January 20, 2009 3:24 pm

Abu Dhabi awards green prize

Abu Dhabi on Tuesday awarded the boss of the renewable energy subsidiary of a Nobel prize-winning microfinance bank a $1.5m prize for bringing energy to millions of poor people.

The Zayed Future Energy Prize was awarded to Dipal Chandra Barua, the head of Grameen Shakti, for the Bangladeshi company’s work in installing more than 200,000 solar panels to provide renewable power to 2m mainly rural people.

Abu Dhabi, the wealthy capital of the United Arab Emirates, is spending billions on renewable technology development through its Masdar initiative as part of an economic diversification drive.

The emirate hopes to obtain 7 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, Sultan Al Jaber, Masdar’s chief executive, said on Monday.

Masdar is fully owned by Mubadala, an Abu Dhabi investment fund controlled by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the emirate’s crown prince.

It is building a $22bn “green” city in the desert outside the capital which the company hopes will be carbon-neutral and become “the Silicon Valley of renewable energy,” Mr Al Jaber told the FT.

Despite large oil and gas reserves, Abu Dhabi has identified environmental technology as an important component of its efforts to diversify its economy away from hydrocarbons.

However the UAE, of which Abu Dhabi is the richest and largest of seven states, has the worst environmental footprint in the world, ahead of the US, according to a report by the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Global Footprint Network and the Zoological Society of London.

Electricity, petrol and water – desalinated from the ocean in an energy-intensive process – are all subsidised, and energy demand and carbon emissions are soaring.

Abu Dhabi has still garnered praise for its $15bn investment in Masdar and the hosting of a renewable energy conference this week.

“It’s good news that we see an increase in commitment to renewable energy in the region, and Masdar is a testament to that,” Frank Mastiaux, climate and renewables chief executive at E.ON, told the Financial Times.

Amid a global push towards green technology, scientists are searching for solutions to avert what many believe is a looming climate crisis. Experts hope that a worldwide system of carbon caps and trading will finally find traction at a summit in Copenhagen due later this year.

Optimism has been stoked by the election of Barack Obama as president of the US. The president-elect, who formally took office on Tuesday, pledged on the campaign trail to reduce US carbon emissions.

“Obama is a game-changer,” Kevin Parker, global head of asset management at Deutsche Bank told the Financial Times. “I think governments really need to step up and form a regulatory framework (for cap and trade). We need a price on carbon. Carbon emitters have had an easy ride.”

As part of Deutsche Bank’s €500bn of assets under management, the German bank manages $5bn of renewable energy assets.

“Funds in renewables will continue to grow,” said Mr Parker. “We feel there are going to be some spectacular winners and some spectacular losers.”

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