The emirate's first waste-burning power plant could be followed by others to help to cut down on growing amounts of landfill trash, says the developer.
Abu Dhabi National Energy (Taqa) is at work on a US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) power plant that will trim waste to 10 per cent of its original volume. It is expected to come online by 2015 or 2016.
"The beauty of this is that this is not just one. There's enough fuel to do more than one to meet the needs of Abu Dhabi and other cities have the same issue," says Frank Perez, Taqa's executive officer for power and water.
"Al Ain, Fujairah, others need to deal with the waste - so this becomes kind of like a renewable resource."
The Centre of Waste Management, Taqa's partner in the project, aims to cut down on the amount of waste going to landfills by 80 per cent by 2030.
A study is under way to determine how much heat can be generated from Abu Dhabi's cocktail of rubbish. That information will be used in studies already in progress and when Taqa goes to creditors for financing.
A contract for the 100 megawatt plant could be awarded by late next year, Mr Perez says.
Turning waste into energy has had a mixed fate in the UAE. Bee'ah, a local waste management company, has unveiled a plan to eliminate all waste going to landfills in Sharjah in the next three years with a combination of recycling, burning or using bacteria to turn it into methane-rich gas.
Dubai, meanwhile, cancelled plans for a $2bn waste-to-energy plant this year after putting it to tender three times but failing to overcome financing hurdles.
The Abu Dhabi plant is part of the emirate's push to generate 7 per cent of its power from renewables by 2020, an ambitious target for the region. Dubai is aiming for 1 per cent by the same year.
Shams 1, a $700 million solar project in the desert, is scheduled to begin delivering power to the grid this year. Masdar, the developer of the project, is also at work on a wind farm on Sir Bani Yas Island.
For the emirate to meet its clean energy goals, it needs to build one 100MW renewables plant every year through 2020, estimate industry executives.