Green Building

Masdar Initiative CEO discusses first zero emissions, zero waste city in Abu Dhabi

In April, 2006 the government of Abu Dhabi launched the Masdar Initiative -- an economic development program devoted to sustainability that seeks to create the first zero emissions, zero waste city in the world. Construction on the project has just begun, but key aspects of the development remain unclear. How does the government plan to achieve zero emissions and zero waste? What other goals does the Initiative have for this site in Abu Dhabi? During today's OnPoint, Masdar Initiative CEO Sultan Al Jaber, discusses the various aspects of the plan. He explains how Masdar plans to team up with MIT to create a world-class institute for sustainable technology research. Sultan Al Jaber also discusses how this project will promote the enhanced recovery of oil.


Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today is Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of the Masdar Initiative in Abu Dhabi. Sultan, thanks for coming on the show.

Sultan Al Jaber: Thank you very much for inviting me.

Monica Trauzzi: For our viewers who may be hearing about Masdar for the first time today briefly explain what the initiative is and what the main goals of the project are.

Sultan Al Jaber: Absolutely. The Masdar Initiative is a very strategic initiative launched by the government of Abu Dhabi in April 2006. When this was launched in April 2006 it was launched as a new economic development program which would enable the government to establish a new economic sector entirely dedicated to alternative energy and sustainability. This new economic development program was named the Masdar Initiative, which means the source in Arabic. It's highly strategic. It aims to achieve four objectives. The first objective is to help to drive the economic diversification of the Abu Dhabi economy. And the second objective is to begin positioning Abu Dhabi as a technology developer, rather than Abu Dhabi being a technology consumer or a technology importer, which is largely the case today. The third objective is to maintain and hopefully expand Abu Dhabi's position in the global energy markets and especially in the post-fossil fuel era. And the fourth objective, which lies very high on the agenda of our senior leadership, is sustainable human development.

Monica Trauzzi: The project was initially funded entirely by the Abu Dhabi government and we're talking about a lot of money here. Why was it so important for the government to take on this project and to invest all this money?

Sultan Al Jaber: Simply because this is a natural extension and it is a logical step for Abu Dhabi to take in the energy markets. Abu Dhabi recognizes that the energy markets are evolving and they're evolving with substantial growth in sustainable energy. And since this growth in sustainable energy represents a very unique opportunity for Abu Dhabi to tap into the government had decided to commit a lot of resources to make this a reality for Abu Dhabi.

Monica Trauzzi: Masdar has launched a feasibility study for carbon capture and storage for enhanced oil recovery in Abu Dhabi. How much of this project has to do with oil and making more money from oil exports?

Sultan Al Jaber: As a matter of fact, one of the targets, by implementing such a carbon capture and storage scheme is for the enhancement of oil recovery, whereby you capture carbon. And we're laying down a foundation for the transportation of this carbon that's been captured for the injection into the oil reservoirs for the enhancement of oil recovery. So there will be an impact on the production of oil.

Monica Trauzzi: So you'll make more money off of oil?

Sultan Al Jaber: Absolutely.

Monica Trauzzi: Which corporations are currently involved in the funding of this project?

Sultan Al Jaber: The Masdar Initiative as a whole or only the CCS project?

Monica Trauzzi: The Masdar Initiative as a whole.

Sultan Al Jaber: It's fully funded by the government of Abu Dhabi. The Masdar Initiative has one shareholder, one stakeholder, which is the government of Abu Dhabi, through Mobile, the development company.

Monica Trauzzi: One of the primary purposes of the initiative is to create the Masdar Institute, which will focus on the research and development of clean technologies. Talk about that a bit. Why aren't current research efforts sufficient and how are you all going to do it better? What contributions are you hoping to make?

Sultan Al Jaber: If you go back and review the history of R&D in the whole Middle East, there hasn't been much done in R&D. What we're trying to do here is reverse the equation, reverse the brain drain by providing the right infrastructure and the right environment to attract talents from the Middle East that migrated into Europe and the U.S. We would like to track these people to come back to the Middle East and Abu Dhabi, conduct research and excel by working on R&D projects. Now, the partnership with MIT is simply to establish a homegrown, graduate level, research development institute. Masters and Ph.D.s will be granted from this institute, very much focused on alternative energy and sustainability degrees.

Monica Trauzzi: Part of the plan also is to make a city that's zero emissions and zero waste. How do you do that?

Sultan Al Jaber: We're in engineering design right now with Foster & Partners. We have eight companies working under Fosters as the main master planner of the zone. And our target here is to aim or to target a net balance of zero emissions from the whole zone at all times and to target zero waste.

Monica Trauzzi: These are aggressive goals and you're really only in the front end of the research into how exactly you're going to do this. Is it actually possible to reach these goals? Do you know for certain that these goals can be met?

Sultan Al Jaber: The technology is out there. The technology is available. It's just a matter of integrating it all into one city.

Monica Trauzzi: Who's going to live in this city?

Sultan Al Jaber: Mainly the students, the faculty, the researchers, and the professionals that work within the zone.

Monica Trauzzi: In nearby Dubai you have a Las Vegas style city that uses a tremendous amount of energy; basically you have these two UAE cities who are doing exactly opposite things. It's everything you do in Abu Dhabi essentially negated by what's happening in Dubai and other large cities around the world?

Sultan Al Jaber: Dubai is actually a sister city of ours and we always complement each other. Any initiative that has undertaken in Dubai has always supported by Abu Dhabi. And any initiative that's undertaken in Abu Dhabi is also supported by Dubai. So we really complement each other in all initiatives that we undertake.

Monica Trauzzi: Like we said earlier, oil remains a major export of your region. How do you justify cleaning up this small region while continuing to contribute emissions throughout the world by exporting oil, which is a major contributor to emissions?

Sultan Al Jaber: We've always been known as a nation that is environmentally responsible. We ratified the Kyoto Protocol in early 2005 and through that ratification, even though we have no obligations as a non -- an excellent country, to reduce our carbon emissions, we are already on the path for reducing carbon emissions through the green development of Mikaso, whereby we originate projects, not only in the U.E., but also originating projects under the CDM scheme for the Kyoto Protocol and other countries.

Monica Trauzzi: Final question. Are other countries involved? Are you reaching out to other countries to hear what they have to say, to get their feedback on this project and what they may have tried?

Sultan Al Jaber: The Masdar Initiative is highly recognized by many other nations, countries, and governments. And we are in the process of developing framework agreements with a number of other governments.

Monica Trauzzi: All right. We'll end it right there. Thanks for coming on the show.

Sultan Al Jaber: Thank you.

Monica Trauzzi: This is OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Thanks for watching.

[End of Audio]



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