Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; December 30, 2017
As the 10th anniversary year of Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, draws to a close, industry watchers can reflect on 12 months that have marked a historic milestone for the company and a pivotal moment for the renewable energy sector as a whole.
During the decade since Masdar was established, the UAE has cemented a global reputation for leadership in clean technology and sustainable development. In the Middle East and beyond, there is a new emphasis on energy diversification, at a time when the growing market potential for renewable energy is being recognised worldwide.
In 2016, this has translated into double-digit capacity growth in Masdar’s clean energy portfolio, alongside a surge in construction activity at Masdar City, dubbed a “greenprint” for sustainable urban development. Simply put, Masdar today is a profitable business fully committed to commercial growth.
Perhaps the most significant single milestone of the last 12 months was the selection of a Masdar-led consortium in June to develop the 800-megawatt (MW) third phase of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai. In securing the bid, the consortium set a record-low tariff of 2.99 US cents per kilowatt-hour to develop what will be the world’s largest solar power project on completion.
Masdar’s bold statement of intent has been a talking point ever since, laying down a marker for the cost-competitive development of solar power, while reinforcing the company’s emergence as a global player.
Masdar’s flagship operational clean energy project in the UAE is currently Shams 1, the world’s largest concentrated solar power (CSP) plant at the time of its inauguration in 2013. The award of phase three of the Dubai Solar Park inevitably focuses attention on the potential of photovoltaic (PV) technology, which generates electricity from ambient light as opposed to the heat of the sun.
As a commercially driven company, Masdar adopts a neutral stance on clean technologies. The individual merits of CSP and PV notwithstanding, Masdar followed the announcement of its 800MW project in partnership with Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) by signing a power purchase agreement for another landmark PV project, a 200MW facility in Jordan, the country’s largest solar power plant to date.
This time last year witnessed the official launch of the region’s first utility-scale wind farm, also in Jordan. Masdar is a shareholder in the 117MW Tafila project, bringing proven experience to
the development through its involvement in flagship wind investments such as London Array, currently the world’s largest offshore wind farm in operation. Masdar announced in May that it had secured GBP1.3 billion in financing for its second large-scale wind project in the UK, the 402-MW Dudgeon offshore wind farm, which is under construction 32 kilometres out to sea from the Norfolk coast of eastern England.
On schedule to begin commercial operations by the second half of 2017, Dudgeon will deliver annual production of 1.7 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity, the combined output of 67 wind turbines. That is sufficient clean energy to power an estimated 410,000 British homes and displace 893,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
Masdar’s clean energy projects for 11 Pacific Island countries under the UAE-Pacific Partnership Fund, an initiative backed by the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, comprise both wind and solar power installations. Inaugurated in May, the projects are benefitting countries that are among the most vulnerable to climate change, reducing carbon emissions and expenditure on fossil fuels.
The UAE-Pacific Partnership Fund programme illustrates the impressive geographic reach of Masdar’s renewable energy activities, as well as its status as one of the world’s largest installers of off-grid renewable energy projects. The year also saw Masdar announce the completion of solar power projects in Egypt, the inauguration of a 16.6MW solar power network in Mauritania, and the electrification of thousands of households in Egypt and Morocco through the installation of solar home systems.
Addressing global energy challenges increasingly demands both centralised, large-scale projects and distributed technologies extending energy access to communities away from the electricity grid. It also requires innovation, public engagement, and a commitment to lead by example, fundamental platforms championed by the annual Zayed Future Energy Prize, which in 2016 received a record 1,676 entries from 103 countries, a 22 per cent increase on the previous record last year.
The US$4 million prize recognises pioneers in renewable energy and sustainability from multinational corporations, SMEs, non-profit organisations and high-schools, as well as individual lifetime achievers. Following the announcement of the winners in its ninth cycle at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week in January, the Zayed Future Energy Prize will have rewarded 57 individuals and organisations since its inception in 2008.
Masdar’s 10th anniversary underlined the company’s focus on commercial growth, while reflecting the wider expansion of the renewable energy sector as a whole. This is driven by ever bolder national pledges to embrace renewables, following the ratification of the Paris Agreement. The growing participation in Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, which expects as many
as 38,000 attendees this January, also illustrates the undeniable commercial appeal of clean-tech.
Masdar’s business mindset does not diminish its responsibilities as a corporate citizen, however. The company marked its 10-year anniversary at the international climate conference in Marrakech (COP22) with the launch of the first global study of youth attitudes towards renewable energy, sustainability and climate change. The Masdar Gen Z Global Sustainability Survey polled nearly 5,000 18-25-year-olds – the demographic cohort known as Generation Z – in 20 countries across five continents.
Its key findings? Global youth believe climate change will be the world’s biggest challenge over the next decade. They demand more investment in clean-tech, and they want to see greater collaboration between government and the private sector to bring renewable energy solutions to market.
