Demand for electricity and water in UAE
The demand for electricity and water in UAE continues to grow at a rapid pace due to strong population growth, economic expansion, and climate issues. In fact, the country has one of the highest per capita consumption rates in the world, both for electricity and for water. According to the 2015 Report on the energy situation in the UAE, UAE residents use about 550 liters of water and 20 to 30-kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per day, while the international average is 170 to 300 liters of water and 15 kWh per day. Many new power plants have been built in recent years to meet these growing needs. Currently, over 27 Gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity of all seven emirates are produced from natural gas (the most environmentally friendly fossil fuel that is available), 50% are imported. These plants are relatively modern and efficient, as most of them were built in the last decade. Also, the intensity of carbon emissions (CO2 emitted per kWh) from electricity production in the UAE it is currently the lowest in the region, and also lower than the world average.
Desalination remains the main source of drinking water in a country with few natural sources used. Desalination plants are directly powered by electricity in the case of reverse osmosis systems, but desalinated water can also be a byproduct of electricity generation when using distillation processes multiple effects (MED) and multiple flash (MSF).
However, the increase in electricity demand is expected to slow to an average 5.5% per year until 2030, and the growth rate of consumer water supply should also go down to the historical average figure of nearly 10% per year between 1998 and 2012, about 2% between 2014 and 2030.
The challenge is to successfully meet the demand for electricity and water in UAE in a sustainable way, both from an economic and environmental perspective. To meet this challenge, the 2021 Vision UAE sets national targets for clean energy, availability and water production, reducing carbon emissions and energy intensity. Better conservation, energy diversification, the use of technology and innovation for the production of energy and water, and overall energy efficiency are all key drivers to achieving these goals. The diversified energy mix in the UAE includes renewable energy, traditional hydrocarbons, and nuclear energy. Abu Dhabi provides that by 2020, 7% of its energy comes from renewable sources, while Dubai has recently increased its target to 7% in 2020 and 15% by 2030. Dubai also intends to produce a portion of its energy from clean coal.
The nuclear power plant in the UAE is at Barakah (Abu Dhabi). The completion of the first production unit is planned for 2017, three more units to follow at an interval of one year each. In 2020, the four units of nuclear energy production should provide up to a quarter of the electricity needed in the country and reduce carbon emissions by 12 million tons per year.