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Why Masdar is about more than realty

Why Masdar is about more than realty

Plans for the construction of Abu Dhabi’s ambitious eco city have been scaled back. But that doesn’t diminish the wider purpose of the initiative: To preserve the UAE’s energy-producer status after the oil runs out.

March 25, 2010 6:20 by

When the price of sweet crude jumped in mid-February following tensions between the West and Iran over the country’s nuclear program, many of today’s nuclear producing countries had a glimpse of the future they are trying to avoid.

In the UAE, the government is aggressively pushing alternative energy through its state-backed companies. And although concerns over sustainability and the environment are frequently cited as the drivers for this diversification, the country’s desire to maintain its energy-producer status even after hydrocarbons no longer dominate the energy field look increasingly important.

According to projections from the research organization Chatham House in London, most oil-producing countries will run out of oil by 2040. Iran and Kuwait are the exceptions, sitting atop their reserves for 20 years beyond that.

“I think that a lot of analysts see this coming and part of thinking about this now is preparing for the future in 20 to 50 years,” said Theodore Karasik, Ph.D., the director for research and development at UAE based think-tank Inegma. “The energy dynamics of the situation will influence or create drivers to influence political agendas in the region. This is going to affect how businesses and politics are conducted between all the states around the Gulf.”

Early this year, thousands of people gathered in Abu Dhabi for the third installment of the World Future Energy Summit’s trade fair and energy-related panel discussions. In a futuristic booth complete with identically dressed models and individually wrapped dates, the government-backed Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, known widely as Masdar, showcased the many tentacles of its sprawling projects, initiatives, educational programs, and investments.

Since then, plans for Masdar City, Abu Dhabi’s clean energy community, have been scaled back under a review of the ambitious ‘green’ development. There will now be fewer buildings, and the structures will be built taller over a longer period of time, with technical features like the futuristic ‘car pod’ system scrapped.

But there is more to Masdar than a real estate development: It is not just another Emaar or Aldar. The company certainly has diverse investments, ranging from a company producing wind turbines in India, to funding Japanese venture capital firms investing in clean technology startups.

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