Renewable energy projects key to UAE’s diplomatic efforts

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says the UAE will give $20 million to renewable energy projects that will be built this year in Pacific Island nations

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ABU DHABI // Renewable-energy projects are now a mainstay of diplomatic efforts with developing nations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says.

At Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week last week, technology partnerships were signed with New Zealand and Denmark, and plans announced to give US$20 million (Dh73.4m) in aid to Pacific Island states.

Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, director of energy and climate change at the ministry, said clean energy had been identified as a major area of focus for UAE diplomacy.

Dr Al Zeyoudi said the money would go to Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

“The projects will be implemented this year and we will be announcing the results at the next World Future Energy Summit in 2015,” he said. “The results of these projects will affect 300,000 people living on those islands.”

The projects, expected to save more than 1.2 million litres of diesel and 3,030 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year, will be overseen by Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s clean-energy company.

They are part of a $50m commitment to the region under the UAE-Pacific Partnership Fund, established in March last year.

Four of the projects will build solar photovoltaic plants to generate clean energy in rural areas, while the Samoan venture will involve wind power, said Dr Al Zeyoudi.

The UAE has already financed a $5m solar plant in Tonga, completed in November last year, through the partnership.

Dr Al Zeyoudi said the original plan for this year was to work on only one project, but after nine countries submitted applications it was decided to extend funding to five, expected to cost between $20m and $22m.

Within three months the ministry’s directorate of energy and climate change will start reviewing applications for funding for the next cycle of the programme.

Dr Al Zeyoudi said the decision to help Pacific Island states came from a visit made by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs, as part of the UAE's successful campaign for Abu Dhabi to host the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency.

“He noticed how they struggle with their energy supply,” Dr Al Zeyoudi said.

“During the campaign we saw the impacts of climate change. We know those islands are among the most vulnerable to climate change.”

The desire to more effectively conduct projects in the Pacific was also the reason the UAE signed the partnership arrangement with the New Zealand ministry of foreign affairs and trade.

New Zealand can help the UAE with in-depth knowledge of the local markets, said Dr Al Zeyoudi.

The Emirates is also looking to provide aid to African countries, which is why it signed a framework agreement with Portugal’s largest utilities company, Energias De Portugal.

“We have been discussing this for a while and our main interest is to work on aid projects in Africa,” said Dr Al Zeyoudi.

He said specific projects had not yet been discussed.

The UAE also pledged $350m in concessionary loans for clean energy projects through the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, with the help of Irena.

Last Sunday, it was announced that the first batch of projects would be in Mali, the Maldives, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Ecuador and Samoa. They would receive a total of $41m in loans.

This is the first of seven cycles of funding for developing countries.

The UAE also signed a framework agreement with Denmark to cooperate on renewable technologies.

The two countries will share experiences and identify areas of commercial opportunity, said Dr Al Zeyoudi.