Sustainable Energy: Wherever You Stand on the Climate Change Debate (Whether It Is Natural, Driven by Human Activity, or Even If It Is Happening at All) One Thing Is Certain: Fossil Fuels Will Not Last Forever. Any Economy That Is Based on a Finite Resource Must Plan for a Future without It. and Even the Most Hard-Headed Oil Baron Has to Concede That, One Day, His Wells Will Run Dry

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And that is not all that will run dry. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), computer modelling has predicted that the Middle East and North African region will suffer increasingly from water shortages due to higher temperatures and reduced precipitation.

Already a regularly drought-hit area, it is estimated that up to a hundred million extra people will come under 'water stress' by 2025, with many displaced by rising sea levels and depleted agriculture, which will take more money out of the economy than oil exports can put back in.

The current reduced demand for oil is temporary. While many economies around the world are contracting, China's and India's are still expanding. And when the global recession eases, as it already is, and demand for oil rises, pressure on this finite commodity, coupled with the unpredictability of political change, war and environmental disasters makes reliance on oil less and less attractive.

Even Saudi Arabia, with its vast oil reserves, recognises the need for new sources of energy. CEO of Saudi Electricity Company (SEC), Ali Al Barrak, recently announced his company's plans to work with French and Japanese countries to build wind and solar farms.

There is still much money to be made from oil and gas for those Middle Eastern states lucky enough to have such reserves. And, given that the infrastructure to exploit these reserves is already in place, the move toward sustainable energy has understandably been be a slow one. And it is not all about money; where there is oil there is power, and a political influence that extends around the globe.

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There is a deep irony built in to the Middle East's energy industry. Wealth from oil and gas drives the expansion of an economy, increasing demand for energy that the industry struggles to meet, while also satisfying the energy needs of much of the rest of the world. If it continues, this trend will see less oil exported and more kept back, stunting the economic growth that generated the demand in the first place.

This pressure on supply has already made itself felt.

The Gulf Cooperation Council Interconnection Authority (GCCIA) is a company created by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states of the UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain. The GCCIA's aim was to meet the challenges facing the region's energy supply by means of coordinated action.

Phase one of the project is already complete. This has seen the electricity grids of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar linked. Phase two will link Oman and the UAE. Phase three will join these two 'super grids' together to create a single network.

The purpose of this international project is to create a market for the exchanging and trading of electricity. It is anticipated the system will allow electricity to be directed to where it is most needed, thus avoiding blackouts where demand outstrips supply.

But the limits of the system have already made themselves apparent. Kuwait has entered into negotiations with Qatar over the possibility of buying some of its electricity, although it looks increasingly unlikely Qatar will have electricity to spare. This is a problem that repeats itself across the region.

Suddenly, developing new sources of sustainable energy to take the pressure off traditional sources has become an economic necessity. Technologies such as wind and solar power are receiving increasing investment. In isolation, such technologies are not yet advanced enough to make the difference needed, but as part of a wider range of initiatives aimed at reducing demand and increasing efficiency, ambitious plans for a greener future, independent of fossil fuels, move a step closer.

One such initiative in Abu Dhabi is hoping to establish the UAE at the forefront of a new economy based around sustainable living. …