With global en­ergy de­mand set to roughly dou­ble by 2050 com­pared to to­day's lev­els, en­sur­ing un­in­ter­rupted en­ergy sup­plies at af­ford­able prices has be­come a top pri­or­ity for most coun­tries.

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With global en­ergy de­mand set to roughly dou­ble by 2050 ver­sus to­day's lev­els, en­sur­ing un­in­ter­rupted en­ergy sup­plies at af­ford­able prices has be­come a top pri­or­ity for most coun­tries.

Whether in Asia, Europe or in the hy­dro­car­bon-rich Gulf re­gion, which is emerg­ing as a ma­jor en­ergy con­sumer in its own right, en­ergy se­cu­rity has never been more im­por­tant to en­sure eco­nomic devel­op­ment, eco­nomic sta­bil­ity and eco­nomic se­cu­rity.

Im­prov­ing en­ergy ef­fi­ciency – in other words us­ing less en­ergy to pro­vide the same level of en­ergy ser­vice – is in­te­gral to man­ag­ing and re­strain­ing growth in en­ergy con­sump­tion, and thus a pow­er­ful tool to en­sure and sus­tain en­ergy se­cu­rity.

More­over, en­hanced ef­fi­ciency doesn't just save raw ma­te­ri­als and en­ergy; it also of­fers an al­ter­na­tive to new power gen­er­a­tion in­vest­ments and re­duces emis­sions, in turn help­ing ad­dress crit­i­cal topics such as global warm­ing and cli­mate change. It is of par­tic­u­lar im­por­tance at a time when the pro­duc­tion of en­ergy is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly in­ter­twined with that of wa­ter and agri­cul­ture, putting all these vi­tal re­sources un­der greater pres­sure as de­mand for all of them con­tin­ues to rise on the back of rapid world pop­u­la­tion growth.

Sus­tain­able eco­nom­ics

It is in this con­text that Qatar in Novem­ber iden­ti­fied en­ergy and wa­ter se­cu­rity as two of the grand chal­lenges to be ad­dressed through re­search and devel­op­ment (R&D) in com­ing years. Be­ing one of the world's top en­ergy con­sumers on a per capita ba­sis, partly be­cause of Qatar's heavy re­liance on sea­wa­ter de­sali­na­tion due to a lack of large fresh­wa­ter re­sources, achiev­ing greater en­ergy ef­fi­cien­cies will be in­te­gral to de­vel­op­ing a sus­tain­able econ­omy over the mid- to long-term.

Re­search into en­ergy-ef­fi­cient smart elec­tric­ity grids, more ef­fi­cient de­sali­na­tion and low-car­bon tech­nolo­gies such as CO2 en­hanced oil re­cov­ery (EOR) – which is al­ready un­der way in other parts of the world – could go a long way in help­ing ad­dress ef­fi­ciency is­sues, both in Qatar and else­where and as a re­sult de­liver greater en­ergy se­cu­rity and bet­ter re­sources man­age­ment.

Steps are also un­der way in Qatar to­wards man­ag­ing ex­ist­ing fa­cil­i­ties in a more ef­fi­cient man­ner and rais­ing the gen­eral level of aware­ness on the is­sue. Un­der QNV2030 and the Qatar Na­tional Devel­op­ment Strat­egy 2011-2016, the coun­try aims to re­duce the en­ergy in­ten­sity of elec­tric­ity con­sump­tion through aware­ness cam­paigns, stan­dard­i­s­a­tion and sea­sonal shut­downs, which will gen­er­ate no­tice­able en­ergy sav­ings.

The coun­try holds ma­jor hy­dro­car­bon re­sources, in­clud­ing the world's third-largest gas re­serves af­ter Rus­sia and Iran. The mora­to­rium on the North Field, whose devel­op­ment has made Qatar's rise to the top of the world's liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas (LNG) ex­port­ing na­tions pos­si­ble, high­lights the im­por­tance of ex­tract­ing na­tional hy­dro­car­bon re­sources as ef­fi­ciently as pos­si­ble to sus­tain their avail­abil­ity and value in the long term.

