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Economic benefits push clean energy drive

Clean energy projects should be based on sustainability and economic sense

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Olafur Ragnar Ragnar Grimsson, President of Iceland, Sultan Ahmad Al Jaber, CEO Masdar, Elezabath Dipuo Peters, Minister of energy South Africa, Dr. Khalid M Al Sulaiman, Vice President For Renewable energy, Ed Crooks, US Industry and energy Editor Financial times, Martin Lidegaard, minister for Climate, Energy and building Denmark, during the renewable energy session in Abu Dhabi.
Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The weather changes in some parts of China are caused by growing ice melting in Iceland [due to increased global temperature]. This is the reason China is becoming a leader in renewable energy, according to Olafur Ragnar Grimson, the President of Iceland.

It is not due to ideological or philosophical reasons but economic benefits, he said at a debate organised by International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) and Financial Times at the third Irena assembly in Abu Dhabi.

“The changes in a faraway land [weather change in China] happen due to the cause in my neighbourhood,” he pointed out. “Chinese scientific community and the leadership have accepted this fact.”

The president doubted whether the US and the European Union will be able to catch up with China in its progress in renewable energy sector.

He was referring to the China’s enviable progress in renewable energy sector including the fact that in 2009, China surpassed the United States to become the world’s largest market for wind power, housing nearly one-third of the total installed capacity. It has achieved similar success in other renewable energy sources as well.

In the West, people have an arrogant attitude, thinking that “we are the leaders in everything. But we are the problem,” Grimson said. Other countries are also leaders in many sectors, he pointed out.

“In 2008, when Abu Dhabi organised the first World Future Energy Summit [WFES] , I was among the few who came to attend it. Many Western leaders did not take it seriously — the WFES and establishment of Masdar [ Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company and low emission city],” the Iceland leader said.

It is paradoxical because the burning issue in the energy sector in the next 5 to 10 years will be in Europe and the US, not in Asia , Africa or Latin America, Grimson said.

He said Iceland weathered the global economic meltdown only due to heavy investments in renewable energy. “Had we not aggressively invested in clean energy in 1980’s and 90’s, we could not have overcome the global financial crisis in 2008.”

The president said clean energy used for heating homes have been saving 10 per cent of the GDP [gross domestic product] in recent years. “That’s why I am able to travel around the world, receiving praise [on progress in clean energy].”

Highlighting the example of Denmark, he said the nation has become a leader in clean energy despite not having any resources such as gas or hydropower. They utilised geothermal and wind sources, the Iceland president pointed out.

A senior Saudi Arabian official in the panel supported the Iceland President’s view that clean energy is driven by economic benefits.

“Our initiatives in clean energy are out of sheer necessity,” said Dr Khailid M Al Sulaiman, Vice President for Renewable Energy at King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (K.A.CARE).

He said renewable energy should make economic sense. “We find it challenging but doable.”

Saudi Arabia has announced plans to build renewable energy share up to 30 per cent [from zero] in the energy mix in a span of 20 years. But he said that such ambitious plans must be based on sustainability and economic sense. Otherwise it will be successful to create a lot of euphoria and enthusiasm but will fail to deliver results, Al Sulaiman explained.