x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Abu Dhabi at forefront of impending energy revolution

The UAE's energy revolution will provide long-term benefits to the world's economy, expert says.

Abu Dhabi recently played host to one of the most important series of meetings ever held to stimulate international co-operation in promoting clean energy.

As well as an opportunity for celebration, this is a moment to reflect on how far the UAE has come. The UAE is undergoing an energy revolution that will provide long-term benefits to the local economy, its people and the world.

First and foremost, the assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) was officially inaugurated last week, marking the agency's full legal establishment with Abu Dhabi as its permanent home.

The agency can now take on its rightful role as the world's most important driver of international co-operation on renewable energy; and its location in Abu Dhabi is an illustration of the UAE's commitment to a clean energy future.

In the same week, Abu Dhabi has also hosted the second meeting of the clean energy ministerial, a forum of energy ministers from 21 of the world's major economies. The UAE was the sole representative from the Arab region.

But Abu Dhabi's recognition as a centre for discourse and thought leadership on a clean energy future did not stop there.

The same week, the G20 held the first meeting of its clean energy working group in the capital - the first time the world's most influential group of governments, including the UAE, has addressed clean energy as a priority issue.

By any standard this is an extraordinary endorsement of the UAE's central role in clean energy.

The UAE's vision has - and will continue to be - the ongoing development of a diversified, competitive, knowledge economy strengthened and supported by national resources.

It has developed strong expertise in fossil energy markets and is well positioned to remain an energy leader in the future.

Masdar is advancing the development and commercialisation of renewable energy, clean technologies and demand-side energy-efficiency solutions. It serves as a dynamic bridge between today's fossil fuel economy and the energy economy of the future.

In so doing, it provides solutions to the UAE's growing energy needs and underpins our economy's knowledge, technology and innovation-driven growth.

The four guiding principles remain energy expertise, strategic partnerships, pragmatic innovation and commercial focus, which together will reinforce the UAE's position as a stable, responsible and safe supplier of energy.

While this will be a long and collaborative journey, the UAE is fortunate to be able to highlight early signs of mutual commitment.

Energy expertise is critical in meeting a key challenge in decarbonising the power sector - the need to improve the economics of renewable power generation.

This will be achieved by moving down the technology learning curve and enhancing learning rates with associated cost reductions through the large-scale deployment of clean technologies.

This year will see the first fruits of the programme to develop future experts in clean energy, with the first class of 153 students - 37 per cent of whom are female - graduating from the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology.

This new generation of indigenous experts is focused in the core disciplines of engineering and sciences - exactly where employment opportunities will be strongest.

The UAE is keen to build strategic partnerships. Not only has the partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology formed the basis of a thought leadership programme focused on energy and sustainability challenges, but the 2010 partnership with Siemens will bring substantial benefits. It will be focused on smart grid solutions and smart buildings for Masdar City, and carbon capture and storage.

Pragmatic innovation underpins our strategy. Our high economic growth, hot summer climate, large industrial sector and the need to desalinate our water supplies mean we have a rapidly growing demand for energy.

Not only must we meet these needs safely, securely and economically, we must be environmentally sensitive. For that, Masdar City is an important testing ground.

In late March, we hosted a collaborative R&D event with the Semi Conductor Research Association, looking at how to develop cost-effective, large-scale systems capable of achieving 25 per cent energy conversion by 2020.

Commercial focus lies at the heart of the UAE's strategy. Technologies such as carbon capture and storage ally our traditional expertise in oil and gas field reservoir management with new opportunities in clean technologies.

Furthermore, the country's development as a capital markets hub strongly positions us to meet the challenge of financing clean technology opportunities.

Plenty of work lies ahead for the UAE and for all the major economies to build a cleaner future. In addition, considering the current state of the Middle East, the UAE's investment in emerging markets may also help provide an economic anchor and a beacon for stability in the region.

This past week, with the world's eyes upon us, has let us reflect on how far we have come. Now we must remain steadfast in achieving our clean energy objectives.

 

Dr Sultan Al Jaber is the UAE Special Envoy for Energy and Climate Change and chief executive of Masdar.