Keeping the Green Hope Alive, One Wise Investment at a Time

This post was originally published on the Zayed Future Energy Prize blog and is reprinted here with permission.

By: Eswar Mani, Investment Manager, Masdar Capital

The current state of the world economy leaves a lot to be desired particularly when it comes to the hunger for new investment opportunities, so conventional wisdom would suggest that investing in the renewable energy technology (or cleantech) sector is a fool’s errand.

With Google shutting down its ‘RE

In addition, earlier this year Masdar along with its joint venture partner Spanish engineering company SENER oversaw the start up of the 19.9MW Gemasolar concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in Andalucia, Spain. This $1.4 billion project is no ordinary renewable energy facility, what sets it apart is the fact that it can practically generate baseload power 24 hours a day – the holy grail of renewable energy – using molten salt which operates at a higher temperature (500 °C) than oil to generate higher pressure steam in the turbine for longer. The project is capable of supplying the uninterrupted power to 25,000 homes for most of the year.

I always get asked by potential investors, especially those from Japan who I regularly deal with, why oil-rich Abu Dhabi is pursuing renewable energy so aggressively. The answer, I must point out should not be such an alien concept: Abu Dhabi, like Japan believes that development in renewable energy and sustainability isn’t just good for the environment, it’s the pathway for a nation to develop its human and economic capital. This vision was set in stone by the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founding father of the United Arab Emirates who strongly believed in conservation in every sense of the word and whose vision inspired the Zayed Future Energy Prize to give a chance to the green innovators and leaders of tomorrow to develop and grow.

Groundbreaking projects in renewable energy such as Gemasolar demonstrate that they are not simply ‘eye-candy’ in an industry that can sometimes feel like one long beauty contest trying to win investor appeal. As a member of the high-level Selection Committee for the Zayed Future Energy Prize, I was once again reminded of this. My industry peers and I judged the many outstanding projects and propositions in renewable energy and sustainability particularly from individuals, SMEs and NGOs. I am always amazed by the passion and ingenuity displayed by these groups for improving not only their own communities but those even further afield.

After all, one can easily see that an idea that might be effective in, for example, removing barriers to education for the school children of rural Africa by letting them study in the evening using low-cost rechargeable LED lamps, can be just as helpful to their counterparts in the remote mountain communities of Pakistan. It doesn’t just make good business investment sense to highlight such projects on an international platform such as the Zayed Future Energy Prize, it’s commonsense too.

EswarMani is currently an Investment Manager at Masdar Capital tasked with analyzing investment opportunities globally in a wide variety of industries related to clean technologies, in addition to raising funds from Japanese investors.

[Image credit: Nadar, Flickr]

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