It’s a model of the city of the future that is quickly becoming a reality in the deserts of the Middle East.
Masdar City, on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, will be a zero carbon city home to some 40,000 people. Standing in front of a scale model at the European Future of Energy Forum, Ahmed Baghoum, Director of Zone Authority at Masdar, told ELN just how the United Arab Emirates has started to make its name in an industry not dripping in black gold.
Mr Baghoum said: “We would like to contribute to our climate and our environment. The idea is to make a knowledge-based economy instead of a commodity-based one.”
Already under construction, the city’s first phase will open in 2015, able to house 18,000 inhabitants. When fully operational in 2025 it will be powered by solar and geothermal, supporting a full community of office and residential areas. A 50,000 sq ft science and technology block is already in working order.
On the surface it seems perfect, but can a city really be fully renewable? Mr Baghoum certainly thinks so. “We want to build the first renewable city. We are pushing the boundaries when it comes to getting new technologies on the ground. Tomorrow, the city could be replicated somewhere else, so it is money well spent.”
The bill for construction is $22bn, (£14bn) and its eco-friendly ethos is surprising for a country known for its reliance on fossil fuels. Considering the gulf’s vast quantity of oil and natural gas, it may come as some surprise that its rulers are thinking in terms of renewables. Mr Baghoum added: “It is a good catalyst for the whole region to be aware of their environmental impact. It’s just one step. And it surely won’t be the last.”
“It’s about what is good for the future, for our children and grandchildren. We know one day that fossil fuels will be depleted. It’s not about just letting go of oil without considering renewable energies and clean technologies.”
So what does the future hold for other countries, such as the UK? Mr Baghoum thinks that relationships have to evolve just like renewable technologies: “It is mutual learning, a dialogue, both governments, both private sectors have to learn from each other and come up with a model.”