The CEO of Masdar – host of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the 6th World Future Energy Summit, the 5th International Renewable Energy Conference, and much more — gave one of the most forceful and pointed speeches of the many I attended last week. Luckily, I was able to record most of it. Here’s the video, followed by what I’d consider to be the most compelling points from the video and some of the most compelling points from the other part of his speech (which I did not record):
In text form, here are some of the great statements made by Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber in his speech (in bold), with some notes of my own added in as well:
“The close relationship between water and energy can no longer be underestimated. No longer can we address water without considering the energy needed to withdraw, treat, and transport it. And no longer can we address energy without considering the water needed to extract, generate, and produce it.”
I’m not going to lie — water has been somewhat under-discussed here on CleanTechnica. There is a considerable relationship between water and energy, and while we are certainly facing a huge climate crisis, we are also in the midst of a huge water crisis that is similarly important.
“Today, roughly 7% of the world’s energy consumption is used for water, when nearly 50% of the water withdrawn is used for energy.”
Those are some staggering numbers. I don’t think I’d ever seen that latter one before. But if you read my submission to the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week blogging contest or my post a couple years ago on “water & energy facts,” you should know that nuclear, coal, oil, and natural gas power plants do use an insane amount of water… but that solar PV and wind power use a minuscule amount of water, and are those much better options in an increasingly water-constrained world. Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber didn’t specifically note this in his is speech, but I’m sure he’s well aware of it, and I’d guess that is one reason why Masdar, Abu Dhabi, the UAE, and other countries in the Middle East are increasingly looking to solar PV as one of their prime energy solutions. Here’s a chart and table on this matter that I created in December:
“Ladies and gentlemen, energy and water security rests on two key principles: reducing demand, and accelerating technology that improves access. But fundamental to these principles is the need to address water and energy through an integrated strategy and as one. Because by doing so, we will drive economic growth and foster human development, improve resource security and ease geopolitical tension. This is the balance needed for sustainable growth.”
Quite frankly, you don’t hear such statements every day, and it was certainly refreshing to hear them at all, but especially in a region so important when it comes to global energy and water issues.
“Achieving it will require creating the necessary regulations and policies, forging public and private partnerships, and driving the investment required to deliver real solutions. And solutions that will require a collective action, on a massive scale, from both governments and businesses.
“Realizing action on such scale, may be viewed by some as a challenge. However, the UAE views this as a unique opportunity. An opportunity to expand economic sectors, diversify the economy and establish policies to drive investment.
This ambition to tackle these issues while diversifying its economy was perhaps the most interesting thing I learned during my week in Abu Dhabi. It’s fascinating what’s happening in Abu Dhabi, in the UAE, and in the Middle East, in general. I will write a full article (or two) on this matter.
Going back to the beginning of Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber’s speech, which I could not capture on video but do have in text, we can read some of his most striking statements:
“We are gathered here today because we are confronted with a shared responsibility. A shared responsibility to address the intricate balance between our rising economies, our growing societies, and our limited resources. A balance that is crucial to achieving a sustainable future. And a balance that rests on two critical and deeply linked elements — energy and water. Without access to both, economic growth and human development cannot thrive and poverty and conflict cannot be prevented.
“In the UAE, a nation with the 5th largest proven oil reserves, our leadership believes that water… is more important than oil. We believe that water and energy require the equal attention of world leaders.” (From there, the Masdar CEO went into the quotes at the top of this article.)
While it should be obvious that water is more important than oil, there’s no denying that oil goes for a much higher price on the global market, and that a greater economic and political focus is put on oil in many parts of the world. Also, it is a bit astounding to see a leader in such an oil-rich country focus on the need to tackle oil and water issues jointly, especially when it’s clear that oil use is a problematic water issue (and that using cleantech — solar PV, wind power, and electric vehicles — is a key solution). Of course, Dr Al Jaber is the head of a clean energy company, but nonetheless, this was a very powerful statement made at an opening ceremony that included the President of France, the Queen of Jordan, the President of Argentina, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces, and many other important people.
Regarding our “shared responsibility,” it is clear that Masdar is doing a wonderful job of bringing world leaders together to tackle these issues in a coordinated and integrated way. This past week in Masdar, Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, there was not just another clean energy summit — there was the World Future Energy Summit, the International Renewable Energy Conference, the International Water Summit, the International Renewable Energy Agency General Assembly, the Zayed Future Energy Prize, the 1st Energy Meeting of the Arab League and South American Energy Ministers, and more. Needless to say, it was difficult to navigate it all, but we did our best, and were happy to be at such an important sustainability center. And, more than anything, we’re happy it was all coordinated or integrated like it was.
For more content from CleanTechnica’s trip to Abu Dhabi for all of this, check out our archive pages for Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the World Future Energy Summit, and/or the International Renewable Energy Conference.
Full Disclosure: my trip to Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week was funded by Masdar. That said, I was completely free to cover what I wanted throughout the week, and at no point did I feel under pressure to cover any specific events or Masdar in any particular way.
I'm the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular clean energy website in the world, and Planetsave, a leading green and science news site. I've been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and I've been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, bicycling, and wind energy for the past few years. You can also find my work on Scientific American, Reuters, Think Progress, GE's ecomagination site, several sites in the Important Media network, & many other places. To connect on some of your favorite social networks, go to zacharyshahan.com or click on some of the links below.