Helene Pelosse, Irena's Interim Director-General, addresses a press conference in Abu Dhabi yesterday ahead of the interim summit that begins today. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman, Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: As the UAE takes the lead in renewable energy, the Gulf region can become a leader in solar power generation and a major draw for renewable energy investors, said Helene Pelosse, director general of the International Renewable Energy Authority (Irena)

The lead negotiator of a European Union directive to achieve a 20 per cent renewable energy share of regional energy consumption by 2020, Pelosse told the audience at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) that despite peak oil concerns and growing electricity demand, the Gulf and the Mena region don't have to worry about the future.

"The potential for this region is huge, with each square kilometre of land receiving every year an amount of solar energy that is equivalent to 1.5 million barrels of crude oil ."

Pelosse added that due to its great potential — in particular solar energy — the Gulf region can become a major draw for renewable energy investors.

Market conditions

"Well-designed, comprehensive and reliable support mechanisms for the market entry of renewable energy technology — including research, development and incentive programmes — are needed to boost initial investment and to create attractive market conditions."

Pelosse said the UAE has taken the lead with the commitment to 7 per cent renewable energy in its electricity production by 2020, as well as the Masdar initiative.

The Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) is building a $22-billion carbon-neutral city in the desert near Abu Dhabi to be powered entirely by renewable energies including solar power. It has unveiled the most advanced concentrating solar power (CSP) plant in the region.

The Shams 1 project will employ a field of parabolic troughs, but instead of focusing the sun's energy onto fluid-filled pipes, the mirrors will concentrate sun rays on a receiver filled with molten salt.

The pilot plant will test a modified tower design to generate up to 100 kilowatts (kW) of power.

Large solar projects are also underway in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Qatar is also building a $2.6-billion Energy City project, a green energy business district scheduled for completion by 2012.

With an adopted budget of $13.7 million for 2010, Irena plans to focus on building a network of international renewable energy experts, start mapping the global potential of renewables and build up a comprehensive database of policies to promote renewable energy.

  • 100kW expected to be generated by the pilot plant
  • 7% target of renewable energy sources by 2020
  • $22b outlay for carbon-neutral Masdar city
  • $13.7m budget for Irena for this year