The UAE and Germany are emerging as the strongest candidates to host the headquarters of the world's recently formed renewable energy agency, according to a renowned green energy proponent. Dr Hermann Scheer, a member of the German parliament and one of the key figures behind the establishment of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), spoke to The National 12 days ahead of a summit in Egypt at which the agency's interim headquarters will be selected.
Abu Dhabi is vying to host Irena in a four-way contest with Vienna, Copenhagen and Bonn. The organisation's 98 member states will vote on the issue at the two-day summit, which starts on June 29 in Sharm el Sheikh. "The two strongest proposals are from Germany and Abu Dhabi," said Dr Scheer, who is also president of Eurosolar, the European Association for Renewable Energy, and general chairman of the World Council for Renewable Energy. "It is a good competition."
Irena was formed on January 26 and aims to speed up the adoption of renewable energy by advising member states on the right policy frameworks and improving green energy financing and technology transfer. Its staff of around 120 people will come from all over the world, while the selected host country will provide the necessary infrastructure. Abu Dhabi's proposal includes hosting the headquarters in 6,436 square metres of rent-free office space in Masdar City.
Masdar, the world's first large-scale carbon-neutral development, is currently under construction close to Abu Dhabi International Airport. This is in addition to US$135 million (Dh500m) of in-kind and cash support to help the agency in its incubation period until 2015, and an annual $50m from the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, which would support Irena-endorsed projects in developing nations over a period of seven years.
"For each country which gets a seat, it has a symbolic meaning, it has a radiation for their own activities towards renewable energy," said Dr Scheer. "It pushes renewable energy in a special way." Germany is one of the most important players in the renewable energy market. Government support for green energy - through financial incentives, some of which were initiated by Dr Scheer himself - has turned the country into a large user of renewable energy as well as a major producer of green energy technology.
Several environmentalists and global figures have encouraged the capital's bid, including the former British prime minister Tony Blair, the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon and Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the League of Arab States. Mr Moussa said "there has to be a first time" for a member of the 22-nation Arab group to host a global agency. Mr Ban said the Government had presented a "strong argument" while Mr Blair stressed the "powerful signal" a UAE victory would send to developing nations.