In February I was invited to present on solar energy business opportunities and market development at the First Annual Renergex conference in Dubai. Since they offered to pay my travel and lodging expenses and it was an opportunity to help spread the solar gospel in the heart of the petrol world, who was I to refuse?
My first day in Dubai, looking a little travel weary with Dherar al Hussaini, Managing Director of Quality Fairs, the Fair Organizer.
I made two presentations, one on growth trends in the solar industry and the other on case studies of solar market development in Japan, Germany and the up and coming industry in China.
Here’s me doing my shtick
Obviously the attendees were enthralled.
There is a tremendous amount of interest in developing renewable energy in the United Arab Emirates and solar energy in particular. Petroleum profits have skyrocketed recently, providing a windfall to regional governments. The Royal families of these traditional oil states have been extremely successful at diversifying out of the oil business by investing abroad, and are now looking to diversify within the energy portfolio and solar is a prime focus. My hope is that the investments are not only in companies abroad, but that the Middle East can develop into yet another solar market.
After two days of conferencing it was time to get out and meet the folks abroad. My first stop was with the United Arab Emirate Ministry of Energy. I met with the Deputy Minister of Energy for a couple of hours and talked about the reality of solar as a reliable source of energy and the massive developments that are occurring with solar right now. The interesting thing about our conversation was the Deputy Minister’s intensity regarding the fact that oil and natural gas were a limited resource that will be running out. His main question was, "How can solar energy meet 100% of our energy needs once petroleum runs out? How can we continue to serve electricity when the sun is down?" I’ve experienced the same phenomenon in Texas, people in the oil states understand that the resource is limited and running out, meanwhile the rest of us just keep moving about our daily lives as if it’ll be around forever.
Mohamed Ghanem, me and Ali Bin Abdullah Al-Owais, Deputy Minister of Energy for the United Arab Emirates
The meeting went well and I was invited back later in the week to meet with the Deputy Minister again, along with 7 of his staff, for a 2 hour discussion of how solar can be used in the UAE.
While in Dubai I travelled around by taxi, which generally took far longer than necessary because the traffic is terrible. It was difficult to schedule more than 2 meetings per day. But it did offer the chance to take a lot of photos from the window of a speeding (or crawling) cab. Many of the pictures are of things you’ve heard or read about - like the indoor ski area in the world’s largest shopping center (below)
There were also many sections along the road like this, where all you could see on both sides of the highway were hundred story buildings under construction. I’m not really sure who will be in these buildings, but they are filing up as fast as they can build them. Dubai is quite the bustling city.
The extent of the construction going on across the country is astounding, including the Burj Dubai building which will be the tallest building in the world, at 700 meters and 205 stories.
As you’ve probably heard Dubai is also in the process of constructing a series of ‘islands’ in the Persian Gulf that are creating large tracts of waterfront property. I could see the construction of the Palm Deira out from my hotel window. There was a ship pouring sediment to create the island 24 hours a day. You can see part of the island in the picture below.
When completed the Palm Deira will look like this.
While in Dubai I also met with people at the Masdar Initiative, a group funded by the Abu Dhabi government to invest in renewable energy and clean technology. They are doing great work both at home and abroad, investing in a clean tech research facility and graduate education campus as well as solar production facilities. They are interested in developing solar markets in the Region, so we had a good talk about the different models of market creation that could be utilized in the area.
All in all the trip to Dubai was a tremendous success, I met with many different organizations and people, all very interested in investing in solar energy to meet energy needs both at home and abroad. We will continue to work with the contacts there to ensure that any programs that are created have a high chance of success and increase the rate of adoption of solar energy in the heart of the petroleum world.
Onwards and Upwards, JP