Framework for our energy of the future

Most people care about clean energy and climate change - just not enough to change their behaviour.

Most people care about clean energy and climate change - just not enough to change their behaviour. As the World Future Energy Week in Abu Dhabi draws to a close today, the challenges have been starkly illuminated. And some solutions have been proposed. In just a few short years the UAE has become a world leader in the field, thanks to the aspirations of the Masdar Initiative and the siting of the new International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena). After the disappointment of Copenhagen last month, the summit in Abu Dhabi has offered a complementary gathering of leading minds in the field. In part, the importance is to offer a forum for discussion and raising awareness. Not only do people need to be informed, every opportunity for a frank discussion and even disagreement is welcome.
But what is sometimes lost in the speechmaking is the concrete steps that participants are taking. While there have been setbacks, Masdar is leading the way with clean technologies in projects incorporating solar power and carbon capture and storage. Not all the questions have been resolved in these projects, including financial viability and the net impact on emissions, but finding those answers is part of the purpose of pioneering a new approach.
And perhaps as important as the overarching trajectory, meetings such as the Energy Summit provide a framework for all the private deals and relationship-building that are the sinews of any successful endeavour. The headline partnerships and investments are supported by the smaller scale transactions. The summit's role as a trade show, where sales contracts are inked and business relationships are forged, is also a crucial component of the changing energy landscape. Hopefully, consumers will begin to adopt more conservative behaviour - simply relying on Masdar to remedy the Emirates per capita carbon footprint is evading personal responsibility. But it would be a mistake to rely only on goodwill.
The summit has organised fundamental business incentives driving new models of energy production and consumption. There is much to be done, and this week has been only one milestone. The national commitment to this project - one of the fundamental challenges of our time - means the UAE will continue to lead and be accountable for future energy solutions.