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Home > Focus
 
Masdar is a role model for the world

(Wam) / 23 June 2012

Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the UAE’s Special Envoy for Energy and Climate Change and CEO of Masdar, has stressed the importance of taking immediate action for securing energy supplies towards sustainable development and meeting the needs of the future through the adoption of a diverse energy mix.

In an interview to the Brazilian newspaper Estado do Sao Paolo on the fringes of the Rio+20 Earth Summit, Al Jaber said that even though the UAE has significantly large hydrocarbon reserves for the next 150 years, the best solution is to rely on a variety of sources, including traditional energy while promoting clean technologies.

Excerpts from the interview:

You have come to the Rio+20 Summit with the objective of introducing Masdar City, the sustainable city in the UAE. What are your expectations from Rio+20? How would you prioritise the projects in your presentations?

A global platform like Rio+20 will allow us to showcase Masdar City, one of our flagship projects. A low-carbon, low-waste urban development that aims to become one of the world’s most sustainable cities, it serves as a test bed for the latest innovation in renewable energy research for Masdar and its partners. However, showcasing Masdar City is only one of the many reasons for our participation in Rio+20.

The UAE is looking forward to participating in negotiations at the 2012 UN Earth Summit in Rio, which will be a major opportunity for countries to shape solutions aimed at achieving sustainable development, to build on initiatives such as the United Nation’s Year of Sustainability for All which Masdar has committed to and to encourage the adoption of clean energy and sustainable development goals.

What is the primary goal of Masdar City? Is it zero emission? Or is it the creation of a laboratory-city with the objective of developing and testing new technologies on behalf of other cities of the world?

Masdar City is a low-carbon, low-waste urban development that will be one of the most sustainable cities in the world. It not only embodies Abu Dhabi’s commitment to a sustainable future, but also pioneers best practises in sustainable urban planning, design and construction.

Masdar City serves as a test-bed to develop and deploy best practises for sustainable urban planning and latest technological developments in clean technology through collaboration and partnerships with like-minded companies and countries.

At Masdar, we encourage new ideas that test, build and scale the diverse energy mix necessary to enable a sustainable and energy secure society. In the long run, Masdar seeks to develop a green print of the manner in which the nation will function in future.

Masdar Institute and many of our partners are currently using Masdar City as a test bed for pilot projects including light electric vehicles, breakthrough research and development, and testing of new photovoltaic (PV) technologies.

By setting an example, will Masdar have a call of converting other cities into a zero-emission philosophy in the future? Do you see an average city one day with zero emission?

Masdar City aspires to be a commercially viable role model for other cities to follow. We are confident that there will come a day soon when all cities in the world aspire to attain the highest levels of sustainability. Meanwhile Masdar, through its integrated units, will continue to encourage cutting edge research and innovation in the renewable energy and clean technology sector.

Which remarkable Masdar initiatives can be used as an example for the current big cities that have reached a dramatic level of emission?

With highly populated cities, the aim should be to smartly manage the energy consumption and generation. Masdar City is working on a few such initiatives at present. For example, to lower electricity consumption as well as make use of sustainable sources of electricity, roof-mounted and ground-mounted PV power generation is being leveraged.

Masdar City houses a 10-megawatt PV solar plant that is capable of meeting the electricity requirements of the city; while excess production is fed into Abu Dhabi’s grid. Such initiatives are examples of what can successfully be applied to large-scale cities that can drastically bring down the level of emission.

Siemens and Schneider are also using the Masdar City platform to develop the next-generation building management systems that will manage multiple buildings and be integrated with a utility’s energy management system.

Masdar, together with Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority, jointly installed PV solar rooftop installations on 11 government and private buildings in Abu Dhabi. The 2.3MW of PV panels will generate 4.025 GWh/year of electricity and save around 3,220 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

Do you see this model of transport substituting the use of automobiles in the future? Are we close to the objective of completely discarding cars as the primary means of transportation in our metropolises?

The key goals at Masdar City — to ensure sustainable transportation — are to reduce total passenger-kilometres travelled, total carbon dioxide emissions per passenger-kilometres travelled, and ensure user satisfaction with the city’s transportation system.

To ensure this, Masdar City is testing the Personal Rapid Transport and the Mitsubishi electric vehicles on pilot project basis. However, these have been used not to entirely substitute cars but to complement them as sustainable transportation for point to point journeys.

The project Masdar is based on the use of renewable energy, mainly solar energy. Do you believe that solar energy is truly the future of energy?

We have always advocated a diversified energy mix approach that includes the use of hydrocarbons while simultaneously focusing efforts on the development and implementation of clean technology to reduce carbon emissions, peaceful nuclear power and renewable energy.

Masdar is not based only on solar energy, but works through the spectrum of the renewable energy and sustainable technology industry, through integrated units.

Through one of our integrated units we are exploring several renewable energy resources. The choice depends on each country’s renewable resources and the abundance of these resources at that location. In the UAE, we are blessed with sunshine throughout the year so it is definitely a source that we can leverage on.

Masdar’s 10MW solar power plant, the largest grid-connected solar power plant in the Middle East, produces about 17,500MWh of clean electricity annually, thereby offsetting 15,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year (which is equivalent to taking 3,300 cars off Abu Dhabi roads per year). The plant also helps meet the energy needs of Masdar.

Shams One, the 100MW concentrated solar power (CSP) plant, being built by Masdar is one of the largest CSP plants in the world and the first of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa. Masdar has also partnered to build three solar plants in Spain.

