Abu Dhabi to keep investing in solar energy despite crisis

ABU DHABI - Oil-rich Abu Dhabi said Monday it will press ahead with plans to develop solar energy, shrugging off a huge drop in oil prices which is cutting the emirate's revenues.

By (AFP)

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Published: Mon 19 Jan 2009, 8:52 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 4:26 AM

"The current economic situation has no impact on Masdar's intended and planned projects," said Sultan al-Jaber, chief executive of Masdar, the government-owned Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company charged with developing clean energy.

The company's most prestigious project is developing Masdar City in Abu Dhabi -- a 22-billion-dollar cluster city that is to have zero carbon emissions.

"We still have an appetite to look for further opportunities," Jaber told reporters on the sidelines of the World Future Energy Summit 2009 in the United Arab Emirates' capital.

"We are looking beyond the current economic terms," he said in reference to the global economic crisis which has reduced demand for oil.

The UAE has the world's largest ecological footprint, consuming more natural resources per capita than any other nation, according to a 2008 report by the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Abu Dhabi sits on 90 percent of the UAE's proven oil reserves, which ranks as the world's fifth largest at 97.8 billion barrels. The UAE is OPEC's third largest oil producer, currently pumping 2.4 million barrels a day.

The Gulf state also has over six trillion cubic metres (212 trillion cubic feet) of gas reserves, fourth in the world.

But oil prices have tumbled from a high of 147 dollars per barrel in July to around 40 dollars, slashing revenues for oil-producing countries by some two thirds.

Abu Dhabi's ample fossil energy, however, raises questions about the feasibility of its solar projects, but the emirate appears set on harvesting its other abundant natural resource -- year-round sunshine.

"The main purpose is to develop a new economic sector... All our projects are proceeding," Jaber said a day after Abu Dhabi announced plans to produce seven percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2020.

Jaber had earlier assured summit participants that Abu Dhabi was undeterred by poor economic conditions.

"Despite the economic downturn, nothing has changed... We still can and we should" go ahead with the plan, he said.

The 6.5-square-kilometre (2.5-square-mile) Masdar City, which is set for completion in 2015, will house 50,000 people and will be run entirely on renewable energy, mainly solar.

It will also house the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, which is being developed in cooperation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, aiming to enhance home-grown research in renewables.

In addition, Masdar has established Abu Dhabi's first hi-tech company, Masdar PV, with an investment of 600 million dollars with a plant in Germany -- a leading country in solar industries, to be followed with a plant in the UAE.

The Erfurt plant will produce amorphous thin film photovoltaic modules of an annual capacity of 210 Mega Watts, the company website said.

It is also developing the Masdar High-Tech Manufacturing Cluster Abu Dhabi, an approximately four-square kilometre zone that is aimed to attract companies from solar industries and other related industries.

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