Time for “Dark Continent” to invest in renewable energy

By Dr Nawal Al-Hosany

Dr Al-Hosany is director of the Zayed Future Energy Prize and the Director of Sustainability at Masdar

In her role as the Director of Sustainability at Masdar; Dr Nawal Al-Hosany leads a team responsible for developing Masdar’s sustainability standards and policies. She is also mandated to oversee the processes of sustainability auditing, monitoring and reporting.

In 2011, Dr Al-Hosany further assumed the post of Director of the Zayed Future Energy Prize; where she oversees the implementation of the objectives, mandate and strategic direction of the prize.

Dr-Al Hosany is a board member of Masdar Investment LLC and of the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Meteorology. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology.

In her commitment to remain at the forefront of the social science and sustainable development landscape, she has participated in numerous continuing professional development courses and continually seeks opportunities to stay updated on latest project management methods, as well as leadership, planning and decision-support mechanisms.

Dr Al-Hosany has been published globally in international journals and newspapers, including the International Journal of Management of Environmental Quality, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Renewable Energy, and International Journal of Renewable Energy Engineering.

Throughout her career, Dr Al-Hosany has been an active member of various boards in the UAE and around the world including the Advisory Panel for the Momentum for Change initiative of the UNFCCC, the Troika Plus of Women Leaders on Gender and Climate Change; the Climate Justice Dialogue Advisory Committee (an initiative of the World Research Foundation), and the Energy Efficiency Global Forum.

Dr Al-Hosany has also served as Sherpa to the UN Secretary General High Level Group for ‘The Sustainable Energy For all’ initiative for its Principle; HE Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Chief Executive Officer of Masdar.

In 2011, Abu Dhabi Magazine cited Dr.Al-Hosany as one of the 40 most influential Emiratis who have helped shape the emirate. She has also received several medals and accolades for her professional achievements, including a Chevening Fellowship from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Emirates Business Women Award in the Professional and Career Achievements category.

Prior to assuming her current roles, Dr Al-Hosany held senior leadership positions with the General Headquarters of the Abu Dhabi Police, including Head of Design and Studies in the Engineering Department. In 2007, she became the first-ever female Deputy Director in the Abu Dhabi Police.

Dr Al-Hosany graduated from the Faculty of Engineering at the UAE University and obtained her PhD from Newcastle University in the UK. She is also credited as one of the first two Emirati women to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world at 5,895 meters above sea level.


About the Zayed Future Energy Prize: The Zayed Future Energy Prize embodies the vision of the late founding father of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who laid the foundation for renewable energy and sustainability as part of his legacy in sustainable development in the UAE. An annual award, the Prize is managed by Masdar, on behalf of the Abu Dhabi government and seeks to award achievements and innovation in the fields of renewable energy and sustainability, as well as to educate and inspire future generations.

Most of us are familiar with the satellite image of the world at night, showing Europe and parts of Asia ablaze with light. But despite its enormous size, larger than both China and the United States combined, Africa remains dark, with only a few pinpricks of light here and there.

Africa’s economies have shrugged off a global slowdown to record average growth of almost five percent. After ten years of high growth, 22 out of 48 countries have officially achieved middle-income status, defined by the World Bank as having per-capita income in excess of US$1 000. The combined population of these countries is 400 million people. Another ten states, representing 200 million people, could reach this landmark by 2025, the World Bank said. Africa’s population is expected to double by 2050, with a seven-fold increase in GDP if current trends are maintained. In order to provide universal access to electricity and sustain these growth rates, total energy production must double by 2030 from current levels, according to a recent report published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Electricity still remains the only sure route to economic growth.

While some 99% of north Africans have access to electricity, only 77% of people in South Africa do. This figure drops to 29% for sub-Saharan populations outside South Africa, according to IRENA.

Like many other observers, including myself, IRENA believes the time is right for massive investment in renewable energy across the continent. “Africa has the opportunity to leapfrog to modern renewable energy,” IRENA said, noting that renewable energy technologies represented the most cost-effective solution for remote, off-grid areas and for extending electrification grids. Costs of solar photovoltaic have fallen by over 80% over the last two years to less than one US dollar per watt, with further price drops expected.

Renewable energy brings multiple benefits, including increased energy security, job creation, rural development and technological development. Finally, we should not forget that access to energy is particularly important for women, who have traditionally borne the burden of fetching water and cooking over open fires, with attendant respiratory health impacts and fire hazards associated with dirty fuels. The daily lives of these women, and their families, is made immeasurably better if they can access clean energy for household needs.

These are compelling benefits. In my work with the Zayed Future Energy Prize, which recognises and rewards leadership in five categories, I have been privileged to interact with renewable energy pioneers on several continents. Their creativity, persistence and leadership has led to their discovery of innovative solutions tailored for local conditions in business, non-profit and education. Interest has grown steadily over the past five years, with a record 579 nominations received from 88 countries last year – a 36% increase. I call upon leaders in renewable energy and sustainability in Africa to step forward for nomination this year, as with their help, we can finally put to rest the cliché of the dark continent.

For more information on the prize, please visit www.ZayedFutureEnergyPrize.com or email Serene Serhan at sserhan@masdar.ae

· YouTube video about last year’s winners: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mwf2VxivHY4

· Frequently asked questions (FAQ): https://www.zayedfutureenergyprize.com/en/application-process/faq/

· A brochure with further details is available at: https://www.zayedfutureenergyprize.com/resources/media/9185ZFEPHighSchoolFlyerFINAL.pdf

· Submission process video tutorial: https://www.zayedfutureenergyprize.com/en/application-process/submission-process-video-tutorial/

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