Sultan Al Jaber Speaks on Renewable Energy and the UAE

The Middle East, while being in an oil rich region of the world, has long been seen as an ideal place to begin a renewable energy revolution. The wide, open areas many countries in the Middle East enjoy are ideal for wind power, while the abundant sunshine makes the desert locations perfect for solar energy. In the United Arab Emirates, in particular, the government has been keeping renewable energy in mind as a future source of power despite being one of the wealthiest oil nations in the entire Middle East. Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, leader of the nation’s ambitious Masdar Initiative, said last week that the UAE is committed to becoming a renewable energy leader.

The current renewable energy plans by the UAE has the country reaching for 7% renewable energy use by 2020. Compared to some country’s goals around that world that might not seem like much, but the UAE has far greater plans in store. The Masdar Initiative was initially begun as an eight year plan, set into motion in 2006, to create a city that is entirely reliant on renewable energy sources. Spearheaded by the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, of which Al Jaber is the CEO, the city will take advantage of solar, wind, and other technologies to create a city that is totally free of carbon emissions. It will also be home to a major research initiative that is aimed at developing new, commercially viable technologies that will contribute to the growth of renewable energy around the world. The city itself, with is estimated to hold a population of 45,000, should cost around $22 billion dollars to complete and it is believed that it will be finished sometime in 2016. That leaves the UAE little time before their 2020 goal, but it should contribute immensely to that 7%.

The core of the renewable energy research in Masdar will be centered primarily around the development of energy efficient fuel projects that would cut down on carbon emissions as well as several clean waste disposal programs. The commercial side of Masdar will also come into play with the Masdar Venture Capital division, which handles the Masdar Clean Tech Fund and will be responsible for investing in clean technology and renewable energy projects around the globe. Since the UAE is obviously a business driven country, principally in the oil business, it is no surprise that Masdar would have commercial viability in mind. Sultan Al Jaber himself said that he believed that renewable energy was simply the next logical step in energy development and that the leaders of the UAE do not intend to miss out simply because of the chief importance of oil to the country.

While Masdar City seems to be ideal in the renewable energy sense, it is not without its drawbacks. Delays in construction, ranging from issues with the construction firms  to problems with dust storms, continue to push back the completion date and some are concerned that not enough business will be interested in moving to Masdar. Others believe that it will ultimately only prove to be an ideal that will never be copied elsewhere due to incredible costs and potential failures. Since the Masdar Initiative is still very much a go as far as the UAE and Sultan Al Jaber are concerned, we simply have to wait and see if everyone’s worst fears about the project will come true or if Masdar becomes a shining example of renewable energy done right.

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