricity to send a clear signal to the pockets of the citizens, because energy waste poses a devastating threat to oil-producing countries and deprives them of a precious re-source.

It is true that renewable energy sources are expanding and attracting significant interest. But it is also true that the world is going to require larger amounts of energy of all kinds, regardless of the levels of efficiency and demand rationalization, especially as more than a billion people currently lack access to safe sources of energy, and the numbers are increasing. However, it is also agreed that continuing to waste a precious national resource and spreading pollution is not an option. Therefore, it is necessary to seriously work on making oil part of future energy, through the development of cleaner uses of fossil fuels, including enhanced efficiency and carbon capture and storage, and expanding the use of oil beyond mere burning. Diversification of energy sources contribute to achieving this goal.