Masdar: The Future City

Do you know what the future looks like? Take a look at Masdar City and let the company's CEO tell you what you can expect in the near future!


MEET THE COMPANY’S CEO: MOHAMED JAMEEL AL RAMAHI 

Abu Dhabi, UAE - Dec. 18, 2013 - Masdar City and Masdar Capital VIP's. Photo by Clint McLean
Photo by Clint McLean

I joined Masdar in 2008 as Head of Internal Audit and Compliance. Later, I was appointed Masdar’s Director of Corporate Services and Financial Affairs. I subsequently became Chief Financial Officer, and then Chief Operating Officer of Masdar. I was appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in February 2016.

In addition to my responsibilities as CEO, I serve on the board of a number of prominent companies, joint ventures and special entities, including the Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm in the UK, the Masdar Solar Wind Cooperative, the Masdar Investment Committee, and Torresol Energy. Before joining Masdar, I was head of the Internal Audit and Risk Management Office at GASCO, a leading oil and gas company based in Abu Dhabi. I have a bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance from the University of Evansville in the US.

KNOWING THE COMPANY 

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Q: Are you an educational institution, social enterprise, non-profit or private company? 

Masdar is a commercially driven renewable energy company based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The company has a mission to invest, incubate and establish a new energy industry in Abu Dhabi and around the world. Masdar is playing an important role in extending Abu Dhabi’s energy leadership beyond hydrocarbons. Masdar is delivering on its goal of becoming an innovative, holistic, ecosystem while helping to realise a template for sustainable urban development. Masdar City is the home of the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, the focal point of an innovation cluster that is leading global technology partnerships, commercializing new technologies and driving real-world innovation.

Q: How big is your company? 

Masdar was established in 2006 as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi government’s Mubadala Development Company. Our company is located 17 kilometers east-south-east of the city of Abu Dhabi near its international airport: our operations span the globe from Europe through the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to the Indian Ocean, Asia and the Pacific islands.

Q: Describe your mission, vision and values. 

Masdar is advancing the development and commercialization of renewable energy and sustainable technologies in both developed and developing markets. Through initiatives such as Masdar City, Masdar is helping to realize a template – or “greenprint” – for sustainable urban development. Masdar is realizing solutions and technologies at the critical nexus of water and energy – in a region where water is more important than oil. Masdar is helping to equip the region’s future leaders in energy and sustainable development with the skills to succeed in an increasingly diversified economy. Through its diverse activities, Masdar is raising awareness among the wider community of the importance and potential of sustainability and clean energy, helping to change behavior and motivate action.

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Q: Where is this company headed? What’s your future expansion plans? 

Our long-term vision is to make Abu Dhabi the preeminent source of renewable energy knowledge, development and implementation, as well as the world’s benchmark for sustainable development.

In the next five years, we will further develop Masdar City as an innovation ecosystem. Our aim is for 35 percent of the planned built-up area of the City to be complete within 5 years (up from 5 per cent today) and to quadruple the number of tenants in Masdar City Free Zone. We will continue adding residential facilities, commercial facilities and educational institutions, as well as building out the clean-tech R&D hub.

In clean energy, our goal is to double the clean energy capacity in our portfolio in the next 10 years and to continue improving energy access in some of the most remote areas of the world.

INTRODUCTION 

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Q: What is clean energy? 

Clean energy can be defined as sustainable and renewable energy sources that increase the global carbon footprint. Masdar has been at the forefront of the UAE’s efforts to deploy clean energy at home and abroad, while driving sustainable economic growth, employment, innovation and prosperity. Since its inception in 2006, Masdar has positioned Abu Dhabi on the front line of clean energy research and technology, investing over US$2.7 billion in clean energy projects around the world, with nearly 1.7 GW of renewable energy capacity either in operation or under development globally.

Masdar has 360-degree expertise in renewable energy projects, from development to construction to operation: the company now has projects in the UAE, Spain, the United Kingdom, Jordan, Mauritania, Seychelles and the South Pacific.

• The 630MW London Array in the Thames Estuary, UK, is Masdar’s biggest international investment at present and the largest wind farm in the world currently in operation

• Masdar has a 35% share in the planned Dudgeon offshore wind farm in Britain, which is being developed with the Norwegian partners Statoil and Statkraft

• The Tafila Wind Farm in Jordan is the first utility-scale wind farm commissioned in the region. The US$238 million project is capable of producing 117MW of electricity, delivering 400GWh of electricity annually and displacing 235,000 tonnes of CO2

• A pilot desalination programme in Ghantoot, Abu Dhabi, is producing 1,500 m3/day of potable water over 15 months using four unique technologies from four international partners. The programme is ultimately aimed at the large-scale deployment of one or more of these energy-efficient desalination technologies in the UAE and potentially across the MENA region, and in other global locations.

• Masdar’s 100MW Shams 1 facility in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi is still one of the world’s largest concentrated solar power plants, capable of reducing CO2 emissions by up to 175,000 tonnes annually.

