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Abu Dhabi's energy chief confirms cooperation on BRI plan

By ANGUS McNEICE | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-01-17 09:53
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Abu Dhabi's energy chief, Awaidha Murshed Ali Al Marar, says the United Arab Emirates is looking to support energy development in the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, as well as secure further Chinese investment in the UAE's electricity grid.

In an exclusive interview with China Daily at the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, or ADSW, Abu Dhabi Department of Energy Chairman Al Marar provided an update on a memorandum of understanding signed between the UAE and China last year.

"Since we signed the MoU with the State Grid Corporation of China, we have held several follow up meetings and exchanged delegations with key Chinese entities," said Al Marar, who heads up energy policy for Abu Dhabi, the second-most populous of the UAE's seven emirates behind Dubai. "Importantly, we were able to identify areas of cooperation in renewable energy policymaking and explored investment opportunities including in the energy transmission and distribution business as well as grid expansion within the UAE."

The UAE is looking to solar and nuclear power to lead its transition from fossil fuel energy generation. Last year, China's Silk Road Fund and a number of Chinese banks lead financing for a 950-megawatt solar farm near Dubai, which promises to be among the world's largest such facilities. In 2017, China's Shanghai Electric was selected as the main contractor for the project.

Al Marar said that UAE-China collaboration on renewable energy will help ensure sustainability along the Belt and Road Initiative, which is an infrastructure and economic development plan proposed by China.

"These type of agreements and the ongoing meetings, research and benchmarking between the Department of Energy and Chinese companies is key to enhancing our cooperation in the renewable energy industry and allows us to share and explore opportunities and future expansion plans that would support China's Belt and Road Initiative and Abu Dhabi's sustainable development goals," Al Marar said.

The UAE continues to generate the majority of its energy through fossil fuels, though Al Marar said the nation is working hard to lessen its reliance on finite resources and ramp up solar capacity.

Through the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala, the Abu Dhabi government set up a renewable energy and sustainable urban development company in 2006 called Masdar, which has developed nearly 5 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity worldwide and invested $13.5 billion in green projects. In an earlier interview at ADSW, Masdar Chief Executive Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi confirmed to China Daily that the company is currently exploring investment opportunities in both China and along the Belt and Road regions.

Al Marar says China has played a major role in aiding the UAE's pivot to solar.

"If you look at most of the solar panels on our grid you will see Made in China," he said. "China is focusing on getting away from coal and decreasing emissions. What China has been doing to adapt in terms of technology, research and production is spilling over to other countries including ours."

At the ADSW, the Deputy Director of China's National Energy Administration Liu Baohua laid out the nation's commitments to sustainable development. He said that non-fossil fuels would account for 15 percent of China's energy mix by the end of this year-up from 14.7 percent in 2019-and rise to 20 percent by 2030.

"The Chinese government attaches great importance to the development of renewable energy and vigorously promotes the revolution in energy production and consumption," Liu said.

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