Re­search and Devel­op­ment

Wher­ever ef­fi­cien­cies are be­ing tar­geted, they won't be achieved with­out the ap­pli­ca­tion of in­no­va­tive tech­nolo­gies and the devel­op­ment of new ones. The ben­e­fits are po­ten­tially enor­mous.

“The po­ten­tial for ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy to in­crease re­cov­ery ef­fi­ciency, even in small in­cre­ments, will have huge im­pacts on the ul­ti­mate value ex­tracted from Qatar's nat­u­ral re­sources,” said Ha­mad Rashid Al Mo­han­nadi, CEO of RasGas, at the The Gulf In­tel­li­gence En­ergy R&D Fo­rum in Doha ear­lier this year.

Tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances in the oil and gas in­dus­try have been rapid in re­cent decades and have trig­gered a pe­riod of trans­for­ma­tional change through­out the in­dus­try.

In a sur­vey con­ducted at The Gulf In­tel­li­gence En­ergy R&D Fo­rum among nearly 150 lead­ers from academia, govern­ment and in­dus­try, more than three quar­ters of all re­spon­dents ex­pressed the view that tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances will drive another pe­riod of trans­for­ma­tion in the next 10 years, as the world seeks to find so­lu­tions to the nexus of wa­ter, en­ergy and food, of which en­ergy ef­fi­ciency will be a key el­e­ment.

For Qatar, in­vest­ing in R&D into en­ergy-ef­fi­cient tech­nolo­gies and so­lu­tions is im­por­tant at a time when do­mes­tic elec­tric­ity con­sump­tion con­tin­ues to grow at a rate of about 7% an­nu­ally, driven by rapid pop­u­la­tion growth and ex­pand­ing in­dus­tries, putting in­creased strains on ex­ist­ing nat­u­ral gas re­sources to pro­vide feed­stock for the coun­try's grow­ing num­ber of gas-fired power plants.

“The only way to face this chal­lenge is to fo­cus on the best pos­si­ble means to im­prove util­i­sa­tion of power plants, good cost con­trol, power plant ef­fi­ciency and power gen­er­a­tion through other means such as re­new­ables,” said Fa­had Ha­mad Al Mo­han­nadi, Gen­eral Man­ager of Qatar Elec­tric­ity and Wa­ter Com­pany (QEWC), at the fo­rum. “Power sta­tions should be run on max­i­mum ef­fi­ciency and old plants should be re­placed with higher-ef­fi­ciency plants.”

While Qatar doesn't face a gas short­age, free­ing up the re­source from be­ing burned in power sta­tions by in­creas­ing their ef­fi­ciency and in­tro­duc­ing more al­ter­na­tive en­er­gies, and thus sav­ing gas for fu­ture use or di­vert­ing it into the devel­op­ment of new petro­chem­i­cal pro­duc­tion would add more value to the na­tional econ­omy.

The need for greater ef­fi­ciency is also ob­vi­ous in the wa­ter sec­tor, where ac­cord­ing to ex­pert es­ti­mates, losses of de­sali­nated wa­ter, pro­duced with en­ergy gen­er­ated at gas-fired power plants, through dis­tri­bu­tion and de­liv­ery, range be­tween 10% and 40% across the GCC.

Another ex­am­ple for the need to in­tro­duce greater ef­fi­cien­cies is the trans­porta­tion sec­tor, which ac­counts for more than half of the world's oil con­sump­tion and 28% of global en­ergy use, of which around 40% is used in ur­ban trans­port alone. Im­prov­ing the en­ergy ef­fi­ciency of ur­ban trans­port sys­tems glob­ally could save as much as QR254.8 tril­lion ($70 tril­lion) in spend­ing on ve­hi­cles, fuel and trans­port in­fra­struc­ture by 2050.

Qatar is ad­dress­ing the is­sue with the con­struc­tion of a tram sys­tem be­ing built in Doha by Siemens that will con­sume up to 30% less en­ergy per year than con­ven­tional tram sys­tems. Util­is­ing a tech­nol­ogy called Si­tras hy­brid en­ergy stor­age (HES), the trams will also pro­duce less CO2 than ve­hi­cles with­out the HES sys­tems, thus con­tribut­ing to en­ergy con­ser­va­tion and cli­mate pro­tec­tion.

