SNC-Lavalin launches “Engineering Net Zero in the GCC” report to help the region achieve its targets

Dubai, United Arab Emirates – Today, SNC-Lavalin, a fully integrated professional services and project management company with offices around the world, has launched the “Engineering Net Zero in the GCC” report to help the region achieve its targets towards Net Zero Carbon future. The report brings together the global expertise and local knowledge of The SNC-Lavalin Group, including Atkins and Faithful+Gould, and outlines challenges, opportunities, and key recommendations to decarbonize the energy, built environment, and transport sectors.

Globally, SNC-Lavalin has developed the ‘Engineering Net Zero’ (ENZ) program, which focuses on leading the engineering industry to achieve Net Zero Carbon as rapidly as possible, by helping clients manage climate risks and build climate resilience. In 2021, the company announced its ‘vision for engineering a sustainable society’, containing Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) targets and commitments to achieving Net Zero Carbon emissions by 2030 across corporate activities. The ENZ GCC report follows a series of other global industry reports that have covered Canada, the UK, and Germany.

Energy transition

The ongoing energy transition within the GCC is the foundation of governments net zero strategies. Decisions around heavy industry, the built environment or transport, directly influence opportunities within the energy sector. GCC countries are developing a mix of utility-scale solar, wind, waste-to-energy, and nuclear power as part of their planned low-carbon energy mix, although it is possible that build rates of both generation and grid integration projects, which must be considered in conjunction, may need to accelerate to meet government timelines.

The size and pace of clean energy targets in the UAE and Saudi Arabia – particularly when put into context of each country’s net zero targets – leaves no room for slow decision-making. Build rates for generation and enhanced grid infrastructure will have to be carefully executed. Given the complexity of government plans combined with the changing grid-connected energy mixes that will include firm and intermittent power along with storage, countries will need an energy system architect (ESA) to enable decision making.

“An Energy System Architect (ESA) can play a key role in meeting GCC countries’ clean energy targets, recognizing that one solution will not fit all. With an overall picture around population growth, city and transport expansion and future demand – all aligned with government-endorsed targets – an ESA can ensure well-engineered plans can meet the net zero energy challenge which involves optimizing the use of natural resources while overseeing decarbonization strategies at the same time,“ said David Haboubi, Head of Nuclear & Net Zero Energy, Middle East, SNC-Lavalin.

Sustainable cities

Sustainable urban master planning is a key aspect of future net zero strategies. Sustainable cities need to consider liveability, work and access to essential services by a range of non-car and road-based modes. Conscious design and planning that achieve net zero goals need to appreciate life-centric approaches to the built environment. The three main strands of economics – free market, command, and mixed – integrated urban planning, and the application of smart technology will contribute to the planning, design and engineering net zero response. Delivering high performance-built environment solutions for new and existing urban environments is a critical activity and will be at the forefront of decarbonizing cities in the GCC.

This means integrating land use and urban transport planning and ensuring that high-performance buildings and environmental solutions will reduce energy needs. To help reduce carbon emissions for existing buildings, SNC-Lavalin has developed DecarbonomicsTM, a data-driven solution to decarbonize the built environment in a cost-effective way to enable asset owners to contribute to demand reductions and net zero goals.

“The building blocks for creating sustainable cities need to be in place, driven by planning legislation and strategic land use planning. This should include stricter rules around regeneration and retrofitting existing buildings to bring them up to the required standards in terms of energy efficiency and wellbeing. A well-communicated, clear strategy on the benefits of owning and running low carbon, highly efficient buildings will result in positive changes that benefit the GCC net zero targets,” commented Matthew Tribe, Managing Director, Planning, Design, and Engineering, Middle East, Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group.

Transport and mobility

GCC countries, in particular UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have invested heavily in their transport networks in the past decade, but there can be no denying that for internal travel all countries are still heavily reliant on petrol-based car ownership and use, as well as road-based freight. Among other reasons, this is due to the rapid growth of cities and communities that have been designed around the car. Changing behavior towards land-based mobility will require a combination of awareness and strict policies that incentivize Electric Vehicle (EV) purchase, reallocation of road space to other uses, increased parking fees or higher VAT on private vehicles with larger engines.

Land-based public transport networks will play a major role in achieving GCC countries’ net zero strategies. Existing metro and tram networks are not yet extensive, however, and new lines are needed that go to more locations if mass transit is to contribute significantly to a decarbonized transport network. In addition, over the coming decades other technology options such as Hyperloop and maglev can induce much less friction than conventional rail systems and require less power to cover the same distance. The electric power for these systems, if they ever come to fruition, will need to come from clean sources for them to contribute to being a low carbon transport system.

“Transport planning can enhance mass transit by providing new lines or extending daily operational times, particularly where it connects to major embarkation points or airports, giving people options beyond their cars. The rising use of working from home, e-learning, and online shopping will help reduce car journeys and therefore greenhouse gas emissions. A broader perspective is required that ensures the long-term planning of a widespread, functional, integrated transport strategy, including balancing supply-based approaches with the management of demand, and user behavior,” said Roger Cruickshank, Senior Director, Transport, Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group.

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