With booming domestic demand for power, the Gulf countries are exploring the use of alternative and renewable energy resources including coal, nuclear, solar, wind and hydrogen, said an industry expert.
There are 114 power generation projects of all types in the six GCC countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE together worth more than $160 billion.
"The vast majority of power generation projects in the Gulf are for power stations using conventional gas," said David Weaver, Group CEO of ESR Technology, one of the world's leading engineering, safety and risk management companies.
"But the region is struggling to find enough suitable gas to meet future power demand and the first signs are beginning to emerge of major investment in the region into alternatives," he added.
"It may seem surprising that, with all the available hydrocarbon reserves, alternatives are figuring increasingly in regional power planning. However this is displaying classic wisdom: 'In victory plan for defeat.' In other words, when times are good, build resources against future uncertainty."
The UAE is leading the way in looking seriously at alternative energy sources, said Weaver, chairman of the Power and Finance Week conference taking place from today to Nov-ember 1 in Bahrain.
"A major area of study is nuclear," he said.
A nuclear programme study is to be carried out on behalf of Abu Dhabi's Mubadala Development Company and is said to have a budget of $4 billion. "This project is not connected to the GCC's nuclear programme with the General Secretariat of the GCC budgeting $10 billion for the design, supply, building and operation of a nuclear plant for power generation and water desalination in a country yet to be chosen," he said.
"There is also considerable new activity beginning in the renewable energy field, principally in the UAE," he said.
A design study is being carried out for a $500 million solar power plant for the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company Masdar. The project is a large one with the scope calling for the design, supply, installation and operation of a 500 megawatt solar plant. The project aims to reduce the use of oil and gas in power generation to preserve hydrocarbon reserves. The UAE's solar radiation is measured at 2,200 kilowatt hours per square metre per annum.
Masdar is also studying the possibility of building a hydrogen-fuelled power plant. The project is in the early stage of study but has a budget of $100 million.
Meanwhile, a study is being carried out for the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority for a $1 billion wind farm.
"The research is on using wind as an alternative source for power in the region. It aims to supply up to 10 per cent of Dubai city's power requirement," said Weaver.
Clean-burn, coal-fired power stations are also being explored. A study of a $1 billion coal-fired power plant is being carried out by Taqa, Abu Dhabi's national energy company.
Saudi Arabia plans to build waste-to-energy plants. The plants aim to convert commercially hazardous, organic and toxic wastes into saleable electricity and potable water. ( Gulf )