Masdar, the clean energy company in oil-rich Abu Dhabi, is best known for building a green city in the Arabian desert. But while the zero-carbon city has captured the lion’s share of attention, Masdar as a company is having an impact far from home by investing in clean technology projects and startups in Europe, Asia, Africa and the U.S.
With a reach that extends from Silicon Valley to the Seychelles, two of Masdar’s business units are investing large sums of money overseas. Masdar Power is developing and financing wind and solar energy projects in the UK, Spain, Germany and Egypt, as well as in Abu Dhabi. Masdar Capital manages more than $500 million in venture capital, a sizable amount in the still-emerging clean tech space. All of Masdar is owned by the Mubadala Development Co., which in turn is owned by the government of Abu Dhabi.
A week or so ago, when visiting Abu Dhabi, I met with Frank Wouters, the director of Masdar Power and Alex O’Cinneide, head of investments for Masdar Capital. Both said their businesses are intended to be for-profit, stand-alone entities. But they are also part of a broad and long-term strategy to transform Abu Dhabi’s economy from one based on oil and gas to a more diversified economy driven by knowledge, innovation and the export of clean technologies. So learning, as well as return on invested capital, shapes their approach. [click to continue…]