United Arab Emirates: The UAE: A Budding Capital Of Renewable Energy

Last Updated: 1 June 2012
Article by Lady Elizabeth Riesenburg

Originally published on mideast.legalbusinessonline.com

As global energy consumption continues to rise, renewable energy is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative means to power the world. Statistics show that in 2010, nearly 16 percent of global energy consumption was generated from various forms of renewable energy. Those figures are only set to climb, especially with the United Arab Emirates taking a pioneering role in the promotion of renewable energy in the Gulf.

By 2020, Abu Dhabi has committed to producing 7 percent of its energy through renewable sources – an initiative that is led by its investment in green energy firm Masdar. Dubai hopes to make a mark of its own, having committed to producing approximately 5 percent of its energy through solar power by 2030.

As the frontrunner in "the green drive," Masdar is rapidly becoming a leading platform for the exploitation of solar energy and other forms of renewable technologies. Housing the world's largest concentrated power plant in Madinat Zayed called The UAE: A budding capital of renewable energy Shams 1, and soon Shams 2 and Shams 3, Masdar is a prime example of the emirate's unrelenting commitment to the Abu Dhabi 2030 economic vision and the Urban Structure Framework Plan (also known as Plan Abu Dhabi 2030). The driving focus of the latter initiative is to maintain economic stability and growth in stimulating the non-oil sector through sustainable resources and urban planning based on substantial environmental research and best international practice.

Renewables, of course, are of particular importance as the energy sector continues to shift towards greener alternatives. Shams 1 alone has the capacity to generate 100 megawatts of electricity and is expected to offset approximately 170,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

Masdar's quest for global leadership in the field is equally reflected in the development of Masdar City, which is the world's first "zero-carbon" city. It is built on six square kilometres of land, powered by clean, sustainable technologies such as solar, wind and geothermal energy, and features state-of-the-artdesigned "green buildings," eco-friendly transportation, infrastructure and environmental elements. Much of the same can be said about Masdar Carbon, which intends to lower the carbon footprint of the UAE through phase 1 of its ambitious Carbon Capture Sequestration (CCS) project. Upon completion, the CCS project is expected to capture as much as five million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

In addition to other unique eco-friendly infrastructure plans within Masdar City, Sir Bani Yas Island on the western coast of Abu Dhabi will be host to the development of the Middle East's largest onshore wind turbine farm, with the capacity to produce 30 megawatts of electricity. The initiative will contribute to the island's sustainability and environmental preservation.

Al Maryah Island, a mixed-use business district in the heart of Abu Dhabi, has been awarded a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Core and Shell Gold pre-certification for sustainability. LEED is the U.S. Green Building Council's accreditation system, predominantly applied by developers internationally for the development of "green buildings." Abu Dhabi's Estimada Initiative and Pearl Rating System, which set standards and requirements on best practice green building, have served to further develop awareness with regards to green building concepts, planning and design.

On a national level, Abu Dhabi has adopted the Pearl Credit Rating System, although developers in the capital are equally at liberty to opt for LEED accreditation. Businesses operating in the emirate are already seeking such accreditation. The worldrenowned medical provider Cleveland Clinic, for instance, is targeting Gold LEED certification, while the Abu Dhabi World Trade Centre and Central Market Towers is also seeking LEED accreditation. By encouraging such projects and companies to seek accreditation, the Abu Dhabi government clearly demonstrates its focus on encouraging green building in line with national and international best practice.

The International Renewable Energy Agency has headquarters in Abu Dhabi, which, through the efforts of Masdar, is host to the World Future Energy Summit, the Masdar Institute of Science & Technology, and other distinguished local government committees and prominent industry events and forums. This highlights the importance the UAE places on promoting renewable energy through both projects and research.

Renewable energy aspirations are not limited to within the UAE. Masdar is investing in solar power plants in Afghanistan and Tonga as part of its international support programme. Work has just begun in Tonga and once completed, the project will deliver 13 percent of the island's total power needs. In war-torn Afghanistan, 600 homes in eight villages will be provided with solar power. Masdar has also tied up with the Development Bank of Japan to invest in solar and wind projects worldwide.

Dubai's green initiatives

The ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, also has a vision of building and promoting a clean and sustainable environment. In line with this vision, the Green Decree was brought into force in 2008 requiring all new construction in Dubai World Developments to achieve a high level of LEED accreditation. The Green Decree has paved the way for numerous residential, commercial and industrial developers to embrace renewable energy techniques in developing buildings according to LEED standards. In meeting those standards, a strong emphasis is placed on the use of ecofriendly materials, electricity and water savings and recycling amidst other techniques and renewable technologies.

Noteworthy projects that have sought environmental accreditation include the cruise terminal in Port Rashid, the district cooling chiller plant in Dubai, and commercial offices and hotels developed by Istithmar Hotels. Many other buildings, such as Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry are also LEED-certified. Numerous public parks in Dubai have been fitted with solar lights, which are growing in number.

Recently, the Supreme Council of Energy for Dubai announced the construction of the largest solar park in the Middle East. This substantial commitment and investment into renewable energy by the emirate of Dubai is a testament to the UAE's collective vision for sustainability. The solar park has plans to develop a 48 square-kilometre plot of land to generate 1,000 megawatts of power for Dubai by 2030.

Other emirates are also increasingly adopting and embracing sustainability protocols. Ras Al Khaimah has fostered strong bonds with energy researchers in Switzerland. The Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority already plans on using Centre Suisse d' Electronique et de Microtechnique United Arab Emirates' (CSEM-UAE) research to provide sustainable energy for projects such as Al Hamra Village. CSEM-UAE is a collaboration between Neuchâtel's Swiss Centre for Electronics and Microtechnology and the government of Ras Al Khaimah to exploit advanced solar and water technology. This collaboration led to the construction of a prototype offshore solar island with a diameter of 100 metres. In Fujairah, the new city centre is a LEEDregistered project and is on target to achieve Gold LEED certification.

With renewable energy being one of the main focuses of both the UA E's federal and emirate level strategies and with many of the region's most progressive and scalable projects being developed here, the UAE is well underway to being an international capital for renewable energy, a future that is in line with the vision that the country's rulers have put in place.

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