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• In partnership with ADNOC, Masdar is developing a Carbon, Capture, Usage and Storage project that sequesters industrial carbon and enhances oil recovery

• Through the Ecomagination 2020 Partnership, Masdar and GE are implementing the first complete energy-neutral wastewater treatment process.

Why bother? What’s the importance of pursuing clean energy?

It is crucial that we develop clean energy to mitigate climate change and address domestic and global energy demand. Our rapidly urbanizing world will mean that cities are likely to host up to 70% of the world’s population by 2050. We need to reduce carbon emissions and provide sufficient energy for a rapidly growing global population.

The UAE’s commitment to generate 24 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2021 shows both our nation’s commitment to climate action and its willingness to invest in the innovation needed to achieve such an ambitious target.

THE MACRO LEVEL OF CLEAN ENERGY 

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Q: Where are we today? What is the current situation of renewables? 

Globally, an estimated US$329 billion was invested in new renewable energy capacity last year, an all-time high. Emerging markets still account for a relatively small proportion of this expenditure, but the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region will steadily acquire a larger share of newly installed renewables capacity. At Masdar, we are refocusing our efforts on the further adoption of clean energy and sustainable development across MENA in 2016, building on our many successful projects overseas.

Q: Where should we be 10 years from now? Are we on the right track? Are we delayed? Are we progressing? 

The business case for renewable energy is now beyond doubt. A recent report by the International Renewable Energy Agency suggests that doubling the share of renewables in the global energy mix by 2030 could boost global GDP by 1%. That equates to more than 1 trillion US dollars and an estimated 24 million jobs. Countries in arid and semi- arid regions are increasingly setting renewable energy targets in their energy mix as demand grows, serving as a boost for investments in solar and wind power ventures. At the same time, prices are becoming increasingly competitive.

MASDAR’S INITIATIVES, DEVELOPMENTS AND ACHIEVEMENTS 

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Q: What are the initiatives / projects that you are doing (or have done) that will drive low or zero emission? 

Masdar is a for-profit, renewable energy company that has been fulfilling a mission to invest, incubate and advance the new energy economy around the world since the company’s inception in 2006.

Our completed projects are:

• Shams 1, Abu Dhabi (100 MW CSP plant)

• Masdar City, Abu Dhabi: 10 MW PV array and 1MW roof-top complex, Abu Dhabi

• Solar Hub testing and R&D facility, Abu Dhabi

• Renewable Energy Desalination pilot programme

• London Array, UK (630 MW offshore wind farm)

• Gemasolar solar power plant, Spain (20 MW)

• Valle 1 and 2 solar plants, Spain (100 MW)

• Tafila Wind Farm, Jordan (117 MW)

• 600 solar home systems in 27 villages in Afghanistan

• Sheikh Zayed Solar Power Plant, Mauritania (15 MW PV plant)

• Port Victoria Wind Power Project, the Republic of Seychelles (6 MW)

• Siwa Solar PV Plant, Egypt (10 MW)

• Red Sea Solar Power Plants, Egypt (14 MW)

• Al Wadi Al Jadeed Solar PV Plants, Egypt (6 MW)

• 7000 Solar Home Systems in Egypt

• Kiribati: 500kW Solar PV & Water Protection

• Fiji: LaKaRo 525kW Solar PV plant

• Samoa: 550kW Cyclone- Proof Wind Farm

• Tonga: Vava’u 512 kW Solar PV plant

• Tuvalu: 500kW Rooftop Solar PV plant

• Vanuatu: Port Vila 767kW Solar PV plant

• Solomon Islands – Solar PV Plant in Honiara

• Marshall Islands – Solar Water Collection in Majuro

• The Republic of Nauru – Nauru Solar PV plant

• Palau – Solar Penetration and Water Access projects

• FSM – Solar PV plant in Pohnpei

Our projects currently under development are:

• Carbon Capture, Usage & Storage project, Abu Dhabi
• Waste to Energy projects
• Dudgeon, UK (402 MW offshore wind farm)

• A 50MW onshore wind farm in Dhofar, Oman

• A 200MW PV plant in Jordan

• Additional PV projects in Mauritania with a total capacity of 12MW

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Q: What are the future innovations that your company is currently pursuing? 

The pilot research projects located at Masdar City, many of them led by or closely involving MI scientists and students, are accelerating the acquisition of scientific knowledge in the clean tech industry and paving the way towards the development of real-world commercial applications. As the surrounding community at Masdar City grows, the R&D cluster will also expand.

The exciting and innovative new projects currently being developed at Masdar City include:

• Eco-Villa Prototype: a project incorporating innovative water- and energy-saving technologies and design features that significantly reduce its environmental impact compared to standard villas. The ‘Net Zero Energy’ prototype equipped with 80 rooftop PV panels can supply up to 40,000 kWh per year to the national grid, easily offsetting its own electricity requirements.

• Seawater Energy & Agriculture System (SEAS): a project supporting the nascent aviation biofuel industry in the Middle East and promoting increased food security through the cultivation of oil-rich, salt- tolerant plants from the waste water of an industrial fish farm. SEAS is an initiative of the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium established by the Masdar Institute, Etihad Airways, Boeing and Honeywell UOP.

