View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Sunday, May 13, 2007

UAE Energy: Switching to the Sun

New York Times journalist, Thomas Friedman, has an interesting story in this month’s edition of Open Skies (the Inflight magazine of Emirates Airlines), about China’s new energy makers.

Specifically Friedman writes about Shi Zhengrong, the seventh richest man in China, who is also the country’s leading maker of solar cells which transform sunlight into electrical power. Shi believes that renewable, clean power from wind, the sun and bio fuels is going to be the growth industry this century. But he is motivated, not by dollars (his fortune is reputed to be worth US$1.43 billion) but by a practical commitment to the environment.

This green entrepreneur is working to bring the cost of solar energy from the current (no pun intended) price of $4 per watt to a more competitive level, less than $2 a watt.

Such a commitment in a country that has a surplus of coal-powered electricity is a challenge to the United Arab Emirates that is blessed with rich oil reserves.

It is heartening to see Abu Dhabi recently taking some first steps toward solar generated power and establishing a new city that will be a model of excellent environmentalism.

It would be good to see other emirates such as Fujairah setting goals with legal conditions that require that a growing percentage of the UAE’s energy will come from clean, renewal sources such as the sun.

Source: Thomas Friedman, ‘China’s Sunshine Boys,’ Open Skies, April 2007, 35.

Geoff Pound

Image: Shi Zhengrong.