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Industry veteran establishes first energy think tank in the Middle East

Article - June 4, 2017

Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, one of the architects behind Qatar’s transformation into the leading exporter of liquefied natural gas, has established a unique platform to build towards sustainable development and diversification within the energy sector

For more than three decades, Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah has been one of the most renowned figures in the Qatari energy business, and has previously served as Chairman and Managing Director of Qatar Petroleum, Minister of Energy and Industry, and second Deputy Prime Minister.

Now, after a long career of service, when many would be thinking about retirement, Mr. Al-Attiyah is focused on supporting Qatar’s move towards a more sustainable future. In November 2015, he established The Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah International Foundation for Energy and Sustainable Development–the first energy think-tank to operate in the Middle East.

Mr. Al-Attiyah’s vision is for the Foundation to become one of the world’s leading institutions on energy and sustainable development policy.

“The foundation will aim to give advice and share knowledge, while specializing in research and analysis. We will create workshops, write papers, seminars and studies about energy like, how to deal with the market, with oversupply, demand and prices,” he says.  

“We will advise governments and companies on how to build their own projects, how to cut the fat in their expenses, how to avoid market shocks, how to be prepared, how to make the right calculations and how to plan ahead both in the short term and the long term. We want people to knock on our door with questions which we will aim to answer based on our vast experience. The Foundation will have leading experts from around the world.”

Aside from presiding over the Foundation, Mr. Al-Attiyah is the current President of the Administrative Control and Transparency Authority in Qatar. In 2012 he presided the Oversight Committee for the COP 18 Climate Change Conference in Doha and during his long career has received numerous accolades for his work, such as the Grand Cross in the Order of the Orange Nassau, conferred by Queen Beatrix of the of Netherlands; the Grand Cordon Order of the Rising Sun in recognition of his contribution in promoting bilateral relations between Qatar and Japan; and the Necklace of Independence, awarded by the Emir of Qatar, for his efforts on promoting transparency in government and industry in Qatar.

In fact his contributions have been so important that an award recognizing efforts to improve and modernize the energy sector bears his name: The Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah International Energy Awards are in now their fourth year, with the 2016 winners announced in May.

Several other important figures in the Qatari energy industry and politics make up the Foundation’s board, including Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, President & CEO of Qatar Petroleum (QP); Dr. Ibrahim Ibrahim, economic advisor to the Emir; Qatar’s Ambassador to Italy Abdulaziz Ahmed al-Malkim; and two QP board members, Hamad Rashid al-Mohannadi and Nasser Khalil al-Jaidah.

Since its establishment less than a year ago, the Foundation has kept busy. In November it will host the Clean Energy & Sustainability Summit, in conjunction with The Gulf Organization for Industrial Consulting. The Summit will bring together international and regional professionals to debate the latest developments in clean energy supply and ways to achieve energy sustainability.

“The summit will be a platform to discuss further the energy issues that relate to green-house gas (GHG) emissions and climate change. Technical advantages in clean energy, mitigation of GHG emissions and the energy efficiency improvement will be demonstrated and presented during this summit to further improve the cooperation in fighting climate change,” said Mr. Al-Attiyah in May when announcing the event.

He added that the Summit is an opportunity for Qatar and other GCC states to showcase to the international community their efforts on working towards the establishment of a more environmentally friendly energy supply. “We, at the Foundation, are basically concerned with energy and will be extending our hand to the region and international community”.

With citizens in oil-rich states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) paying very little or even nothing for electricity, there is of course very little incentive for energy saving, resulting in high per-capita energy consumption (In fact Qatar has the highest per-capita energy consumption in the world according to the International Monetary Fund).  Therefore one of the greatest challenges the oil-rich Gulf States face today is significantly reducing the citizen’s wasteful consumption of heavily subsidized energy.

“As the rest of the world is gradually turning towards greater energy efficiency in economic terms, much of the GCC is going the other way, using ever more energy to produce a unit of economic growth and becoming less competitive in the process,” said board member Dr. Ibrahim at the inauguration of the Foundation in November 2015. “If these long-term consumption trends continue, the Gulf States are forecast to be just a few decades away from relinquishing their long-held position as global energy suppliers.”

Mr. Al-Attiyah explains that this issue is one that worries the Foundation, but he has hope. “I strongly believe in empowering our citizens. Educating our citizens is vital for the future of the Gulf region, which faces many challenges, including that of heavy energy consumption.”

The Foundation wants to lead the charge in educating citizens on resourceful energy use, and plans to establish educational programs in association with institutions based in Qatar to raise awareness of this issue.