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As the UAE takes the lead in renewable energy, the Gulf region can become a leader in solar power generation and a major draw for renewable energy investors, an online report from Gulfnews.com says.

The report, quoting Helene Pelosse, director general of the International Renewable Energy Authority (Irena), says the potential for renewal energy is huge in the Gulf region, with each square kilometre of land receiving solar energy equivalent to about 1.5 million barrels of crude oil.

Pelosse is lead negotiator of a European Union directive to achieve a 20% renewable energy share of regional energy consumption by 2020. He was speaking to an audience at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR).

“Well-designed, comprehensive and reliable support mechanisms for the market entry of renewable energy technology — including research, development and incentive programmes — are needed to boost initial investment and to create attractive market conditions,” Pelosse was quoted as saying.

The UAE has taken the lead with a commitment to 7% renewable energy in its electricity production by 2020, as well as the Masdar initiative.

The Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) is building a US$22-billion ($NZ30.71 billion) carbon-neutral city in the desert near Abu Dhabi to be powered entirely by renewable energies including solar power. It has unveiled the most advanced concentrating solar power (CSP) plant in the region.

The Shams 1 project will employ a field of parabolic troughs, but instead of focusing the sun’s energy onto fluid-filled pipes, the mirrors will concentrate sun rays on a receiver filled with molten salt, the report says.

The pilot plant will test a modified tower design to generate up to 100 kilowatts (kW) of power.

Large solar projects are also underway in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Qatar is also building a $2.6-billion Energy City project, a green energy business district scheduled for completion by 2012.

With an adopted budget of $13.7 million for 2010, Irena plans to focus on building a network of international renewable energy experts, start mapping the global potential of renewables and build up a comprehensive database of policies to promote renewable energy.

•100 kW expected to be generated by the pilot plant

•7% target of renewable energy sources by 2020

•$22 billion outlay for carbon-neutral Masdar city

•$13.7 million budget for Irena for this year.

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