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Renewables are the New Oil in at Least One Middle Eastern Oil Nation

Last year the government of Abu Dhabi made a splash in energy investment circles by anchoring a cleantech fund - one of a number of their initiatives in clean energy in solar, hydrogen, carbon capture, and others.

Last year the government of Abu Dhabi made a splash in energy investment circles by anchoring a cleantech fund:

As described on News.com just two months ago:

"One of the more ambitious related projects in the Mideast is Masdar, a $250 million clean-tech investment fund unfurled last year. The government of Abu Dhabi (through Abu Dhabi Future Energy) has put $100 million into Masdar, while Credit Suisse and the Consensus Business Group have put in $100 million and $50 million, respectively. Masdar, which means "source" in Arabic, also plans to set up a think tank with the national water and oil companies."

I had a chance to listen to Alex O'cinneide, one of their investment executives, speak at GreenVest 2007, the recent greentech investing conference I chaired in San Francisco. Speaking to a room of venture capitalists, startups, and industry executives, there were a number of lessons for the rest of us.

In a simple equation:

Oil $ = solar + low carbon + hydrogen

Abu Dhabi is investing in energy innovation and sustainability through the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, which Masdar is the $250 million technology investment arm.

Among some of the more exciting initiatives, Masdar is developing a 100 MW solar thermal plant using parabolic troughs, expecting to build expertise and capabilities for export of this type of technology, not just as a showcase. I am a big fan of the future of large scale solar thermal technology. But Abu Dhabi is also looking at silicon photovoltaics and thin film as well, in a big way.

They are studying a 1 GW hydrogen plant, and tieing that in with carbon credits under Kyoto, and enhanced oil recovery using CO2 injection.

Of keen note, Abu Dhabi is not just doing this for today's energy consumption, they are investing across the spectrum in research, venture capital, and large demonstration as a way to build expertise and gain technology to help underpin a post oil economy - and perhaps be a major exporter of the next generation of energy, too. Hence, their Future Energy company.

I say more power to them . . . and we in the US better not fall behind.