Shining a light on clean energy
As we recognize the International Day of Clean Energy, we stand at a critical juncture where our environmental stewardship will define the legacy we leave for future generations. Amid the global repercussions of climate change, the urgency to transition to clean energy has become crucial.
According to the EU’s climate service, Copernicus, 2023 was officially the hottest year on record. This was primarily attributed to human-induced climate change and further heightened by the natural El Nino weather phenomenon. Further analysis by the BBC reveals that almost every day since July, the world has witnessed new global air temperature records for that specific period.
Additionally, the Earth’s oceans are experiencing the highest temperatures ever recorded, absorbing heat due to the effects of climate change. In August, Copernicus reported that the average daily global sea surface temperature surpassed the previous record set in 2016. It climbed to 20.96 degrees Celsius, surpassing the standard temperature for this season by a considerable margin.
These matters, along with various other urgent topics, were discussed at the recent UN Climate Change Conference, also known as COP28, in Dubai, where I was honored to speak at the Saudi Green Initiative Forum about regenerative tourism and its significance. The UN conference concluded with a breakthrough agreement for nations to “transition away” from fossil fuels “in a just, orderly, and equitable manner.”
The COP28 accord also includes global objectives to triple the capacity of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power and to double the rate of energy efficiency enhancements, both to be achieved by 2030. Furthermore, it urges countries to expedite the adoption of low-and zero-emission technologies, such as carbon capture and storage.
Red Sea renewables
At Red Sea Global, we are developing the world’s largest, completely off-grid tourism destination. The Red Sea is home to an impressive battery storage facility that operates at 1,300 megawatts per hour, enabling it to be powered by sunlight day and night. With our partner ACWA Power, we’ve installed 760,000 solar panels at five solar farms, which will operate all 16 resorts of the first phase of The Red Sea, plus a staff town and international airport. This is anticipated to reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 600,000 tonnes annually. Our first hotels and airports are also open and operating entirely off-grid.
At our AMAALA destination, we are following the template for success provided by The Red Sea. In September 2023, we signed a 25-year concession agreement with the French multinational electric utility company EDF and leading clean energy company Masdar on a multi-utilities infrastructure facility for AMAALA — which will also be powered entirely by solar energy, saving the equivalent of nearly half a million tonnes of CO2 emissions every year.
AMAALA’s renewable energy facility will have the capacity to generate up to 410,000 MWh per annum — enough to power 10,000 households for an entire year. The system includes a 700 MWh battery storage facility, which ensures AMAALA will be powered by renewables around the clock.
Fortunately, we have the land mass, sunshine, and capital to invest extensively in solar energy as a core pillar of our regenerative approach. With tourism accounting for an estimated eight to 11 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and travelers increasingly preferring greener options, shifting to clean energy aligns with ethical principles and sound business practices.
Solar energy is the world’s third-largest renewable energy source, after hydroelectric and wind. However, it’s growing faster than all the others, from just under 3 percent of global electricity generation in 2020 to 4.5 percent in 2022.
Red Sea Global’s approach to mobility is closely tied to the utilization of solar power. All vehicles transporting visitors to The Red Sea will soon be fully powered by renewable energy — including cars, buses, boats, and seaplanes. In 2023, we launched the Kingdom’s first fleet of commercial electric vehicles and became the proud owner of Saudi Arabia’s first fleet of carbon-neutral electric buses. We aim to expand our EV fleet to more than 400 at The Red Sea and have a similar number targeted at AMAALA.
To support these vehicles, we installed the largest off-grid EV charging network in Saudi Arabia, with more than 150 stations spread across phase one of The Red Sea, to keep our initial fleet of 80 electric Lucid and Mercedes vehicles on the road.
We are also exploring various kinds of renewable energy, such as hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuel, and technologies, such as electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles. We have also partnered with ZeroAvia to develop zero-emission flights by retrofitting seaplanes with hydrogen-powered technology and are collaborating with leading automotive, marine manufacturers, and technology companies worldwide.
From 2030 onward, our flagship regenerative tourism destinations, The Red Sea and AMAALA, will be net-zero carbon emissions upon completion.
Clean energy landscape
As we forge a path for a sustainable future where development and conservation coexist, the clean energy landscape is witnessing a transition catalyzed partly by the recent global energy crisis. As economies rebounded post-pandemic, a surge in energy demand and geopolitical tensions exposed the fragility of our reliance on fossil fuels.
The International Energy Agency underscores the centrality of the energy sector in the fight against climate change, accounting for about 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. To align with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degrees Celsius target, the IEA calls for a tripling of global renewable power capacity and a doubling in the rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030.
The share of fossil fuels in the global energy supply is projected to decline, with energy-related CO2 emissions peaking by the mid-2020s under today’s policy settings. Yet, to meet the ambitious net-zero emissions pathway, fossil fuel demand must decrease by more than 25 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.
With technological advancements and increasing global commitments to sustainability, the future is bright for renewable energy. Red Sea Global stands committed to leading this evolution, continually adapting our strategies to embrace cutting-edge technology and practices. I urge other companies and leaders to prioritize and invest in clean energy.
This is not merely a business imperative but a moral one, where our actions today shape the world for generations to come.
• John Pagano is CEO of The Red Sea Development Co. and AMAALA