Incentivizing an Abu Dhabi Neighborhood to Install Solar Panels: Emirati Youth Research Project

This post is a snap shot of another awesome project by a group of senior Zayed University students who have just recently graduated. They employed the principles of the UAE 2021 and Abu Dhabi 2030 Strategic Plans and a unique research method to develop a plan to incentivize families in neighborhood by neighborhood to install solar panels on their rooftops.


Saeed Al Romaithi, Sorour Al Muhairi, Khalf Al Sowaidi, Mohammed Al Midfa, 
Salim Al Midfa, Khalid Al Harmoudi

Research Problem

The UAE is one of the largest consumers of electricity per capita in the world - due in large part to the high demands of air conditioning and desalination. As part of a drive towards sustainability, the UAE government is investing large resources into research (Masdar Institute for example) and large alternative energy installations (e.g. HHS Mohammed bin Rashid Solar Park and Shams 1). However, individuals will also need to contribute to the "greening" of UAE energy and installing solar panels is one way in which families can participate.

Literature Review

Recent research suggests that people are not easily convinced about the long term benefits of installing solar panels (lots of research in Europe about this) - so the students concluded that to persuade people meant making people aware of the long term benefits (in the right way!). Moreover, cost sharing was a successful method used in many countries.

The young researchers concluded, that for Abu Dhabi the best way to move forward with the plan was to provide personalized information and to develop one-on-one relationships with families - something that has been used in China, the US and the UK.

Research Methodology

The students used a mixed method approach - interviews with managers/experts, surveys of 40 young Emirati engineering students and "the majalis approach". We developed the majalis approach as a hybrid of a focus group, tailored to Emirati culture and customs. The findings and analysis were also verified in another majalis setting.

  • Majalis Research Method
In the Arab Gulf the majalis is used as a time and place for meeting with family and friends and also for family, tribal and government leaders to listen to issues and problems faced by family/tribe/community members. These majalis are held by both men and women and are generally gender segregated - although government leader majalis are open to both men and women.

My students attended several family majalis to speak about solar panels and to get feedback from different generations. Abu Dhabi was set up in family or tribe neighborhoods - so a large majalis during Ramadan or Eid could have representatives from each house in the neighborhood. Even the daily or weekly majalis by senior tribe members can have dozens of attendees. 

Of course this makes an ideal setting (with informed consent of the person holding the majalis and each person spoken with) for research here. As a qualitative researcher I was very excited with this "innovation" and was happy to see the students excited by it too.

(As a non-Arab speaker it would be impossible for me to conduct research like this without a trained research assistant - but the data and knowledge gained by the students was quite amazing in its depth and richness)


The ten expert/manager interviews of major UAE green energy projects recommended Sharp efficient solar panels and Amonix efficient solar modules - and believed that government and semi-government organisations would need to work together to first raise awareness and also to develop programs to share costs with families wanting to install panels.

There were interesting results with the surveys of young Emirati engineering students and recent graduates and those spoken with in the majalis - Although 94% thought it would be cost effective in the long run, 86% were concerned with how they would make the house look "bad". Results also showed that they would appreciate government programs and that 82% were willing to sacrifice the "look" of the house for green energy.


Based on the literature review of how these projects have been done in other countries and the mixed-method primary research the students came up with several recommendations.

  1. As a major concern of the experts and managers (and confirmed in the surveys and visits to majalises) an awareness campaign was needed to explain the benefits and also the best ways and companies to use to install solar panels.
  2. They suggest that the government could develop a program to support families through cost reduction of the panels and or installation and hook-up.
  3. There is also a concern about the technicalities of the panels, which could be solved with an effective program.


Guide for Interested Individuals

Apex Power Concepts

Phone: +971-4-223-1185

Panels available: Mono-crystalline type, poly-crystalline type, thin-film type, and flexible

Shams Power Company

Phone: +971-2-653-7200

Panels available: Mono-crystalline type, poly-crystalline type, thin-film type, and flexible

Zenman Energy

Phone: (757)-679-6703

Panels available: Mono-crystalline type, poly-crystalline type, thin-film type, and flexible

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