Abu Dhabi Aims to Shift World’s Thinking on Energy

The World Clean Energy Awards, announced in Basel, Switzerland, on June 15, recognize innovative, practical projects that move renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions into the mainstream. Developed by the independent transatlantic21 Association, the awards are intended to create benchmarks for clean energy in seven categories: construction; transport and mobility; products; services, trade, and marketing; finance and investment; policy and lawmaking; and NGOs and initiatives. The Worldwatch Institute was one of eight organizations invited to participate in the nomination and jury process. Eye on Earth will run a weekly feature on each of the nine winners.

Dr. Sultan Al Jaber and Phillip Clay
Masdar CEO Dr. Sultan Al Jaber with MIT Chancellor Phillip Clay, Masdar Institute supporter.
Photo by Payam Rouhani

A major boost for renewable energy research and development is coming from an unlikely source: Abu Dhabi, the capital of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates. In April of 2006, Abu Dhabi launched the multi-billion dollar Masdar Initiative, a program designed to use the financial resources and energy expertise of the emirate to promote innovations in clean energy and resource conservation. The overarching goal of the effort is to create “a historic, global shift to new energy sources and sustainable resource utilization,” according to organizers of the World Clean Energy Awards (WCEA), who recognized the initiative in June with an award in the category of “finance and investment.”

The Masdar Initiative has developed partnerships with leading companies, educational institutions, and investment firms “to change the way the world understands energy,” according to the WCEA. The project’s activities include overseeing a clean energy investment unit, operating a graduate-level research and education facility (the Masdar Institute), and building green facilities for the Institute’s campus, labs, and offices.

By 2015, the project is expected to have resulted in the creation of some 10,000 new jobs in Abu Dhabi’s clean energy and sustainable technologies sector, the graduation of some 800 masters and PhD students from the Masdar Institute, the establishment of a preeminent science research hub, and multi-billion dollar growth in the region’s non-oil economy. Specific environmental goals include sequestering 100 million tons of carbon dioxide and creating some 1.5 gigawatts of zero-emission clean power capacity in Abu Dhabi by 2015.

At the WCEA award ceremony, Masdar CEO Dr. Sultan Al Jaber noted that, “Being associated with WCEA and participating with other global initiatives which set new standards for the large-scale use of clean energy solutions is a great honour.”

This story was produced by Eye on Earth, a joint project of the Worldwatch Institute and the blue moon fund. View the complete archive of Eye on Earth stories, or contact Staff Writer Alana Herro at aherro [AT] worldwatch [DOT] org with your questions, comments, and story ideas.