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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 November 2018

Masdar looks east to extend renewable energy footprint

Masdar has projects in Abu Dhabi, Oman, Jordan, Mauritania, Egypt, Morocco, the UK, Spain, Seychelles and the Pacific Islands, but it wants to extend its footprint as renewable energy investments soar.
Mohammed Al Ramahi, Masdar’s chief executive, said the company would expand its investment strategy geographically and technologically. Ravindranath K / The National
Mohammed Al Ramahi, Masdar’s chief executive, said the company would expand its investment strategy geographically and technologically. Ravindranath K / The National

The Abu Dhabi clean energy company Masdar will expand next year for the first time into the Indian subcontinent, India and Pakistan, and increase its presence in North Africa to meet the rise in renewable energy demand, the chief executive said.

The company, which has more than 1 gigawatt (GW) in installed capacity, will also begin construction of 1.2GW of projects next year.

Masdar has projects in Abu Dhabi, Oman, Jordan, Mauritania, Egypt, Morocco, the UK, Spain, Seychelles and the Pacific Islands, but it wants to extend its footprint as renewable energy investments soar.

Globally, renewable energy investments reached nearly US$286 billion last year, a six-fold increase from levels in 2004, according to the energy watchdog International Energy Agency. And for the first time ever, this sector made up more than half of all the added power generation globally.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance projects that between now and 2040, renewables will take the lion’s share of investment, of $7.8 trillion, more than triple the amount expected for fossil fuels.

“In the beginning, opportunities were limited in the region and now they’re growing but competition is also growing,” said Mohammed Al Ramahi, Masdar’s chief executive. He said the company would expand its investment strategy geographically and technologically.

After a decade of “swimming against the current” to invest $2.7bn in renewable energy since its inception, Masdar is ready to take its next leap into new territories, including India, Pakistan and Algeria.

“The Indian subcontinent is interesting to us and we’ve been watching it the past two years,” said Mr Al Ramahi.

Masdar met officials in Algeria last week to discuss solar and wind projects. The North African country increased its renewables target last year to 22GW by 2030, with solar and wind making up the bulk of its target. Solar photovoltaics (PV) will make up nearly 14GW of power generation with concentrated solar power expected to be 2GW and wind coming in at 5GW, according to Algeria’s Renewable Energy Development Centre (Cder).

While solar began taking off last year with 14 solar PV plants coming online, at 268MW last year, the wind market is still underdeveloped. In 2014, the first wind farm was inaugurated bringing 10MW of power.

Yet Algeria has not always incubated a friendly environment to foreign investors. Masdar’s chief executive said that, because it is commercially driven, Masdar will not do “anything that doesn’t make sense … We’re happy to take risks, but it has to be a calculated risk that satisfies our shareholders’ expectations when it comes to returns,” he said.

The Middle East will continue to be a top priority for the company with the GCC leading the way.

Also on the agenda is to continue capital flows into the UK and Europe. A new area will be assets in the United States.

Mr Al Ramahi said that although Masdar had yet to invest in North America, he believed that the US market was the largest and would continue to be so in the renewable energy sector.

However, controlling Masdar’s growth is key to its future success. “You can’t conquer the whole world, you need to prioritise and focus,” he said.

lgraves@thenational.ae

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