World Future Energy Summit 2012: A Glimmer of Clean Power Through an Oily Sheen

Rendering of Masdar City. Image: eagerriser via Flickr/CC BY 2.0

The fifth World Future Energy Summit kicked off in Abu Dhabi today, with headlining speeches from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, and South Korean prime minister Kim Hwang-sik.

WFES is an annual four-day event that draws major players of the renewable energy world, from both private and public sectors, to Abu Dhabi. That one of the world's most highly anticipated clean energy events is held in one of the world's richest petro-states isn't so much ironic, as I noted last year, as it is reflective of the stature of renewable power in general.

In other words, fossil fuels are still what make the global economy go round, and fossil fuels are still what generate the lion's share (okay, almost all) of the wealth in the energy sector – but the loudest voices are discussing how the status quo must evolve beyond them.

So, I'll be on hand to report on what that conversation sounds like over the next few days here in the United Arab Emirates. I expect to see the gamut fully ran: Earnest, innovative renewable energy companies looking for some much-needed investment and bold heads of state leading the charge with forward-looking clean growth policies, to PR-hungry oil companies with slick alternative energy presentations designed to imbue their image with some green sheen. The labyrinth of elaborate booths on the exhibitions floor is already drawing in the crowds.

Also notable is that Ban Ki-moon officially unveiled his Sustainability for All initiative, which seeks to lay the groundwork to elevate three billion people out of energy poverty in a sustainable manner.

Yesterday, I took another tour of Masdar City – what will one day become an uber low-carbon city – so expect a dispatch on its progress soon. Other notable highlights will be a first-hand look at the world's largest solar boat and the Zayed Future Energy Prize, which is awarded in the world's most opulent hotel, the Emirates Palace.

All told, it's going to be an interesting week. To say the least. Stay tuned.

Tags: Clean Energy | Oil | Renewable Energy