Masdar aims to export energy summit to Spain

Abu Dhabi's alternative energy investment firm plans to market the emirate as "global renewable energy hub".

January 20, 2009 /  Abu Dhabi / The World Future Energy Conference at the Abu Dhabi Exhibition Center January 20, 2009.  (Sammy Dallal / The National)

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ABU DHABI // Masdar, Abu Dhabi's alternative energy investment firm, plans to take its energy summit to Spain this year as part of a broader effort to market the emirate as the "global hub of renewable energy", the company's chief executive says. The European Future Energy Forum in Bilbao in June will mark the first in a series of efforts to franchise the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) that took place in the capital in January, Sultan al Jaber said yesterday. "Abu Dhabi has always been an exporter of energy," he said yesterday. "Today, we're going to be exporting energy through knowledge, through debate, through forums." The conferences, in addition to Masdar's bid to host the headquarters of the newly created International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), were crucial for promoting the firm's profile in a year when the pace of new acquisitions was likely to slow, he said. The energy conferences will be modelled on the World Economic Forum, an annual gathering of top officials in Davos, Switzerland, that is replicated in several regional meetings throughout the year. Mr al Jaber said that Masdar had received "a clear directive" from the Abu Dhabi Government to expand WFES overseas after 18,000 people attended the January summit. Masdar hopes the conference in Bilbao will attract 5,000 participants, some of whom will be persuaded to attend WFES next January. Masdar has several high-profile investments in Spain, including Torresol, a joint venture with Sener that focuses on solar thermal energy. Mr al Jaber said another forum might be scheduled later this year, although the location had yet to be determined. Richard Hease, the chairman of Turret Middle East, which is organising the forum for Masdar, said he hoped one of the conferences would take place in the US. The Bilbao conference comes as Masdar and the Abu Dhabi Government are bidding to host the headquarters of IRENA, formed by 75 countries in January at a signing in Bonn, Germany. The emirate is in fierce competition with Germany and Austria for the role. It wants to host the headquarters at Masdar City, the zero-carbon development on the outskirts of the capital. A formal proposal would be put forward next month, he said. Outside of its marketing operations, Masdar expected to announce few new deals this year, as it concentrates on realising the string of acquisitions and joint-venture agreements signed last year, Mr al Jaber said. "2009 is an execution year for us," he said. "We're looking for opportunities around the world but, as you know, we've been a little cautious." He said the economic crisis had affected renewable energy less than other sectors, and firms with plans for long-term investments would continue to do well. Mr al Jaber also said Masdar was continuing to review its investment in the London Array, an offshore wind farm in Britain, on account of the economic crisis and the falling value of the British pound.