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View Full Version : Masdar’s message to the world: there is life after oil


Pangea
06-30-2009, 09:30 AM
The capital now has the task of realising the lofty aim of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena): to make renewable energy more accessible and affordable around the world at a time when demand for energy is projected to grow by 50 per cent in the next 20 years. Yesterday’s vote will surely raise a few eyebrows. Here was an oil-producing nation beating two countries with impeccable green credentials to host a global green energy body. Indeed, the UAE has one of the highest per capita carbon footprints in the world: each resident produced an average of 30.1 tonnes of carbon dioxide last year. This is significantly more than Germany (9.5) and Austria (8.9), according to the World Bank. Plus, Germany’s renewable sector represents 19 per cent of its energy production, compared with less than 1 per cent in the UAE.

First, while the UAE may not be the greenest nation in the world today, it is taking bold steps to position itself as the renewable energy hub of tomorrow. In 2006 Abu Dhabi established Masdar City, a $15 billion development that will become the world’s first zero-carbon, zero-waste city. It will be home to more than 1,500 renewable energy-related companies, creating a global centre of renewable innovation.

All of this provokes the question: does the UAE truly deserve Irena? The undeniable answer is: Yes.

Masdar City will be powered entirely by renewable energy, including photovoltaics (PV), concentrated solar power (CSP) and waste-to-energy technology.

Wasting no time, Masdar has already inaugurated a 10-megawatt solar PV power plant, the largest of its kind in the Middle East. Now it is laying the foundations for a much bigger – 100-megawatt – solar thermal plant scheduled to come online in 2012. At the same time, Masdar is working on a 420-megawatt hydrogen-fuelled power plant, among the biggest in the world.



The eco-city will also be home to the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (Mist), the region’s first postgraduate-level, research-driven scientific institution focused entirely on education in renewable energy and sustainability. By linking the experts and academics of Mist and Irena, Abu Dhabi will foster a living laboratory for renewables brainstorming, the fruits of which can then be tested in Masdar City: with Irena as its heart it becomes a one-stop shop for renewables innovation and policy.

At the same time, having Irena in Abu Dhabi will create a bridge to other emerging countries in the developing world who are seeking alternative energy solutions to help to fuel their growth. Having Irena headquartered in the developing world will give it great conviction and importance as it reaches out to countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Closer to home, it will encourage other Gulf countries – currently among the highest per capita energy consumers in the world – to take renewables more seriously. It will compel them to ask: “If the UAE is achieving so much success with renewables, why can’t we?” The domino effect will lead to greater cooperation and more connectivity as the region looks towards future sources of energy.

Indeed, when a leading oil-producing country tells the world it wants to become the new hub for renewables, it sends a strong message. It tells the world that the future is beyond petroleum.

In the words of Sheikh Yamani, the colourful former Saudi oil minister: “The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones.” And the oil age will not end because we ran out of oil. Rather, it will end with the Google of the renewables world – a technological breakthrough that will make renewables the cheapest and cleanest form of energy. When that happens the world will quickly move away from oil and embrace this new form of energy.

As Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, one of the early visionary leaders of the UAE, once said: “My grandfather rode a camel, my father rode a camel, I drive a Mercedes, my son drives a Land Rover, his son will drive a Land Rover, but his son will ride a camel.”

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