“When talk­ing about max­imis­ing re­sources, there needs to be fun­da­men­tal re­search aimed around how you ex­pand the re­source base and make more forms of en­ergy avail­able,” said one in­dus­try ex­ec­u­tive at the fo­rum.

“That can be hy­dro­car­bon re­sources or so­lar or any­thing. It's just about ex­pand­ing that re­source base be­cause the en­ergy de­mand of the fu­ture is go­ing up. And it's sig­nif­i­cant be­cause it ties to pop­u­la­tion growth and eco­nomic growth and all those fac­tors. So one needs to look into the value chain. There's the di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion of the re­source base and ex­pand­ing sup­plies. But then there's also the kind, which is the en­ergy in­ten­sity and ef­fi­ciency. That's the other end of the value chain. You need to have ded­i­cated streams of re­search there.”

But other com­ple­men­tary mea­sures will need to be im­ple­mented by GCC gov­ern­ments to en­sure they do in­deed have the full de­sired im­pact, no­tably an up­ward re­view of do­mes­tic en­ergy and wa­ter pric­ing. While re­duc­ing sub­si­dies – or even think­ing it out aloud – re­mains po­lit­i­cally sen­si­tive, it is an is­sue that will need tack­ling in one way or another in the not-tood­is­tant fu­ture in the GCC, since the re­gion's low en­ergy and elec­tric­ity prices have been the main con­trib­u­tors to strong en­ergy de­mand growth and en­cour­aged in­vest­ments into in­ef­fi­cient in­fra­struc­ture across all eco­nomic sec­tors.

With this in mind, achiev­ing greater en­ergy ef­fi­ciency across the econ­omy in Qatar, as in other Gulf states, will re­quire the in­tro­duc­tion of a com­pre­hen­sive reg­u­la­tory frame­work cen­tred around a sus­tain­able long-term pol­icy that also ad­dresses en­ergy and wa­ter pric­ing. This will also have to in­clude the pro­vi­sion of in­cen­tives and obli­ga­tions to adopt en­ergy-ef­fi­cient so­lu­tions and tech­nolo­gies, which in turn will have to be mon­i­tored and en­forced.

Many na­tional and in­ter­na­tional en­ergy com­pa­nies are al­ready purs­ing R&D and in­no­va­tions at the Qatar Science and Tech­nol­ogy Park (QSTP).

At the ex­ec­u­tive level

But it is gov­ern­ments that hold the key to cre­at­ing en­vi­ron­ments in which R&D can thrive – and there is in­creased recog­ni­tion that R&D can play a key role in ad­dress­ing the en­ergy and so­cio-eco­nomic chal­lenges in the re­gion.

Over the past five years, Qatar has taken con­crete steps to build up its do­mes­tic R&D ca­pa­bil­i­ties and ca­pac­i­ties, and at the same time im­ple­mented ini­tia­tives to en­hance and ex­pand ca­pac­ity in its ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem in order to build a so­ci­ety that em­braces science and the ad­vance­ment of tech­nol­ogy.

The an­nounce­ment of the three grand re­search chal­lenges in Novem­ber was an im­por­tant step in that di­rec­tion. As the coun­try's R&D am­bi­tions take shape, Qatar will, how­ever, have to put an even greater em­pha­sis on cre­at­ing a broader en­vi­ron­ment con­ducive to in­no­va­tion, en­trepreneur­ship and col­lab­o­ra­tion among the three key stake­hold­ers tasked with re­al­is­ing its vi­sion – in­dus­try, govern­ment and academia.

Go­ing for­ward, na­tional and in­ter­na­tional stake­hold­ers will have to align on iden­ti­fy­ing the sec­tors and in­dus­tries with the big­gest en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency po­ten­tial within Qatar's ex­ist­ing eco­nomic setup and take guid­ance from this on what ar­eas stake­hold­ers fo­cus their R&D ac­tiv­i­ties on

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