• Electric Energy Storage Solutions Hub: exploring the potential of electrochemical technologies to enhance the capacity of renewable energy systems to store power, enabling their wider adoption in the energy mix.

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• Geothermal Energy: a project evaluating a possible power source for district cooling. With geothermal wells already sunk to a depth of 2,500 metres within the grounds of Masdar City, the research initiative is the first of its type in the Middle East and may be converted into a full-fledged demonstration project.

• The Masdar Solar Hub: Photovoltaic (PV) Test Centre: operated in partnership with the Masdar Institute and TÜV Rheinland, the facility provides independent measurement of the performance, reliability and durability of PV modules, their panel coatings and other related technical equipment.

• The Masdar Solar Hub: CPV Testing Facility: a joint initiative between Masdar and Instituto de Sistemas Fotovoltaicos de Concentración (ISFOC) of Spain, researching the performance of Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) systems in the Gulf’s desert climate conditions.

Q: What impact have you delivered (social, economic and environmental)? Do you have metrics or statistics of your accomplishments? 

Masdar has 10 years of experience as a renewable energy developer and investor, building state-of- the-art projects, from large, utility-scale power plants to community grid projects to individual solar house systems in locations around the world. In total, Masdar has invested more than US$2.7 billion in clean energy generation.

Our already-operational solar and wind projects have a total peak capacity of nearly 1,000 megawatts (MW) and are displacing nearly 2.5 million metric tons (2,389,725 m/t) of carbon dioxide per year. Another 700MW of capacity is currently under development. Among the most notable of our clean energy projects is the 630MW London Array, which is the largest offshore wind project in the world currently in operation. The landmark Gemasolar concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in Spain was the first utility-scale solar plant to deliver electricity to the grid 24 hours a day.

Masdar City’s 10MW photovoltaic array produces about 17,500 megawatt- hours of clean electricity annually and offsets 15,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year. The plant consists of 87,780 multi-crystalline and thin-film modules supplied by Suntech and First Solar.

Masdar also manages the Zayed Future Energy Prize. From ensuring access to modern energy in rural African villages, to empowering Bangladeshi women with careers as solar technicians, more than 202 million people around the world have experienced the sustainable actions of the Zayed Future Energy Prize winners. Through progressive achievements recognized by the awards, water security is now a reality for millions of families across Bangladesh, India, Ghana and the Philippines. Renewable energy sources supply electricity to 60 million people, and enough carbon emissions have been avoided to offset the price of global deforestation for a year.

The Zayed Future Energy Prize’s Global High Schools category was launched in 2012 as part of the UAE leadership’s commitment to the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative. Since the launch of this category, nearly 2,000 students have participated in projects run by award-winning schools and academies. Over 9,000 students in total have benefitted along with 37,000 people living in local communities. Almost 1.5 million kWh have been generated, solar panels with a total capacity of 263 kW installed and CO2 emissions cut by over 1,000 tonnes.

Our annual Sustainability Report for 2015 demonstrates that we have firm foundations to build on by outlining a range of significant achievements. During 2015, we secured the production of 2,962 gigawatt hours of total renewable energy, displacing a total of 1.39 million tonnes of carbon. Masdar City’s personal rapid transport (PRT) system was used by more than 33,000 passengers each month on average during the period. Our attractiveness as a business environment was further illustrated by the 64 percent increase in registered companies in Masdar Free Zone (MFZ) last year.

FACING CHALLENGES & PROVIDING SOLUTIONS 

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Q: What are the stumbling blocks or bottlenecks in the renewable industry? 

From a wider industry perspective, one of the main technical hurdles for sustainable renewable energy, and therefore one of the main points of focus in terms of innovation, is energy storage. With effective storage technology in place, energy from renewable sources will evolve from its traditional peak-sharing energy providing role to providing reliable base-load generating capacity, enabling electricity grids to absorb even more clean power. Overall, renewable energy is the fastest growing power sector worldwide, accounting for the majority of new installed capacity, so the future for the industry is bright indeed.

Q: How do we provide cheap energy in poverty stricken areas? 

Masdar has led the way in providing renewable energy to remote regions and communities away from the national grid.

For example, Masdar has led a UAE initiative to bring secure sources of renewable energy to 11 remote Pacific Island counties. These projects include innovative solar and wind solutions that have provided 6.5MW of clean energy and saved US$1 million dollars in diesel fuel imports.

The most important consideration when designing energy access projects in remote areas is to consider the specific needs of the community and of the geography. No two projects should be the same. For example, our project in Samoa features collapsible wind turbines due to the prevalence of cyclones.

ADVICE TO THE YOUNG ENGINEERS

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The momentum towards the widespread adoption of sustainable and renewable energy can only be maintained through the collective action of our young scientific, technological and engineering talent.

My advice to young engineers would be – think big and work hard. There is no limit to what you can achieve with bold ideas, dedication and determination. You have the power to create the new innovations that will secure our future.

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Masdar: The Future City

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