At first glance, Abu Dhabi may not be the obvious candidate to host an event like the World Future Energy Summit.
The emirate’s fast economic growth and show of wealth is built around it having eight per cent of the world’s proven oil reserves. A new skyscraper or luxury hotel seemingly appears everyday and I’ve seen more AMGs on public roads in the past three days than I have in my entire lifetime.
But it’s the can-do attitude of the emirate that has led to the World Future Energy Summit, now in its fourth year. That ‘get things done and quick’ attitude has seen the emirate host an F1 grand prix that rivals Monaco for glamour and attracted major international tennis, golf, football and cricket matches in the past couple of years.
Now it’s turned its attention to renewable energy and is showcasing its efforts with the fourth annual World Future Energy Summit.
To become a big player on the global stage Abu Dhabi knows it needs to reduce its emissions and crude oil consumption despite such healthy reserves. The Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 outlines the emirate’s plans to increase its non-oil economy from 40 per cent to 60 per cent by 2030, centring on “knowledge-based, value-added industries such as renewable energy and sustainable technologies”.
Abu Dhabi has proven in recent years that if wants to get something done, it will get done at any cost. To help it reach its Vision 2030 goals, an emirate-backed company Masdar has been set-up. It has a pretty wide brief, but central to Masdar is the creation of Masdar City, a city that’s being built completely from scratch next to Abu Dhabi airport that aims to become the world’s most sustainable city.
It’s a fascinating project on many levels, but of course it is the transport system that is most interesting here. When Masdar City was conceived five years ago electric cars were not around, so the City decided to set-up its own transport network like no other.
The ground level of all buildings built in Masdar City is two stories up, allowing for utilities on the bottom floor and a dedicated level for transport on the first floor (no transport apart from trains, trams and buses are allowed on the ground floor) in the 7sq/km city the size of Vienna.
The Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system has a series of driverless pods that will take you to any building or location in Masdar City at the push of the button. They are electronically controlled in a main control centre and find their way using a series of magnets in the floor and antennas in the ceiling. It may sound a bit Hollywood, but the system is already up and running in the first phase of Masdar City and it works, as I found out yesterday.
It’s an eerie experience, but the PRTs are fast, comfortable and stress-free; there will never be a traffic jam due to the clever interactive control electronics and they operate, unlike public transport, on your terms as it can take you from your office to your front door.
Other phases of Masdar City, due for total completion by the middle of the next decade, will incorporate EVs and I have no doubt they will be seamlessly introduced into the city with none of the stresses and strains that European cities are struggling with.
If Masdar City shows anything, it’s that the rest of the world is in danger of falling behind the emirates. In fact, it is already in some key future technologies. The region is not caught up with legislation, red tape, convention and the scars of past infastructure. It is prepared to embrace and back change with money.
The world should take a closer look at Masdar City. If Abu Dhabi continues to back projects like this in the coming years, it will be just as wealthy and prosperous when the oil runs out.