Power shift: where to hold your sustainable congress

Many of the cities powering ahead in renewable energies have physical attributes that drive their advantage: think Reykjavik’s pioneering use of its geothermal resources; and the Australian desert sun shining on Darwin’s growing solar sector. A history of harnessing its wind power is now driving the Netherlands’ offshore wind expansion, the fastest in the world on a per-inhabitant level. Elsewhere, writes Rochelle Long, traditional oil and gas-rich destinations are getting wise to the need to explore cleaner, more sustainable energy sources.

Ambitious Abu Dhabi
While Abu Dhabi’s fortunes are inextricably linked to oil and gas, the emirate is pushing on with the UAE’s Energy Strategy 2050, which would see clean energy comprise 50 per cent of the total energy mix by 2050. Abu Dhabi’s investment into the clean energy sector has reached Dhs8bn ($2.2bn), including ambitious solar and reverse osmosis water projects.

Sustainability Week in Abu Dhabi

This includes the world’s largest single-site solar project, Noor Abu Dhabi, in Sweihan. The project, with a capacity of 1,177MW, started commercial operation this year. Featuring more than 3.2 million solar panels across an 8km2 site, it is expected to reduce the emirate’s carbon dioxide emissions by 1 million metric tonnes per year, the equivalent of removing 200,000 cars off the roads.

This leadership has seen the emirate become host to a number of specialised events in the renewable energy sector. Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company CEO Humaid Matar Al Dhaheri, says: “In addition to highlighting the latest industry developments and technology innovations, the events hosted by ADNEC have been a key driver of investment and decision making in the renewables sector. Just this year, ADNEC hosted two prominent global energy events, including the World Future Energy Summit which has been returning to ADNEC for the last ten years due to its world-class facilities; and the World Energy Congress for its first time in the Middle East. Both events were extremely successful, drawing strong global participation and generating broad media coverage.”

The annual World Future Energy Summit brings together some 800 specialist exhibitors and 33,500 visitors from 170 countries, showcasing pioneering technologies and ground-breaking thinking in energy, energy efficiency, water, solar, waste and smart cities.

The 24th World Energy Congress drew more than 15,000 attendees, 4,000 delegates, 72 ministers, 1000 media professionals, and 300 exhibitors to the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre in September. The triennial event is the World Energy Council’s global flagship event and the longest-running and most influential energy event in the world. Speaking at the opening press conference, H.E. Suhail Al Mazrouei, UAE Minister of Energy and Industry, said: “The 24th World Energy Congress’s theme of ‘Energy for Prosperity’ represents the ambitious and dynamic energy transition the UAE is going through at present. The Congress will help to lay the foundations for a more prosperous energy industry – with innovation helping to drive a low carbon economy and cleaner energy generation methods.”

Disrupting and diversifying in Calgary

Conventional energy accounts for nearly one-third of Calgary’s GDP. Yet renewables are fast growing contributors in Canada’s energy capital; nearly 241 renewable energy companies and 108 energy storage companies now call Calgary home.

Jason Switzer, executive director of the Alberta Clean Tech Industry Alliance, says: “Up until now we’ve been highly focused on the oil and gas sector but now there’s this real incentive to look at other things we can do with that skill set.”

Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan commits the province to phasing out all coal-fired power plants and generating 30 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

This includes tapping into more wind energy in the province. The city hosted the 35th Annual CanWEA (Canadian Wind Energy Association) Conference & Exhibition in October as it explored the emerging activities of the wind energy industry.

As the sunniest of Canada’s metropolitan cities, Calgary is also harnessing its solar power, with The University of Calgary establishing The Centre for Advanced Solar Materials to solve issues that are central to solar conversion and storage.

The Energy Disrupters Unite conference in Calgary

The Solar Canada 2019 Conference & Exposition took place in Calgary in May 2019, attracting 1253 registrants. As the second city in Canada for most photovoltaic potential, Calgary will host the IEEE Photovoltaics Specialist Conference in June 2020, attracting some 1300 attendees.

Chantal Sturk-Nadeau, executive director, Business Events Canada, says: “Ranked 4th worldwide in clean technology, Canada is a natural choice for industry events. Eco-friendly facilities, renowned keynote speakers, and a highly engaged attendee base is what attract business events to our innovation hubs. Canada is a global leader in transforming the raw force of nature into energy that moves us and we have been doing it in increasingly sustainable ways, turning to advance research and bold visionaries who are changing the industry landscape.”

See Energy Disruptors Unite, a conference claiming to be the catalyst for bold, game-changing solutions to the world’s biggest energy challenges.

