The inauguration of Sham 1 solar power plant is a historic moment, according to the Secretary General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).
UAE takes first major step towards its renewable energy ambitions
A historic moment - this is how the man in charge of the world's clean energy body called yesterday's opening of the Shams One solar power plant.
The project's significance goes beyond the borders of the UAE, making a strong case for renewables for the entire region, said Dr Adnan Amin, Secretary General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).
"The question was often asked, why would a renewable energy agency be headquartered in an oil-producing country, which was well endowed [with fossil resources] as the UAE," said Dr Amin as he was recounting the early days of the agency, which is based in Abu Dhabi.
"Behind us, you have the proof," he continued, referring to the 100-megawatt solar power plant, the largest for the UAE and the region.
"This is an extraordinary moment for us, because we have been discussing over the last two years the potential, the fact that there is a business case, there is an economic case, there is a climate change case, there is a political case to make for renewable energy in the Middle East," said Dr Amin.
"Today, this is the first massive footstep that has been taken on renewable energy in this region and we believe that this shows the way, that the Middle East will eventually become not only the biggest oil producer and exporter in the world, but will become one of the biggest renewable energy producers and exporters in the world," he said.
While the opening of the plant is a major success for the UAE, more lies ahead if the country is to meet its renewable energy ambitions.
Abu Dhabi, for example, has set a target of seven per cent of clean power by 2020, a goal which would require adding a total of 1,500 MW of capacity in less than a decade. The emirate needs to develop a road map on how the goal should be reached, he said.