The world comes to Abu Dhabi for the growth of renewable energy
With energy consumption in the Gulf region projected to grow faster than the global average, economists remain positive that the region is well positioned to meet the forecast demand, even suggesting that it is this increased domestic demand for energy and, in particular, electricity that will drive future regional investment in clean energy projects in the GCC, or Gulf Co-operation Council, nations.
A Bloomberg forecast released last October indicated that electricity demand in the GCC could increase by six per cent a year to 2020, which is significantly higher than the global average of four per cent or the European average of two per cent. “Our outlook for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, however, is extremely positive.” said Michael Liebreich, Chief Executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “It has tremendous renewable energy resources and depth of knowledge in energy and finance.”
Such richness in resources and knowledge were showcased recently at the World Future Energy Summit (WFES), an annual high-level meeting that has evolved to be the world’s foremost and must-attend event for the renewable energy and environment industry. On January 17 to 20, the WFES convened 26,000 attendees from 137 countries, including world leaders, international policymakers, industry leaders, investors, industry experts, academics, intellectuals and journalists, to discuss the key drivers fuelling the growth of the renewable energy industry.
At the summit inauguration, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, outlined the region’s steadfastness in pursuing economic progress through sustainable measures. “Under the visionary leadership and guidance of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, the nation is placing high priority on sustainable development as a key driver in improving the lives and economic stability for future generations.”
To support the Middle East in meeting the dynamic energy challenges, power and energy technology leader GE has demonstrated its commitment to smarter, cleaner and more energy efficient solutions towards more reliable energy and water supplies as well as a sustainable energy future.
“GE is leveraging its global capabilities to develop smarter, cleaner and fuel-flexible energy and water technologies that support environmentally compatible economic growth throughout the region,” said Joseph Anis, President for the Middle East of GE Energy. “We understand the needs of the region and are committed to supplying tailored solutions to maximise the use of available resources so as to support the region towards a sustainable energy future.”
In 2009, GE invested $1.5 billion on Ecomagination R&D, reaching the commitment to double the company’s annual investment by 2010 or one year ahead of schedule. GE has continued to be committed to unleashing new technologies and, last year, it introduced a new commitment to invest an additional $10 billion in ecomagination research and development by 2015. Also last year, GE launched “The GE Ecomagination Challenge: Powering the Grid” – a $200 million commitment to finding and funding the best ideas for modernising the power grid.
Additionally, Frank Ackland, Regional General Manager of Digital Energy, GE Energy Services, discussed smart grid and its role in renewable integration. He described how investments are required today to integrate the variety of technologies needed for generating decentralised energy. Whilst revolutionary energy technologies are developed each day, the way they are applied to modernise and nurture the electrical infrastructure is really more of an evolution than a revolution.
With the theme “Enabling the Future”, GE’s booth 5320 supported this year’s WFES concept with a wide portfolio of advanced power, water re-use and oil and gas technologies, including GE solutions for modernising the grid to meet growing capacity, sustainability, economic and security needs. These solutions included innovative and fuel flexible energy technologies like GE Energy’s’ Jenbacher biogas and natural gas-fired engines and GE’s portfolio of high-efficiency gas and steam turbines that offer enhanced operational flexibility and efficiency.
The company has also undertaken crucial localisation initiatives with some of the Middle East’s leading energy and engineering services companies to complement GE’s extensive local and international engineering and service facilities. For example, GE is an anchor partner in Abu Dhabi’s Masdar initiative – a comprehensive response to the need for a global focus on resource conservation and the alternative energy sector. It is designed to ensure in the long term that Abu Dhabi retains and even grows its share of the global energy market.
Speaking during the “Business Leaders in Renewable Energy” session of the WFES 2011 Business Forum, Rene Umlauft, CEO for Renewable Energy at Siemens, in Germany, highlighted the advantages that developing countries hold for the development of modern smartgrid technologies, which deliver electricity from suppliers to consumers using two-way digital communications to control appliances at consumers’ homes. It’s like starting off with a clean slate, as developing countries can evade some of the problems that developed countries have because they have no existing infrastructure to replace.
