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Oil-rich UAE struggles with power shortages

Oil-rich UAE struggles with power shortages

Power shortages forced many businesses to close Tuesday in the emirate of Sharjah as the oil-rich Gulf nation begins another long, hot summer without the means to provide enough electricity to keep the air conditioner running.
Sharjah, which sits in the shadow of Dubai's glistening skyline, is one of seven city-states that form the United Arab Emirates, home to one of the world's largest oil deposits. Last summer, nearly daylong blackouts paralyzed trade and made life unbearable in Sharjah, which is often seen as Dubai's industrial backyard.
Much like last year, the Sharjah Water and Electricity Authority, or SEWA, provided no explanation for power cuts that have prompted factories to shut down, restaurants to temporarily close and residents to search for a spot to cool down _ and vent.
In an unusual step in a country with a tightly controlled media that never criticizes its unelected leaders, the Dubai-based Gulf News blasted SEWA for pretending the chronic power pains have caught them "by surprise."
"Once again there are power cuts and once again officials are offering no explanation," the paper said in an editorial. It added that people "in one of the richest countries in the world" have the right to know why "their children have to tolerate the sweltering heat."
Robert Bryniak, the chief executive of Golden Sands Management Consulting in Abu Dhabi, said the blackouts likely stem from an overburdened distribution system and a lack of generation capacity.
Vast amounts of oil money have been poured into turning Sharjah Dubai and Abu Dhabi into modern cities to attract foreign capital and tourists. Yet for all its oil wealth, the Emirates has to import natural gas to keep its power plants humming.
Demand for electricity could hit 40,000 megawatts by the end of the next decade, suggesting a growth rate of nine percent annually from 2007 levels, according to estimates from the UAE embassy in Washington. The country has enough gas to produce only about half that amount.
Officials have acknowledged that the demand far outstrips supply, and while looking into green sources of power, the Emirates is also set to built the Gulf's first nuclear reactor.
"There is a dire need to develop alternative sources of ... energy to serve the needs of continuing development and guarantee that the population growth and urban development are properly supported," said Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi's crown prince and the heir to the Emirates' presidency, while touring South Korea's nuclear plants.
With the first nuclear reactor in the country expected to be operational by 2017, the situation is only expected to get worse before it gets better as the booming population, driven largely by an influx of workers from Asia, Europe and the Middle East, ensures the energy needs will continue to balloon.


Updated : 2021-04-15 08:11 GMT+08:00