A new wonder is rising in the southern desert of Dubai against the backdrop of Persian Gulf beaches, but it’s not another skyscraper to grace the futuristic sheikhdom. Instead, it’s one of mankind’s oldest power sources gaining its own space on the oil-rich Arabian Peninsula — a coal-fired power plant
The construction of the $3.4 billion Hassyan plant in Dubai appears puzzling, as the United Arab Emirates hosts the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency. It’s also building the peninsula’s first nuclear power plant and endlessly promotes its vast solar-power plant named after Dubai’s ruler. Dubai has also set the lofty goal of having the world’s lowest carbon footprint in the world by 2050 — something that would be impacted by burning coal.
The coal plant’s arrival comes as Gulf Arab nations remain among the world’s hungriest for energy and amid political concerns over the use of natural gas imported from abroad, concerns underscored by a yearslong dispute with gas-producer Qatar, which is boycotted by four Arab nations, including the UAE.
“Dubai was really saying we’re far too exposed on gas imports, those could be interrupted by all kinds of things, the cost is very high and so we have to do something else to diversify our fuel supply and bring down the total cost,” said Robin Mills, the CEO of Qamar Energy, a Dubai-based consulting company. “They got a very competitive offer on the coal plant … and so the decision was made.”