The Middle East’s journey from camels to Cadillacs was quick and sudden. Arabian desert villages metamorphosed into metropolises in the fastest evolution any city in the world has seen to date.
Skyscrapers replaced date palms, and ports and airports mushroomed. All thanks to the discovery of crude oil a little more than 100 years ago.
But in the past few years, the region has undertaken a mission to give back to the planet. Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, billed to be the world’s most sustainable eco-city, is one of the ambassadors of the new shift.
A touch of green
Nearly every new policy, plan and project announced in the Middle East now has a touch of green. Sustainability is a common topic for debates at conferences and renewable and clean sources of energy are main targets for the region’s governments.
In January, the UAE launched it Energy Plan for 2050 that will see an investment of up to AED600 billion and targets an increase in the contribution of clean energy in the total energy mix to 50 per cent. Furthermore, the country announced a new $50 million grant fund for renewable energy projects in Caribbean island countries.
Saudi Arabia, the largest economy in the Middle East, has announced its plans to launch a renewable energy programme that will involve investment of between $30bn and $50bn by 2023.
Other governments have also made similar strategies to reduce dependence on hydrocarbon resources for energy and revenues.
Here comes the sun
The 6sq km Masdar City project, whose construction began in 2008, is already a hub for leading cleantech companies such as Siemens. It also houses the headquarters of energy watchdog International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
Earlier this year Masdar acquired a 25 per cent stake in Hywind Scotland, the world’s first offshore floating wind farm.
Hywind Scotland, a 30 megawatt (MW) pilot wind farm on the north-east coast of Scotland is a joint venture between Norway’s Statoil, which holds a 75 per cent stake, and Masdar.
The world’s largest solar park is in the making in Dubai and the city has a written policy to promote solar panel on rooftops of buildings.
One can rejoice at the fact that anything that cares for future, be it district cooling or hybrid cars or eco-friendly start-ups, is getting a warm welcome in the Middle East.