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GİLA BENMAYOR > Energy of the future

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Abu Dhabi is hosting the World Future Energy Summit for the fifth time this year.

I had the opportunity to participate for the first time in the summit and it is an interesting experience from the angle of being able to see how the oil- and natural gas-rich Middle East countries and especially the United Arab Emirates regard renewable energy.

The founder of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, had said that they could not “rely on oil as the only source of energy” and that has been a guide for the United Arab Emirates.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is based in Abu Dhabi, which has a huge target as it transfers funds to IRENA and provides credits to developing countries for renewable energy. It will produce 7 percent of its energy from renewable energy by 2020.

This is a surprising step for a country where oil is found in every corner of the land.

Abu Dhabi has a major advantage in trying to reach the target it has set up for itself. The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology is conducting R&D on renewable energy together with one of the world’s top universities, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The person I listened to yesterday morning in the first meeting was one of the directors of the Masdar Institute, Frank Wouters, who was explaining that as a result of cooperation with the Spanish, they were able to produce 24-hour uninterrupted energy from the sun for the first time in the world.

It was last October when Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan and Spanish King Juan Carlos inaugurated the giant solar power plant capable of 24-hour uninterrupted electricity generation in Spain.

The Masdar Institute is about to announce a village project after much technological cooperation in which the entire energy of the village will be fed by renewable energy. Technological cooperation is a must for renewable energy.

Well, how do the CEOs of the world’s top companies in this energy field see the year 2012?
Again at yesterday morning’s panel session, European, American and Indian CEOs of renewable energy companies discussed whether investments in this field would continue despite the economic crisis.

Let me break the good news:

Despite the economic crisis, investments will continue and moreover, more money will flow for R&D works. For example, Bjorn Haugland, the CEO of the Norwegian firm DNV (Det Norske Veritas), which operates in energy, oil and gas, food and beverages and healthcare sectors but also focuses on wind and solar energy, said they would allocate 6 to 7 percent of this year’s turnover to R&D.

At the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, the person who was able to divert attention from the optimist atmosphere in general to the realities of life was the chief economist of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol.

Look at what Fatih Birol, Ph.D., said:

“Subsidiaries provided for fossil fuel in 2010 are around $409 billion. Only 8 percent of this has gone to the poor. Supporting fossil fuels on one hand and trying to increase the share of renewable energy on the other hand is not a wise approach.”

I think Birol is 100 percent right.

As long as these giant subsidies continue for fossil fuels, then renewable energy meetings are doing nothing more than paying lip service.

January/18/2012

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