Sultan Al Jaber, CEO, Masdar, on the UAE’s future energy mix

Sultan Al Jaber, CEO, Masdar, on the UAE’s future energy mix

The world population is expected to reach 9bn by 2050, and future energy demand will put a tremendous strain on our limited natural resources. We must develop and deploy new energy sources while reducing the effects of climate change and environmental degradation. To this end, the UAE is making several major investments to create a bridge between today’s fossil fuel economy and an energy-diverse future. Sitting above the world’s seventh-largest proven oil reserves, the UAE made the strategic decision to re-invest its wealth into new economies, peaceful nuclear power, renewable energy, and introduce clean technologies that can be used in place of traditional hydrocarbon fuels in the future. We believe diversifying our energy mix promotes national economic growth and security.

The UAE’s legacy in sustainable development originated with the nation’s founding father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who stressed the importance of preserving natural resources for future generations.

Sheikh Zayed insisted that the UAE move away from a reliance on hydrocarbons. His directions to reduce gas flaring to lessen carbon dioxide emissions, in addition to his environmental conservation efforts, inspired today’s leadership to take concrete steps towards developing a sustainable, knowledge-based economy.

Like the rest of the world, the UAE faces domestic energy challenges. To diversify our energy resources, the UAE is investing heavily in renewable energies. We are not alone in the Gulf region in recognising that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to meet the growing demand for energy.

Today, our oil and gas sector uses innovative technologies to improve extraction efficiency and reduce emissions. By adopting carbon capture and storage techniques, we collect carbon dioxide from power stations and industrial facilities and inject it into aging oilfields for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) – liberating it for domestic electricity generation. This method reduces natural gas use for EOR and helps prevent the release of high volumes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Peaceful nuclear energy is also part of the energy mix and is expected to provide 25% of the UAE’s electricity demand by 2020. The government’s decision to adopt nuclear energy will spur economic growth by providing reliable supplies of power to factories, creating new jobs while also reducing carbon emissions.

Transitioning the UAE – and the rest of the world – to using a diverse mix of energy will not happen overnight. The Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 is a commitment to transforming its resource-based economy to one that is knowledge-driven and supported by new, cutting-edge industries. A core pillar of this transformation is Masdar, a multifaceted, for-profit company focused on the development and deployment of renewable energy and clean technology.

Masdar is evidence of the UAE’s commitment to develop a diverse mix of energy resources in the future. The company combines higher education, research and development, venture capital, large-scale renewable energy development and carbon reduction strategies to catalyse economic growth for future energy industries. Current local projects include the 10 MW photovoltaic solar power plant in Masdar City, the largest grid connected plant in the region, and Shams One, the largest concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in the region and one of the biggest in the world.

In the UK, the firm is jointly developing the planned 1000-MW London Array, one of the world’s largest offshore wind farms. Through a joint venture in Spain, Masdar developed Gemasolar – the first utility-scale CSP plant capable of delivering energy 24/7, and has also developed two 50-MW parabolic trough plants.

As an oil-producing nation with expertise in traditional energy technologies, we have a responsibility to invest in the development of renewable energy. The UAE is using its wealth to fund a transition from a resource-based economy to one driven by intellectual capital and technology. This will ensure we maintain our position as energy leaders well into the future and contribute to sustaining our economic growth and social welfare.

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The Report: Abu Dhabi 2013

Energy chapter from The Report: Abu Dhabi 2013

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