THE GREEN BEYOND

Abu Dhabi 2017 | DIPLOMACY | FOCUS: UAE-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP

Through Masdar, the government of Abu Dhabi has fast become one of the biggest exporters of green expertise in the Middle East, and is developing projects across a number of Pacific islands.

Part of the UAE's current agenda involves the promotion of sustainable economic development in developing nations. As of April 2016, the OECD's Development Assistance Committee (CAD) ranked the UAE first on the official development aid to gross national income index, with a total AED16 billion deployed in capacity-building programs around the globe. The UAE's efforts to fund projects beyond its borders have positioned the country at the top of the international donor ladder.

One of the most innovative initiatives has been the UAE-Pacific Partnership, a funding project targeting 11 Pacific islands (Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu) through the provision of USD50 million in grants for energy renewable projects. The project was launched on the occasion of a Pacific Leaders Meeting held in Abu Dhabi by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in 2012. The partnership entails the deployment of funds to shortlisted projects aimed at supporting the islands' ambitions to guarantee energy sustainability and reduce overdependence on fuel imports, while utilizing it as a key growth enabler.

The fund was designed to accommodate diverse project types, including single, stand-alone projects, bundles of smaller projects, and components of larger projects with other investors and donors. The feasibility studies for the generation capacity, as well as operation and maintenance capacity building programs, were included in the grant. Masdar, the UAE's renewable energy arm, would act as project developer, and quality local contractors would be given preference.

The project was comprised of two cycles: the first one for bids submitted between 2013 and 2014, and the second for the 2015-2016 period. The first projects that were approved were solar projects in Fiji, Kiribati, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu, and a wind turbine in Samoa. By early 2017, all the total 11 projects will be fulfilled, adding a total of 6.5MW of renewable energy capacity to all the islands, and eliminating 8,447 tons of CO2 emissions per annum, reducing over 3 million liters of imported diesel, and saving up to USD3.7 million in fuel expenses per annum.

The project involved multiple Emirati agencies, with Masdar as project developer, the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development the funder, and the ministries of foreign affairs of each nation overlooking the allocation of funds and works, as well as the World Bank and the Pacific Environment Community Fund, which coordinated part of the projects developed in Kiribati and Tuvalu.

Ever since its foundation back in 2006, Masdar has functioned as the operating arm for renewable energy projects for the government of Abu Dhabi, inside and outside the country. In those 10 years, Abu Dhabi, through Masdar, has become the largest exporter of clean energies in the Middle East with investments amounting USD2.7 billion and projects deployed across the UK, Spain, Oman, Jordan, Mauritania, Egypt, Morocco, and the Seychelles. The UAE-Pacific Partnership is the latest effort to promote the use of renewable energies and replicate the expertise gained in the UAE in other markets.

The renewable energy project has been followed by more business opportunities for Abu Dhabi. In November 2016, President Jioji Konrote of Fiji travelled to Abu Dhabi to meet the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, both agreeing that business delegations from Abu Dhabi should travel to the Pacific island to explore opportunities in education, energy, and tourism. Local news outlets reported that the Crown Prince asked for more information on a rebuilding program for schools damaged by tropical cyclone Winston, and discussed the chance to offer scholarships to Fijian students to study in the UAE.

Fiji already benefits from the UAE Pacific Partnership Fund with solar power projects in Lakeba, Kaduva, and Rotuma, helping the country save more than half a million dollars annually on fuel imports.