While the Middle East, and particularly the GCC, has traditionally been known for its abundance of fossil fuel stores, we are beginning to see the inklings of a renewable energy wave.
According to Mordor Intelligence, the Middle East renewable energy market is forecast to reach an installed capacity (maximum amount of electricity that can be produced) of 59,656 MW by 2027, at a CAGR of around 13.43% from 2022 to 2027. The UAE market, in particular, is expected to witness significant growth, owing to upcoming projects and government initiatives.
Across the country, current and in-development projects like Masdar City, Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, and the Hatta Wind Power Project are advancing the renewables sector, under the overall scope of UAE Energy Strategy 2050, which is a nation-wide plan aimed at increasing the contribution of clean energy to the country's overall power output.
In Abu Dhabi, the aforementioned Masdar City, a prominent sustainable urban development, is among the projects spearheading this drive on multiple levels, including supporting innovative energy and sustainability startups.
Among these is Volts, a technology startup that is developing compact and easy-to-use battery units for residential and commercial use. Clients can install solar panels or wind turbines, which produce energy for consumption during the day, with the excess stored within Volts’ batteries for use at night.
Aleksandr Kiianitsa, co-founder of Volts, said that this allows individuals and companies to be “fully independent from the grid,” while reducing their CO2 emissions to zero. However, for individuals that want to retain a connection to the national electrical grid, perhaps as a backup option for their own peace of mind, they are able to.
Volts was founded in 2019 and is headquartered at Masdar City. It is supported by The Catalyst, the region’s first clean technology startup accelerator program, which was created by Masdar City in partnership with energy giant BP to help startups accelerate their business through funding, training and mentorship. Via The Catalyst, Volts has had the chance to work with Masdar and BP on renewable energy projects Kiianitsa’s company might not have had easy access to had they not been part of this accelerator, allowing him to grow Volts’ portfolio and network.
An altruistic push for sustainability
Speaking about their clients, who span the B2C and B2B spectrum, Kiianitsa said that both categories are united by their shared outlook for the future, and the pursuit to become “green.” This is noteworthy because fossil fuel-derived energy remains significantly cheaper than clean energy, especially in the GCC. Essentially, this means that these individuals and businesses are taking up the additional financial burden of their own volition, for the sake of the planet.
According to Kiianista, this sentiment has been growing regionally and worldwide, as awareness surrounding climate change improves.
“During the last 10-15 years, we have seen a huge [shift] towards renewable energy,” Kiianitsa said. “It’s a global trend. In the Middle East. In Europe. In America. In many countries.”
Backed by governmental efforts, adoption rates are bound to increase.
The good news is that renewable energy tech is becoming more affordable by the year, as we’ve seen with the prices of electric vehicles over the past decade, for instance.
“In our Volts energy storage units, we use lithium-ion batteries,” Kiianitsa explained. “The price of these batteries has been reduced to a fifth of what it was eight years ago.
“Solar panels are getting cheaper - battery tech is also cheaper.”
Kiianitsa highlights a cycle, where the more investment and adoption the sector sees, the cheaper the price of the tech will become, which will then feed into further adoption.
While the UAE and Middle East represent Volts’ primary markets, the startup’s main focus is to position itself as a global company with various export destinations, from within Abu Dhabi.
“We already have some pilots in Europe, in [countries like] Sweden, Switzerland, and Luxembourg,” Kiianitsa said. “Europe is one of the leaders in renewable energy, so [that] market is really huge.”
Additionally, to fuel its forecasted growth trajectory, with new products such as electric vehicle chargers in the pipeline, Volts is in the process of identifying investors for its Series A.