The panel also suggested that the focus of near-term global investment in renewable energy should take place in less developed economies, citing the opportunities that wind energy possesses in these regions. Praising the success of projects like Masdar City, the speakers were positive about the impact that the UAE will have on the future of global energy solutions, and urged delegates to rise to the challenge of joining together to solve future energy issues.
Deutsche Asset Management has identified climate change as one of the mega-trends that will drive the global asset management business for the next generation and beyond. With more than $6 billion of assets under management in this sector, it is one of the world’s largest climate change investors. The firm has also exhibited the world’s first real-time Carbon Counter that calculates the current atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases to monitor how quickly these concentrations are increasing.
Visitors to WFES 2011 watched the Carbon Counter on live screens throughout the four-day exhibition in Abu Dhabi, as it displayed the running total amount of long-lived greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the earth’s atmosphere, measured in metric tonnes. At its launch on June 18, 2009, long-lived GHGs in the atmosphere were estimated to be 3.64 trillion metric tonnes, and have since been rising at about two billion metric tonnes per month, which equates to 800 metric tonnes per second on the sign.
Kevin Parker, a member of the Group Executive Committee of Deutsche Bank, as well as Global Head of Deutsche Asset Management, remarked, “It is clear that climate change affects us all, that it requires us to act quickly to contain potential risks from global warming and adapt to ways that are consistent with economic growth. It will require collective effort on a global scale – taking bold public policy decisions, changing the way we do business and modifying the routines of our daily lives.”
Located at the heart of WFES 2011 Exhibition, Project Village provided a dedicated platform for project developers from multinational companies, rapid growth companies and startups, to share their latest innovations, and discuss inspirational research and development projects with the leading technology and finance solution providers in this rapidly growing market. Developers showcased an estimated $4 billion worth of projects to potential investors, conducting full business presentations and ensuring maximum exposure of budding projects during the exhibition.
At Project Village, 11 MENA projects were amongst the 20 multinational renewable energy and cleantech projects which represented the technology and business model innovation that enable the global transformation to a resource efficient and low-carbon economy. The $650-billion Desertec project combining Europe’s technology resources with the MENA region’s abundant sun and wind energy was amongst the 11 MENA projects. This was designed to generate 15% of Europe’s energy needs, and a substantial amount of energy for MENA, by 2050.
Some of the region’s other top cleantech projects that were showcased were the 100MW Solar PV Plant from Jordan’s Kawar Energy worth $400 million, King Abdullah University of Science & Technology’s 2MW Solar PV rooftops and Saudi Arabia’s renewable energy city, KA-CARE.
A key element in the summit was the Young Future Energy Leaders (YFEL), which focuses on raising the awareness of students and young professionals in the fields of renewable energy and sustainability. This unique programme, led by Masdar Institute, helps mentor future leaders in the fields of alternative energy by engaging them with the leaders of today. YFEL also offers young professionals and students from the UAE and abroad the opportunity to become more engaged in finding solutions to the world’s biggest challenges: energy efficiency and climate change.
“YFEL is a unique outreach programme of the Masdar Institute that offers the brightest young minds the opportunity to interact with government representatives and business leaders involved in finding clean energy and sustainable technology solutions for the mitigation of climate change issues,” said the president of Masdar Institute, Dr Fred Moavenzadeh.
The institute’s executive-director for Public Affaris, Dr Lamya N Fawwaz, stressed, “The high-calibre participants this year reflect the success of last year’s YFEL programme. As a result, we will continue to build upon and enhance the YFEL programme. Moreover, support from the government of Abu Dhabi highlights its commitment to Masdar Institute and its outreach programmes, which will continue to play an integral role in building human capital to drive the emirate’s knowledge-based economy.”
SYNERGIES AND COMMON GROUND
In his speech at the WFES inauguration, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed remarked, “The UAE is proud of its tradition of tackling challenges and working closely with the international community. Today, the world is faced with serious challenges, including finding scalable sources of clean energy, providing a fresh water supply and battling climate change.
Addressing these challenges, he said, requires that the international community find synergies and common ground to work together in finding real, meaningful solutions. He stressed, “In the spirit of global collaboration, it is a pleasure to welcome the WFES delegates to discuss ways to find an effective international response, both at the policy and legislation level, and in fostering innovation and cleantech solutions.”