UAE chan­nels oil money into al­ter­na­tive en­ergy

Mas­dar city lay­ing ground­work in case oil wells run dry

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

ABU DHABI: Ris­ing from the desert out­side Abu Dhabi, Mas­dar city is lay­ing the ground­work for when the United Arab Emi­rates’ oil wells run dry. Driver­less elec­tric cars shut­tle be­tween en­er­gysav­ing build­ings topped with ar­rays of so­lar pan­els. Tra­di­tional Ara­bic ar­chi­tec­ture mixes with mod­ern tech­nol­ogy, as nar­row shaded al­leys run be­tween brick-coloured build­ings, fo­cus­ing the wind and keep­ing tem­per­a­tures low. On the edge of the com­plex, a 10megawatt so­lar farm lined with pho­to­voltaic pan­els pro­vides clean en­ergy.

First an­nounced in 2007, Mas­dar city in the sub­urbs of Abu Dhabi has not yet be­come the city of 40,000 au­thor­i­ties promised, with only a few hun­dred peo­ple, mainly stu­dents, in res­i­dence. But the com­plex - which hosts the In­ter­na­tional Re­new­able En­ergy As­so­ci­a­tion Agency (IRENA) and the Mas­dar In­sti­tute for Science and Tech­nol­ogy - is at the fore­front of the UAE’s ef­forts to fo­cus on renewables.

The com­pany that bears its name has in­vested huge sums on green en­ergy - an un­usual move for a coun­try bet­ter known as an oil and gas pro­ducer and ex­porter. Sit­ting on 5.9 per­cent of the world’s oil re­serves and 3.1 per­cent of its nat­u­ral gas, the UAE, a fed­er­a­tion of seven sheikhdoms, is a key player in the global en­ergy mar­ket. The dis­cov­ery of com­mer­cial quan­ti­ties of oil in the UAE in the late 1950s trans­formed the area, turn­ing a few pearl-div­ing towns wedged be­tween the Gulf and the desert into an eco­nomic pow­er­house.

But its rulers know the oil won’t last for­ever, with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan warn­ing ear­lier this year that the coun­try’s last tanker load will be ex­ported in 50 years. “We un­der­stood that for us to main­tain our lead­er­ship in the (en­ergy) sec­tor, we have to get into re­new­able, and we have done that,” Mas­dar chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Ah­mad Bel­houl told AFP.

Nawal Al-Hosany, head of sus­tain­abil­ity at Mas­dar, said the UAE had an “am­bi­tious” plan for “lev­er­ag­ing its re­sources from the hy­dro­car­bon in­dus­try into this new sec­tor”. The UAE says it is ex­pect­ing to in­vest $35 bil­lion in non-hy­dro­car­bon en­ergy by 2020, in­clud­ing $20 bil­lion on the Barakah 5.4-gi­gawatt nu­clear power project. Mas­dar has joined a num­ber of clean en­ergy projects abroad, Hosany said, in­vest­ing some of the mas­sive re­serves the UAE has built up over the years. “The UAE be­came the only OPEC coun­try that not only ex­ports oil but also ex­ports re­new­able en­ergy around the world,” she said. Mas­dar is a part­ner in the 20-megawatt Ge­ma­so­lar power plant in southern Spain, the world’s first so­lar power sta­tion that gen­er­ates elec­tric­ity at night. It also has a 20 per­cent share in the Lon­don Ar­ray wind power project, which has a ca­pac­ity to gen­er­ate 630 megawatts, enough to power nearly half a mil­lion homes in Bri­tain. At home, Mas­dar spent $600 mil­lion to build the Shams 1 plant, the world’s largest con­cen­trated so­lar power plant, west of Abu Dhabi, with a ca­pac­ity to gen­er­ate 100 megawatts. It also sup­ported the So­lar Im­pulse bid to fly a so­lar-pow­ered plane around the world in a trip that took off from Abu Dhabi in March but had to be called off in Hawaii due to a bat­tery fault.

In to­tal, Mas­dar says it is par­tic­i­pat­ing in projects that will even­tu­ally gen­er­ate 1.5 gi­gawatts of power. “Over the past five years, the UAE chan­nelled $840 mil­lion into re­new­able en­ergy projects in 25 coun­tries,” said Thani Al-Zey­oudi, the head of en­ergy and cli­mate change at the UAE for­eign min­istry. “We look at this from a de­vel­op­ment per­spec­tive, not just com­mer­cial,” said Zey­oudi, who is also the UAE’s per­ma­nent rep­re­sen­ta­tive to IRENA. — AFP

ABU DHABI: Men walk in Mas­dar City, out­side the rich Emi­rate of Abu Dhabi. Mas­dar City-which hosts the In­ter­na­tional Re­new­able En­ergy As­so­ci­a­tion Agency (IRENA) and the Mas­dar In­sti­tute for Science and Tech­nol­ogy-is at the fore­front of the UAE’s ef­forts to fo­cus on renewables. (Right) An em­ployee walks at a so­lar plant in Mas­dar City out­side the rich Emi­rate of Abu Dhabi. — AFP

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