Archive for November, 2009

Masdar ‘Eco-city’

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Those of you who follow urban planning & renewable energy matters can guess that a highlight of my trip to Abu Dhabi would — of course! — be a visit to the new eco-city at Masdar. And I was extremely fortunate to have a truly expert guide to the construction site — Zeina, one of my former students, who has been working in the Carbon Management Unit at Masdar for the past fifteen months.

Proposed Masdar city

Masdar is a $22 billion, car-free, zero-carbon, zero-waste urban planning development that will eventually have 40,000 residents, 50,000 commuters, and 1500 cleantech companies. It is a “sustainable energy initiative from the heart of oil and gas world,” according to a recent article in the journal Renewable Energy World, and it’s already off to a great start – earlier this year, the city won the competition to become host of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), a new international agency with more than 130 member states whose objective is to “promote the widespread and increased adoption and the sustainable use of all forms of renewable energy.” General Electric, our Abu Dhabi client, will also be establishing a 4000m2 regional ‘Ecomagination’ center in the city, supporting the development of energy efficiency, renewable energy, water treatment, and other comparable GE products.

Zeina at Masdar

Zeina was an MES student (Masters of Environmental Studies) at Penn when she took my course, and later worked in the Arab Bureau at UN headquarters – so I would sometimes see her up in New York as well. She then moved to Lebanon and worked for UNDP in Beirut (and in the private sector there too), and since moving to Abu Dhabi she has been working on carbon trading issues at Masdar. [You can see from ‘Raufer Updates’ postings over recent years that I’m really very fortunate to have such a marvelous network of bright and talented former students, all over the world, working on significant environmental matters!]

In the picture, you can see Zeina standing in front of a solar product test area, where Masdar is checking out the claims and durability of various solar energy devices. Obviously those solar energy vendors hope to find a significant market in Masdar’s development…. and the rest of the world is hoping for similar results from the city itself!

Abu Dhabi & Dubai

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

In late October and early November I was in Abu Dhabi, giving a training course at the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) for General Electric and IFP. This course was very similar in structure to the one we gave back in 2005 in Italy, although the carbon market certainly looks a bit different than it did then!

Al Raha Beach Hotel

The Financial Times notes that Abu Dhabi is now on its way to replacing Dubai as the “cash-rich heart of the Middle East’s construction industry,” with more than $100 billion of state-funded projects under way or in the planning stage…. a fact readily apparent in the number of cranes and construction sites visible from my hotel window. I stayed at the Al Raha Beach Hotel, a part of a major seaside development complex — and the nearby office tower (if you can call it that?) gives an idea about the visually stunning nature of projects in the country.

Dubai skyline

Dubai certainly isn’t lagging in that department either. I headed over there to check out the new Burj Dubai — now the world’s tallest building, eclipsing Taipei 101 – & shown in silhouette in my sunset photo. It will open early next year. [Note: it was dedicated in Jan. 2010 as the Burj Khalifa.] Other well-known attractions included the Palm Jumeirah, an offshore artificial island complex in the shape of a palm tree; the Burj Al Arab, a luxury hotel that looks like the sail of a dhow (an Arabian sailing vessel); and yes, I even went out of my way to check out the snow & ski slopes of ‘Ski Dubai‘ in the shopping ‘Mall of the Emirates’ – truly a bizarre sight in the 35oC (95oF) November weather. Climate activists know that the UAE is second in the world in per capita greenhouse gas emissions (Qatar is #1)…. so hopefully our course will have some impact.