The 2019 edition took place September 17-18, gathering 2000 participants. Its headline speakers this year were Malcolm Gladwell, Sir Ken Robinson and Dr. Vivienne Ming. Michelle Edge, co-founder and chief creative officer of Energy Disruptors, says: “Their headliner panel to close out day two was mind-blowing. Three global thought leaders having an entertaining and extraordinary conversation about the energy transition in terms of AI for good, revolutionizing education, and the importance of creativity, diversity, and equal opportunities.

“Calgary is a perfect fit for our event, not only because it is our home and we love it here, we believe Canada has all the right ingredients to be a world leader in clean energy technologies, low carbon oil & gas innovations and the future of energy and Calgary is at the heart of the Canadian Energy Industry.”

Solar innovation in Singapore
With no hydro resources, low wind and tidal ranges, and no economically viable geothermal options, Singapore’s renewable energy options lie in the sun. Out of the box thinking has made it a living laboratory of solar innovation. This includes a push to be a leader in urban solar through the SolarNova Program, with a target of rolling out 350 MWp of solar power capacity by 2020, via rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on residential housing blocks and government-owned buildings.

Space-constrained Singapore is also angling to be a world leader in floating solar, making use of its rainwater capture reservoirs. The Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) has designed and constructed the world’s largest floating PV testbed in Tengeh Reservoir.

Singapore is also a leading microgrid test-bed, incorporating solar PV and battery energy storage capacity, along with adaptive smart grid technology and networks.

Perhaps Singapore’s most ambitious plan is to import its solar power from Australia. The proposed A$20bn Sun Cable development would see the 15,000 hectare solar array near Tennant Creek in Australia’s Northern Territory produce approximately a fifth of Singapore’s electricity through solar power, exported via a high-voltage direct-current submarine cable.

Singapore is home to the annual Asia Clean Energy Summit (ACES). Asia’s leading event focusing on clean energy technology, policy and finance is supported by government agencies, research institutes and industry in Singapore and in 2018 attracted more than 1,499 participants from over 80 countries.


Costa Rica

Recently designated ‘Champion of the Earth’, the UN’s highest environmental honour, this Central American country derives nearly 100% of its electricity from renewable energies with a mix of hydro, wind and geothermal power. This year it opened a brand new geothermal plant, its seventh, to harness the power contained in volcanic steam to mitigate its dependence on hydropower in case of drought. In 2020 San Jose will host the inaugural PAMEC.Energy Association Conference, encouraging research and development of renewable energy from the ocean’s tidal currents, waves, thermal gradients and offshore wind in the Americas.


Alice Springs, in Australia’s Northern Territory region, is one of the country’s designated Solar Cities. It is home to Desert Knowledge Australia (DSA) a training and demonstration facility for commercialised solar technologies operating in arid conditions. In November, the facility will host the Red Dirt Knowledge from the Heart: 2019 Knowledge Intersections Symposium which will highlight many of the innovative solutions being delivered by DSA


Eco-friendly Norway is leading the charge on energy-positive buildings – buildings that produce more energy than they consume during their life cycle. The new Powerhouse Brattørkaia generates twice as much electricity as it uses, thanks to 2 000sqm of solar panels on the roof, 500sqm of solar panels on the facade, and a seawater heat pump located in the Trondheimsfjord. The building has a special permit for a microgrid to distribute electricity to neighbouring buildings, electric buses, cars and boats, and the national grid. The wave of new energy-positive buildings is spearheaded by the Powerhouse collaboration: a network of major players in the Norwegian construction industry who joined forces at the first Zero Emissions Buildings conference in Norway in 2010. Trondheim will host the first Nordic Conference on Zero Emission and Plus Energy Buildings this November (2019).


The Principality of Monaco’s target to halve emissions from 1990 levels by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by the year 2050 is amongst the most ambitious in Europe. In 2016 a National Green Fund was established to help finance long-term climate action and facilitate the transition from fossil fuels to renewable forms of energy. Monaco boasts one of the highest levels of solar irradiation in Europe and solar power ranks highly on the list of renewable energy measures to be deployed. Seawater heat pumps, where heat or cold is extracted from the surrounding seawater to either heat up or cool down buildings, or to heat swimming pools, have been in use since 1963.Today there are over 80 pumps fully operational in Monaco, including at the Grimaldi Forum. Elsewhere, geothermal technology is used to heat public buildings.

New Zealand

New Zealand has established The National New Energy Development Centre in Taranaki to help lead the country’s transition to clean energy alternatives following the government’s ban on new offshore oil and gas exploration permits. It will look at options such as offshore wind, solar batteries, hydrogen and new forms of energy storage. Some 85 per cent of the Pacific nation’s electricity generation is currently from renewable sources – geothermal, hydro, wind, biomass, and solar – with a target of 90 per cent by 2025. The country is renowned for its world-class geothermal energy expertise, having helped develop geothermal resources in international markets.

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