In light of the results of the Masdar Gen Z Survey, young future energy leaders are sure to approve of the first project of Al Reyadah, a joint venture between Masdar and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) aimed at commercialising carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technologies, which came on stream in early November. The project captures carbon dioxide from the industrial complex of Emirates Steel in Abu Dhabi before reinjecting it into neighbouring oil reservoirs to enhance their output as a substitute for natural gas. An estimated 800,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions will be displaced per annum in the process.
With ever louder calls for greater collaboration between government and business, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, which is being developed by the state-backed utility provider DEWA, is a shining example of a successful public-private clean energy partnership in action. Masdar embarked on its own collaboration with private sector companies specialising in clean-tech when it unveiled its Renewable Energy Desalination Programme in Ghantoot, Abu Dhabi last year. The ambitious pilot project is testing energy-efficient solutions for seawater desalination as alternatives to thermal flash techniques powered by fossil fuels, which currently account for around 60 per cent of the world’s desalinated water.
The French engineering enterprise Mascara was the fifth company to join the progamme in 2016; the firm is evaluating reverse osmosis technology with the potential for deployment in off-grid locations powered by renewable energy.
Without question, the most inspirational clean energy partnership of 2016 was Solar Impulse 2 (Si2), the world’s first aircraft to circumnavigate the globe powered only by solar energy. Masdar was host partner of the record-breaking four-engine plane, which took off from Abu Dhabi in March 2015 and touched down in the UAE capital 16 months later after stop-overs in Oman, India, Myanmar, China, Japan, the United States, Spain and Egypt.
Si2 showcased cutting-edge technologies in lightweight materials, energy storage and energy efficiency that promise dramatic cost and emissions savings if applied on a wider scale and mirror Masdar’s own investment in clean-tech innovation. An iconic image of Si2 over the Gemasolar power plant in southern Spain, in which Masdar is a partner, juxtaposed the world’s first aircraft to fly around the clock using only the energy of the sun, next to the world’s first solar power plant to generate electricity 24 hours a day.
Si2 completed its journey from Cairo to Abu Dhabi in the early hours of July 26, with Bertrand Piccard, Initiator and Chairman and Solar Impulse, at the flight controls. The futuristic aircraft received a rapturous reception at Al Bateen Executive Airport, a short drive from Masdar City, Abu Dhabi’s flagship sustainable urban development, which has received more than its fair share of high-profile visitors since breaking ground in 2008.
Vice President of the United States Joseph R Biden toured the city in March 2016, followed by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in August. His Royal Highness Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, also visited Masdar City for the first time in November, nearly a decade after his address via hologram to a packed auditorium at the inaugural World Future Energy Summit, the anchor event of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.
A hub connecting education with research & development, and business with investment, Masdar City has been a hive of construction activity in 2016, with building work ramping up on new residences and private apartments, office space and commercial property. Four hundred thousand square metres of real estate were either signed or approved this year alone, and Masdar City welcomed around 100 new tenants, Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation among them.
Masdar City hosts around a dozen demonstration projects of cutting-edge clean technologies, including the world’s first research facility to grow both food and fuel, which opened on a 2-hectare site at the city in March. Operated by the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, the facility uses wastewater from a purpose-built aquafarm to irrigate salt-tolerant plants that can be harvested for aviation biofuels production.
Masdar City also reinforced its position as a showcase for low-carbon urban development this year, announcing at the Cityscape Abu Dhabi real estate exhibition in April that it would target a 4 Pearl Estidama Community Rating in line with the sustainability frameworks of the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council, the first development in the UAE to do so.
Masdar City is also set to unveil its EcoVilla prototype earlier next year, an energy and water-efficient residential property that can produce more power than it consumes when fully equipped with rooftop solar panels.
These and other clean-tech innovations point to the considerable commercial potential of renewable energy and clean technologies – potential that Masdar is helping to translate into concrete action through platforms such as Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week. With representation from 175 countries at the event in January, and major delegations expected from emerging giants in the renewable energy domain such as Saudi Arabia and India, the opportunities for Masdar’s own development as global player in renewable energy are greater than ever.
About Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week
The annual Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), hosted by Masdar, is an Abu Dhabi government initiative that aims to address the interconnected challenges of clean energy, water and sustainable development. Anchored by the World Future Energy Summit, ADSW features a series of complementary conferences, exhibitions and events, including the general assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency, the Award Ceremony of the Zayed Future Energy Prize, the International Water Summit, EcoWASTE and The [email protected] City. ADSW is the largest gathering on sustainability in the Middle East, attracting global policy makers, industry thought-leaders and clean-tech innovators among more than 35,000 attendees representing around 170 countries.
Masdar is Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company which works to advance the development, commercialisation and deployment of clean energy technologies and solutions. The company serves as a link between today’s fossil fuel economy and the energy economy of the future. Wholly owned by the Mubadala Development Company PJSC, the strategic investment company of the Government of Abu Dhabi, Masdar is dedicated to the United Arab Emirates’ long-term vision for the future of energy and water.
E-mail: [email protected]
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