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United Arab Emirates Promotes Alternative Energy

Published at: Jan 24, 2012
source: New York Times
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DUBAI — Masdar, a renewable energy company based in Abu Dhabi, plans to spend millions of dirhams in clean energy projects in Scotland after signing an agreement with the Scottish government.

Research will be coordinated through the Energy Technology Partnership, an alliance of 12 independent Scottish universities engaged in energy-related research, development and demonstration. With around 250 faculty members and 700 researchers, it is the largest power and energy research partnership in Europe.

“From wind and solar energy to the potential of wave technology, Scotland is a strong advocate for the advancement of renewable energy,” Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, chief executive of Masdar, said last week at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi in discussing the initiative. “Our countries share a similar vision where new forms of power will complement and help balance the global energy mix.”

Although no specific projects have been defined, the framework of the agreement outlines a detailed action plan to deliver tangible clean energy projects. It focuses on development opportunities, investment in low-carbon projects, technological cooperation, policy making, and initiatives for best practices.

The parties believe that Scottish expertise in wind and wave power, alongside Masdar’s regional focus on solar power, will lead to further developments and original research in clean energy.

The agreement outlines four core areas of collaboration: offshore and onshore wind projects; carbon capture and storage; investment in the low-carbon economy; and renewable energy research and development.

Analysts say the move is significant because it encourages investment flow from the United Arab Emirates to Scotland and allows Scottish institutions the chance to capitalize on Masdar’s reserves.

“This agreement provides vitally important investment and development opportunities for both partners,” Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish government, said at the conference. “It enables us to share our respective expertise to help push and promote alternative energy sources at a global level as the world seeks to address a broad range of climate change issues.”

This is the latest in a string of agreements between the Emirates and international parties aimed at ramping up renewable energy initiatives.

“There is a strong political will in the Gulf to diversify the oil-dependent economy and actually utilize money available from oil revenues in new technologies,” Erich Kaeser, chief executive of Siemens Middle East, which has a renewable energy team, said during an interview at the energy forum. “Masdar is a prominent example, but it is becoming more and more of a trend in the Mideast.”

Last week, Masdar also confirmed plans to build a solar power plant in Tonga that will provide 13 percent of that Pacific island nation’s power. Dr. Jaber said at the conference that this would save 180,000 liters, or 47,600 gallons, of diesel annually and avoid the emission of 400 tons of carbon dioxide.

Masdar is also working on a clean energy project in Afghanistan that would provide 600 households in eight isolated villages with solar power. Masdar has also linked up with the Development Bank of Japan to invest in solar and wind projects worldwide. Last October, the world’s first power plant capable of generating solar energy 24 hours a day, without interruption, was inaugurated in Spain by Torresol, a joint venture between Masdar and Sener, a Spanish engineering firm.

The projects are meant to satisfy global and local mandates, which include the 100-megawatt Shams-One solar plant in the Emirates and the 1,000-megawatt London Array offshore wind farm.

All these initiatives are part of an effort by Abu Dhabi to reach a goal of having 7 percent of its energy use come from renewable sources by 2020, analysts say. Bill Richardson, a former U.S. energy secretary, said during an interview at the energy forum that with instability in oil prices brought on by the Arab Spring and the European debt crisis, there is a big incentive to invest in renewable energy and the U.A.E. is “playing it very smart by being a major oil producer but making huge investments through Masdar and International Renewable Energy Agency.”

Mr. Richardson said the U.A.E. was peripherally drumming up political support by investing in clean energy projects in Europe, Africa and Asia.

“It is the only oil producer in the world, aside from the U.S., that is big on renewable energy right now,” he said. “Everyone dabbles, but these guys want it to be their legacy.”

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