Abu Dhabi isn’t just the second largest city in the United Arab Emirates; it is also the federation’s capital, one of the richest cities in the world, and now more than ever, a unique model for implementing green energy and green energy policies. Despite sitting atop nearly 10 percent of the world’s oil reserves, Abu Dhabi is ferociously attacking the current system of fossil fuel dependence. From modeling a new city with a zero carbon footprint to preparing the world for renewable energy, Abu Dhabi is poised to remain a hub for energy research and development, fossil fuel and renewable alike.
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With the focused capital and ambition of Abu Dhabi, city planners along with corporate direction have developed a number of projects, including a hybrid/all-electric bus system and Masdar City, a zero carbon foot-print city.
Redefining Standards in Public Transit
Zero Emission, All Electric Design
Reported by Energy Digital, DesignLine Corp. and Liberty Automotive have undertaken a “$30 million joint venture…[to] build hybrid/electric buses in UAE”. With fleets already live in Abu Dhabi, demand has grown to expand the project throughout the Middle East. In fact, the $30 million investment is projected to see an $80 million in revenues per year, and that’s while oil stays cheap.
The companies are looking to have an output of about 300 buses a year, all models from DesignLine’s zero-emission, all-electric buses designs. The buses will be larger than previous models, with new seating spaces and alternating lengths. According to the same source, “The new facility will double DesignLine’s workforces at their Charlotte, North Carolina U.S. and Christchurch, New Zealand corporate locations.” That means more jobs in green industry, signaling a welcomed turn in corporate focus on green energy.
As the project grows, it will attract more attention from both the Middle East and North America. Further, if all goes to plan, competitors, who put out about 65-80 percent more emissions, will further emulate DesignLine’s models. DesignLine’s hybrids also run in zero-emission mode for 40 percent of the day.
All in all, a successful project will help bolster support behind all-electric and hybrid transportation systems both with the people and the government. What's more, it will prove to businesses that money can be made in clean energy.
“It’s not a research project”
50,000 citizens and a zero carbon footprint – possible? Yes. In fact, in the next decade we should see the project realize its full potential. There will be narrower streets to reduce the need for air conditioning, the city will be face northeast to minimize the amount of direct sunlight, and there would be enough solar panels and generators to power nearly all of the city. No oil, no gas – and they are even considering a ban on all cars.
Joe Palca from NPR sat down with Sultan Al Jaber, the CEO of Abu Dhabi Future Energy Co., the developers planning the city, to ask why Abu Dhabi is taking on the project:
“The answer is simple,” says Sultan Al Jaber, “There are two reasons. Number one, because we can. Number two, because we should. And because this is a logical step and a natural extension for our involvement in the energy markets.”
Even Abu Dhabi is aware of the finite nature of fossil fuels, and with a project like this, they will be poised to export the new commodity of the future: renewable energy technology and innovation. Currently, the city has the largest solar plant in the Middle East, offsetting about 15 thousand tons of carbon emissions every year. Hopefully, by 2020, the mother city of Masdar, Abu Dhabi, will source 7 percent of its own energy needs from renewables like solar and wind.
For the project to be taken seriously, however, Vahid Fotuhi, co-founder of Emirates Solar Industry Association, noted in an interview with BBC that there is still work to be done on the side of oversight.
“First, we need rules and regulations. If you look at markets where solar has really taken off, governments have stepped forward with a framework to [sic] promote solar. That framework currently does not exist in the UAE,” says Fotuhi.
But that’s not all. Fotuhi continued, “Second, we need ownership. We need one government organization to step up and say ‘We will address all the matters related to solar.’ Currently, that still doesn’t exist. There [are] still doubts as to whom you should go to with solar projects. Finally, you need incentives. Incentives to encourage and promote solar power.”
The payback, however, is still ripe with interest. Saudi Arabia, for example, is looking for a 7-10 percent renewable energy target by 2020, which is about 7.5 giga-watts of solar power demand, nearly 750 times the size of Abu Dhabi, says Sam Khorebi, Chief Executive of Environmena.
Without a doubt, serious headway will be made, providing cities all over the world with an example of how to incorporate green energy and green energy policies.