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The Political Feasibility of Policy Options for the UAE’s Energy Transition

About the Project

This paper – prepared in collaboration with the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, a part of Khalifa University of Science and Technology – applies a model of collective decision-making processes (CDMPs): the KAPSARC Toolkit for Behavioral Analysis (KTAB). KAPSARC has developed KTAB, an open source software platform, to support modeling and analysis of CDMPs. KTAB is intended to be the standard platform for analyzing bargaining problems, generalized voting models and policy decision-making. It is our intent to use KTAB to assemble the building blocks for a broad class of CDMPs. Typical models in KTAB will draw on the insights of subject matter experts regarding decision-makers and influencers in a methodical, consistent manner; and then assist researchers to identify feasible outcomes that are the result of CDMPs.

Key Points

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has said it wishes to transition toward a less carbon-intensive energy system, both as part of its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and as one of a number of investments in ‘green’ research and development, technology and power generation. However, given the complexity of the UAE political system, which requires consensus among seven relatively sovereign and independent emirates, as well as commercial and financial interests, it is not immediately clear which policy instruments that might drive the UAE energy transition will prove acceptable and politically plausible. Here, we apply the KAPSARC Toolkit for Behavioral Analysis (KTAB) platform, a model of collective decision-making processes (CDMPs), to assess the political will to agree to and to implement an array of different policy alternatives within the current UAE context.

Energy subsidy reforms in the UAE have already been undertaken, and there appears to be sufficient political will for them to continue, though extensive subsidy reforms appear politically untenable.

Explicit carbon pricing in the UAE appears politically infeasible, as it does not appear to be able to achieve the consensus required in the face of entrenched interests that would be harmed by such an approach.

There appears to be robust political will to effectively deliver on the UAE’s renewable energy ambitions. An example includes the continuation of the utility scale solar energy tenders that have already proved successful.

Similarly, there appears to be strong and growing support to maintain the UAE’s plans to bring online 5.6GW of nuclear power in the next year, although support for nuclear beyond this level of deployment is uncertain.

Energy efficiency standards, whether targeted toward the commercial or residential sector, appear to be a politically feasible alternative to help lower UAE energy demand. There is moderately strong political will in support of this policy approach.

A perhaps surprising conclusion from this study is the somewhat neutral, although still positive, political will in support of natural gas, given the current dominance of natural gas in the UAE power sector

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