Thursday, July 31, 2008

Renewable energy offers 'huge benefit for GCC'

Original Article
Energy created from renewable sources could gradually substitute oil as the GCC’s major export item if the regional states wholeheartedly embrace the renewable energy trend, says a study.

The GCC countries should regard renewables not as unwanted competition to their oil and gas production, but rather as a welcome addition to tight global energy markets, said the Gulf Research Center (GRC) report titled ’Alternative Energy Trends and Implications for GCC Countries.’

Regarding renewable energies as the uneconomical hobby of esoteric tree huggers in Europe and the US would be a mistake; this point was passed a long time ago, said the report author Eckart Woertz.

"Otherwise, the GCC countries may face the same fate as the Michigan Savings Bank, which denied Henry Ford an initial credit arguing that ’the horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad’,” he said.

Renewable energies are about to capture a significant portion of the global energy mix and this portion is only likely to grow given rising energy demand, supply worries with regard to fossil fuels and environmental concerns, the report said.

Especially solar energy in the form of Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) and thin film PV cells integrated in buildings offer huge potential for the GCC countries, it said.

’Rising domestic energy needs for power generation and desalination, favorable conditions for solar energy production and interest in acquiring technological know-how make a perfect argument for renewable energy in the Gulf. Renewable energies can stretch the lifeline of the GCC’s oil and gas exports, and in some decades from now, they even have the potential to develop into a major pillar of the economy,’ he said.

The report hails Abu Dhabi’s Masdar initiative as the most significant initiative for renewable energy in the GCC thus far.

’It seems that the government of Abu Dhabi has taken on the Saudi initiatives of the 1980s on a much larger scale, in order to take advantage of the technological progress and the improved economics that have taken place in renewable energy since then,’ it said.

Masdar City aims to be the first carbon neutral city in the world. It will house 50,000 people in close vicinity to their work places, educational facilities and light industries. It will be characterized by emission free energy supplies, mainly from solar power, modern ecological architecture with a good passive energy balance and high energy efficiency, extensive recycling of waste and a modern system of public transport.

In terms of growth rates, solar and wind energy have the highest growth rates of all energy forms worldwide, though coming from a low statistical base. Considerable hopes are pinned to them, and if renewable energies acquire a larger share of the global energy mix in the future, it will come from these two energy forms.

Thermal solar power in the form of Concentrated Solar Power, thin film PV cells and offshore wind power could prove to have large scale applications in the future. Theoretically, the sunlight that shines on the earth in 40 minutes is equivalent to the global energy consumption of one year.

Researchers at Stanford University have published a worldwide wind map maintaining that wind power plants at all indicated locations could supply worldwide energy demand several times over. They identify 13 per cent of the world’s surface as endowed with winds suitable for efficient wind energy generation, mainly in Northern and South America, Northern Europe, North-West Africa and Australia, while Asia is less suitable for wind energy generation. The authors conclude: “As such, the amount of wind energy over land could potentially cover over five times the current global energy and about 40 times the current electricity uses with little incremental pollution.”

Sustainable energy investment was $70.9 billion in 2006, an increase of 43 percent over 2005. The sectors with the highest levels of investment are wind, solar and biofuels, which reflects technology maturity, policy incentives and investor appetite.
Investments are heavily concentrated in the US and the European Union. Levels of investment are similar between the two, with US companies receiving more private and research-related investment, and EU-7 capturing the majority of publicly quoted companies. Investments in developing countries still play a minor role in comparison but are increasing quickly and have reached considerable levels already in China, India and Brazil, the study said. - TradeArabia News Service

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