The Mayan prophecy about 2012 may have bitten the dust, but more serious folk are predicting profound changes in our lives due to our squandering of natural resources. At the pivot of endeavours to stem the planet’s destruction is the UAE, fuelled by Abu Dhabi’s drive towards sustainability for safeguarding the very environment that has propelled its economic growth to such heights.
Recognising that hydrocarbons, a precious and limited resource necessary to develop a robust economy, is being severely depleted is just one aspect of what the capital is trying to achieve. The other is to focus on safeguarding the limited sources of hydrocarbons available, and the only way to achieve that is through energy efficiency.
The seeds have already been sown with Masdar, launched in Abu Dhabi in 2006 with a mission to advance renewable energy and
sustainable technologies. “The UAE believes that by innovating through action, and empowering others through collaborative engagement, we can help support the international movement towards sustainable development. Innovating for a sustainable future lies deep within the UAE’s heritage. Our country’s founders recognised the need to conserve and preserve our resources for succeeding generations,” says Dr Nawal Al Hosani, Director of Sustainability, Masdar.
Today, this legacy of innovation and responsibility serves as the nation’s vision for the future. As an addition to the movement, The Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, managed by Masdar, has been launched to be a significant platform for dialogue and international cooperation.
When world leaders and policymakers congregate in the capital this week, the agenda is simple — to pave the way for ushering in a new energy economy — a future where hydrocarbons, renewables and clean technologies complement each other to balance the global supply of energy.
And the singular platform that makes all this possible is the World Future Energy Summit (WFES), which runs from today until Thursday. Dedicated to advancing future energy, energy efficiency and clean technologies, the summit will bring together global leaders in policy, technology, research, finance and business to further the industry debate and agree on genuine collaborations. “In doing this, we are encouraging world leaders and energy experts to address the key issues affecting the future of energy and discuss the needs of the public and private sectors in accelerating the adoption of viable and innovative solutions,” says Naji Al Haddad, Show Director for Reed Exhibitions, the organisers of the summit.
The summit runs as part of the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, which is set to welcome more than 30,000 participants from 150 countries for various events including the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (Irena) General Assembly, the World Future Energy Summit and the International Water Summit, among others.
Global investment in renewable energy reached $257 billion (about Dh943.9 billion) in 2011. And, despite the challenging economic conditions, global investment in clean energy totalled $56.6 billion in the third quarter of 2012.
There is obviously a great need to address these issues on a larger scale. And what better platform can there be than WFES, considered the world’s foremost event for the renewable energy and environment industry. It also forms a key platform in Abu Dhabi’s strategy to contribute to the global challenges of energy security and sustainable development through collaboration, cooperation and convening. “The summit is just one example of how Abu Dhabi implements this strategy and facilitates the international dialogue needed in the search for solutions to these critical global challenges which will flow through to this region,” adds Al Haddad.
The sixth edition of WFES will address issues such as energy access to a growing population of seven billion. Last year, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, chose WFES to announce 2012 as the Year of Sustainable Energy For All. This year crucial topics for discussion will include energy poverty in many regions, rural electrification for communities that are off-grid and rely on renewable energy for power, and the major economic impact that the future energy sector is now having on the global
economy including financing ($257 billion invested in 2011) and jobs (five million in 2011).
We don’t have to go far to realise how critical it is to address the energy needs of nations. A 2012 Gulf Research Centre report highlights that the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Company forecasts peak power demand within the capital to rise from 6,885MW in 2010 to 11,200MW by 2015 and reach 15,500MW by 2020, which mirrors the emirate’s population surge of 7.7 per cent per annum from 2005 to 2011.
While the increasing demand in energy supply seems unavoidable, Masdar is contributing significantly to the diversification of Abu Dhabi’s economy and energy sources.
“Working across the value chain, the company invests in research, clean technology companies and large-scale renewable power projects both here and abroad,” says
Masdar’s flagship solar power projects in Abu Dhabi are the $700-million 100MW Shams 1 plant that is considered the largest solar project in the region. In addition, Masdar is an active partner in projects in the UK and Spain, and is investing in clean technology companies across North America, Europe and Asia.
Masdar has also established two clean technology funds with $540 million under management. Focused on sustainable technologies such as clean energy, water and waste management, battery and energy efficiency technologies, Masdar has made investments in companies across North America, Europe and Asia ranging from $15 million to $35 million.
International Water Summit
One of the core issues being addressed during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week is the water-energy nexus. “The energy-water connection has emerged as one of the most challenging aspects of sustainable development, particularly in GCC countries, where extreme water scarcity has driven desalination and food import dependency. As a response, governments in these countries are investing in desalination projects and water recycling, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and nuclear energy,” points out Dr Nawal Al Hosani, Director of Sustainability, Masdar. This has led to the launch of the International Water Summit to promote water sustainability in arid regions. It will be co-located with WFES and will bring together policymakers, scientists and business leaders to tackle urgent water issues.
WFES will see some high-profile speakers who will bring their extensive knowledge and expertise to the conference. These include:
• Mohammad Al Ashry, Chairman of REN21: leadership of REN21 bringing together multi-stakeholder leaders from all around the world
• Adnan Z. Amin, Director-General, Irena: the first international organisation exclusively focusing on renewable energy
• Eric Martinot, Author of REN21’s Renewables Global Future Report, which will be launched during
WFES, which portrays a mosaic
on contemporary thinking on
• Farooq Abdullah, Minister of New and Renewable Energy of India, a country which saw spectacular growth in renewable energy investments
(62 per cent in 2011)
• Peter Altmaier, Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety of Germany, providing an overview of Germany’s energy transition