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UK minister stresses commitment to GCC’s clean energy transition

UK foreign secretary James Cleverly Reuters
British foreign secretary James Cleverly aims to strengthen economic ties with GCC countries
  • Foreign secretary James Cleverly negotiating free trade deal with GCC 
  • Commends Middle East Green Initiative to reduce carbon emissions
  • UAE’s Adnoc and Masdar investing in UK Teeside hydrogen projects

The UK is committed to remaining a “steadfast friend and partner” to Gulf countries as they continue to drive the clean energy transition and one of the most rapid economic transformations in history.

British foreign secretary James Cleverly also hailed the development of “spectacular cities” rising from empty deserts in a speech at the Manama Dialogue in Bahrain.

“The lesson I draw is that when our friends in the Gulf and the wider region decide to make change happen, they can reinvent themselves, and indeed reinvent their economies, with astonishing speed,” Cleverly said.

“And now another transformation is beginning – and I believe it will be equally momentous and filled with opportunity – as this region remakes itself by harnessing the power of sunlight, wind and nuclear energy.”

His comments follow moves earlier this year by Adnoc, the UAE’s largest energy company, to invest a 25 percent stake in the design stage of BP’s blue hydrogen project, H2Teesside, in northern England.

UAE government-owned renewables company Masdar has also signed a memorandum of understanding to acquire a stake in the proposed green hydrogen project, HyGreen Teesside.

H2Teesside is expected to kickstart the UK’s hydrogen economy at scale with the development of two 500 megawatt (mw) hydrogen production units by 2030, with a target to start operations in 2027.

A report published last month by the World Green Economy Organisation (WGEO) and UAE-based sustainability consultancy Zest Associates also said the UK and UAE could create up to 100,000 new jobs each in the hydrogen sector by maximising opportunities for collaboration, which may also include a joint investment vehicle.

BP Adnoc Masdar
BP signs pacts with Adnoc and Masdar for taking part in its Teesside hydrogen projects. Picture: Adnoc

Experts said both countries’ net zero commitments depend on clean hydrogen to deliver emission reductions, especially in hard-to-abate sectors, adding that their abundant renewable energy resources and natural gas endowments will be used to produce green, blue and potentially turquoise hydrogen while their nuclear resources may also produce pink hydrogen.

By 2050, hydrogen is estimated to deliver up to $8.7 billion annually to Dubai’s economy alone, and $15.5 billion to the UK, the report noted.

Cleverly added: “As you embark on this journey, I want to assure you that the United Kingdom will remain a steadfast friend and partner, committed to our relationships in the Middle East and North Africa for the long term, and do so by building on centuries of tradition and friendship.

“We know that your prosperity is our prosperity, that is symbolised by the ever greater flow of trade between us, including over $52 billion between the UK and the GCC.”

Free trade agreement talks are expected to culminate in a deal worth $1.9 billion more a year to the UK economy, an increase of 16 percent.

Negotiations to draw up a UK-GCC deal could be completed in the first half of 2023, said Vincent Keaveny, the Lord Mayor of the City of London, last month.

Cleverly said Britain is convinced that opportunities will only be seized by “cooperating ever more closely”.

“That’s why we’re negotiating a free trade agreement with the GCC, which is our fourth biggest export market after the EU, the US and China,” he said.

“That’s why we’re providing development finance through British International Investment – including $500 million to Egypt and $250 million to Morocco so far.

“That’s why we’re deepening our security partnerships with Jordan and Oman and strengthening our cooperation with regional finance centres against illicit money.

“And that’s why we want to be with you on our shared transition to green energy, ensuring that we all benefit from renewable technologies that are not only practical, but are increasingly affordable [and] also promise near total energy security.”

Last year the UK hosted Cop26 in Glasgow, passing the baton to Egypt for Cop27, which wrapped up last week, with Cop28 taking place in the UAE in 2023.

“I commend Saudi Arabia and the UAE for their plans to invest nearly $350 billion in green energy, and also to Bahrain for its ambition to double its deployment of renewables by 2035,” Cleverly said.

“I draw inspiration from the Middle East Green Initiative, which will help countries to achieve their nationally determined contributions to reduce carbon emissions.”

UK Morocco solar
The Moroccan desert provides space for green energy plants. Picture: Reuters

The UK is working with Morocco on a $20 billion plan to build vast solar panel and wind farms in the desert that could power more than seven million British homes by 2030.

The massive Xlinks project has been granted permission to install almost 12 million solar panels and 530 wind turbines across a 370 square mile area of desert in Morocco’s Guelmim-Oued Noun region and then transfer the power they generate to the UK via the world’s longest undersea electricity cable.

The hydrogen rainbow

  • Green hydrogen is produced on a CO2-neutral basis through the electrolysis of water
  • Turquoise hydrogen is created by a thermal process in which natural gas is broken down with the help of methane pyrolysis into hydrogen and solid carbon
  • Blue hydrogen is generated from the steam reduction of natural gas
  • Grey hydrogen is obtained by steam reforming fossil fuels such as natural gas or coal
  • Sometimes other colours are ascribed to hydrogen, based on how it is produced. For red, pink and violet hydrogen, the electrolysers are driven by nuclear power
  • Yellow hydrogen refers to hydrogen production from a mixture of renewable energies and fossil fuels
  • Hydrogen that is merely a waste product of other chemical processes is referred to as white hydrogen, while the use of coal as a fuel produces brown hydrogen

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