Besides investing in solar energy, Masdar has also partnered with leading companies for building world’s largest offshore wind farm in the UK, London Array.

The UAE is an important producer of oil and can continue to do so and gain profit for at least 150 years to come. Why invest in a project such as Masdar?

Even though the UAE has significantly large hydrocarbon reserves, securing energy supplies towards sustainable development and meeting the needs of the future requires immediate action. Scarcity of fresh water resources in the Arabian Gulf has necessitated reliance on desalination which requires energy and thus energy security has become vital.

The transition to new resources however may take decades since the majority of current power generation systems rely mostly on hydrocarbons. The best solution is to rely on a variety of sources, including traditional energy while promoting clean technologies.

This will also help maintain the leadership position of the UAE in global energy markets and enhance the growth of the local economy. This strategic approach was reflected in Abu Dhabi’s Vision 2030 that underscores the importance of diversifying the economy.

In this context, thanks to the wise directives of General Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Masdar was established in 2006 as a multifaceted strategic initiative, wholly-owned by Mubadala, to develop and implement renewable energy solutions and clean technology.

What are your expectations of Brazil in relation to Masdar? Are you seeking Brazilian investors or companies willing to locate to Masdar, for example?

We welcome any Brazilian investor or company that is willing to open in Masdar City. Masdar City is steadily emerging as an incubator for sustainable development and looks forward to leveraging renewable energy and clean technology by integrating education, R&D and investment.

The Masdar City free zone is considered a landmark development for Abu Dhabi and we welcome Brazilian companies to not just set up base but be part of the growth and development of the city and help in finding solutions to global concerns.

The launch of project Masdar reached a figure of $15 billion in 2008. For a city that will have a population of 50 million, isn’t that a rather excessive cost?

At full build-out, Masdar City is expected to have tens of thousands of residents and commuters, not 50 million residents. Masdar City’s total investment amounts to approximately $18-$19 billion. Masdar is planning to work with other developers in the development of Masdar City to make it a commercially viable option. — Wam

 

This city will serve as a role model for the rest of the world. Since no one had attempted something of this nature earlier, all efforts are being made to make Masdar City an option that is available for all and not elitist in nature.

The current level of investment into Masdar might be considered high, but it’s a long-term investment for the future of the nation. The UAE has been recognised as a leader in the energy sector  and our leaders have always believed that leadership entails responsibility.

Given increased domestic energy requirements, it’s important for the UAE to secure alternative sources of energy.

We must diversify the energy mix to achieve energy security in the long run. The benefits of generating renewable energy are many. It will help reduce gas imports, diversify the energy sector and increase security of supply. It also gives us first-hand expertise in renewable energy, offering excellent career opportunities in the sector.

As leader in the energy sector, we have a responsibility to contribute to the energy sector’s evolution. We see renewable energy as a natural extension to our existing energy expertise and a logical step forward in maintaining our future prosperity. If we are to maintain our leadership in the future energy market while safeguarding our environment and economy we must invest in renewable energy and clean technologies.

This is the vision of our wise leadership and it is this vision that led to the establishment of Masdar. In the six years since its formation, Masdar has demonstrated the feasibility of renewable energy projects in the region and raised awareness of its importance through platforms like World Future Energy Summit. These projects are real, developed and operational on the ground.

 

 

 

Brazil has begun exploiting its marine oil sources, what advice do you have for the Brazilian government concerning energy-related investments?

Today Brazil is the world’s 11th-largest oil producer. By 2020 it is expected to be in the top five, according to a report by The Economist. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach towards meeting energy needs. Each country needs to determine its energy mix based on the natural resources available, the geographical and climate conditions.

The Brazilian government is already supportive of conservation of resources, and further diversification of their energy mix will help in the sustainable growth of the country.

When looking to advance the field of renewable and sustainable energy, international cooperation is a key element that enables sharing of knowledge and experience, which is vital for the advancement of any industry.

What Masdar can teach Brazil? Will the project Masdar be open, for instance, to exploiting locally produced bio-fuel?

Masdar is a strong advocate for knowledge sharing and exchange of information between companies and countries. Masdar is keen on collaborating with like-minded companies and countries and welcomes those wishing to explore latest technologies related to renewable energy or clean technology. For example, research related to biofuels may be of common interest to Masdar Institute and Brazilian entities.

Masdar is looking to leverage its presence at the Rio+20 Conference to attract not only the South American but the global community to collaborate in its R&D efforts towards developing alternate energy solutions.

 

 

Masdar is aiming to concur other international projects of the same category, such as the BedZed quarter in London, or Dongtan in China. What gives Masdar the edge compared to its competitors?

Masdar’s impact is the result of our unique structure that integrates the whole value chain of renewable energy and clean technology.

This spans from education, research and development with Masdar Institute; through investments in advanced new technologies with Masdar Capital; to large-scale clean technology implementation and reduction of carbon emissions through Masdar Power; to, finally, providing a leading global platform for demonstrations, co-operation and partnerships in a sustainable living environment that is Masdar City.

Masdar’s integrated units are supported by a team focused on sustainability, innovation, technology and strategic partnerships that is delivering a commercial technology portfolio relevant to the entire Masdar initiative.

It is through this wide scope that we are able to present a sustainable and multifaceted approach to renewable energy and clean technology that is not available in one single company anywhere else in the world.

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