Emirates Water & Electricity Company ramps up emissions-free water production ambition

Written by
1 Mar 2024
Emirates Water & Electricity Company ramps up emissions-free water production ambition

In its February 2024-released Statement of Future Capacity Requirements 2024-2037: Summary Report, Emirates Water and Electricity Company (EWEC) is forecasting a ‘nearly emissions-free’ water production scenario by 2031.

Ongoing planned development of low-carbon intensive reverse osmosis (RO) plants across the UAE will drive transition, with the highly effective water filtration technology emerging in recent years as a frontrunner in the net-zero journey. 

EWEC’s anticipates that current water production carbon intensity will drop by a staggering 93 per cent, down from 16kg/m³ in 2021 to less than 1kg/m³ by 2031. It recommends further substantial RO deployment from 2028 in order to raise total RO capacity to over 3.5 million cubic metres per day by 2031, to deliver 92 per cent of total projected demand. 

The annual statement also advocates development of an average of 1.4GW of new solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity per year for the period 2027-2037, noting that renewable and clean energy are set to deliver more than 50 per cent of Abu Dhabi’s electricity requirement by 2030. Installed solar PV capacity is currently on track to increase to approximately 7.5GW in Abu Dhabi by 2030.

System flexibility and the provision of operating reserves are similarly factored in with EWEC recommending deployment of 400MW of one-hour depth of battery storage by 2026. 

Commenting on the report, Othman Al Ali, EWEC CEO, said: “Our strategic planning and deployment of technologies have catalysed a monumental shift, steering us away from a reliance on gas-fired power and thermal desalinations towards a diversified and sustainable energy mix. 

“This pivot is underpinned by the recent inauguration of the world’s largest single-site solar power plant and the pioneering integration of wind power into our portfolio, milestones that underscore our leadership in the global energy transition.”

Despite an expected increase in demand of around five per cent per year through to 2035, EWEC projects total CO2 emissions will decrease by around 50 per cent, from 42 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) in 2019 to approximately 22 MTPA by the mid-2030s. At the same time, power emissions intensity is forecasted to drop from 330 kg/MWh in 2019 to 190kg/MWh by 2030. 

As per the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy’s (DoE) Clean Energy Strategic Target (CEST), 60 per cent of the emirate’s energy needs are to be met by renewable and clean energy by 2035. Mandated to support the planning and delivery of Abu Dhabi and the UAE’s net zero strategy for the utility sector, ongoing adoption of renewable and clean energy and low-carbon water solutions across the UAE represent the largest transformation of the Emirates’ water production infrastructure since its foundation in 1971. 

EWEC is helming the process with its latest annual statement outlining key recommendations for cost-effective, net-zero supporting power generation and desalination infrastructure.  

It is also focusing on the future of gas-fired plants, which remain crucial for energy security during the transitional phase, with gas a key enabler in meeting Abu Dhabi’s 2035 decarbonisation targets. This involves enhancement of the flexibility of EWEC’s generation system away from water and electricity produced by natural gas-fired generation plants. 

A further 5.1GW of gas capacity is recommended to capacity support integration of future renewable energy projects as well as provide additional flexibility during peak power demand. This is broken down into 2.6GW of flexible low-cost Open Cycle Gas Turbine (OCGT) capacity, to be made available by 2027, and 2.5GW of Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) capacity pegged for 2028. 

A total additional 9.3GW of gas capacity will be required by 2030, which EWEC notes will be realised through existing asset extensions, reconfigurations or commissioning of the new OCGT and CCGT capacities.

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