When Majid Al-Suwaidi landed in Aruba in 2016, the United Arab Emirates consulate general to New York may have seemed as unlikely a guest as any to the tiny Caribbean island. His home nation and Aruba are separated by more than 12,000 kilometers (roughly 7,500 miles) as the crow flies. And the former oil company geologist wasn’t vacationing, like most tourists there, but had come to discuss business — the business of renewable energy, including solar panels and wind farms.
Despite their geographic separation, there were some similarities. Like Aruba, the UAE is small, roughly the size of South Carolina. And from a resources standpoint, it is similarly isolated, importing about 80 percent of its food and forced to desalinate much of its water. “One of the things that has always struck me in visiting these small island states is their real vulnerability and their dependence on imports,” Al-Suwaidi reflects. Those shared vulnerabilities with the Caribbean are part of the reason the UAE — known for boasting the seventh-largest oil reserves in the world — announced in January of last year that it was investing $50 million to fund renewable energy projects in the region, in countries including Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
It’s just one of the many creative investments the Gulf country is attempting while building a more sustainable future, an especially important lesson after huge decreases in barrel prices in recent years showed how fragile the market for oil can be. The stated goals for the fund are twofold: to increase the use and resilience for renewable energy in the Caribbean and to expand local technical experience in setting up such projects. But they are also serving as testing grounds for the UAE’s own engineers and scientists, an asset that will be useful as the UAE aims to generate 27 percent of its domestic energy needs from clean energy by 2021, and 75 percent by 2050. This shift marks the latest leap toward the future by the Middle East’s most diversified economy, after it successfully transformed Dubai into a financial services and media industry hub in the 2000s. Once again, the UAE wants to stay ahead of the curve.
Read more: https://www.ozy.com/fast-forward/think-the-gulfs-only-energy-export-is-oil-think-again/85229