Gulf Arab oil exporter Abu Dhabi plans to spend $15bn in the first phase of an initiative to develop green energy and build the world's largest hydrogen power plant, it has been revealed as the region looks to develop a sustainable energy future.

The investment would form part of the Masdar initiative, set up to develop sustainable and clean energy, Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan told the World Future Energy Summit in the emirate.

While no time frame has been declared, the money will be ploughed into infrastructure, renewable energy projects such as solar power, and manufacturing, to position Abu Dhabi as a leader in the global clean energy market, according to Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, or Masdar.

“Achieving a zero carbon city is do-able,” Jaber said.

Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, commented, “I would like to underscore the government of Abu Dhabi's commitment to the Masdar initiative by announcing an initial investment of $15bn. Next month ground will be broken on Masdar city, the world's first carbon-neutral city.”

The project includes plans to start building a zero carbon, zero waste city of up to 15,000 residents in the desert in the first quarter of this year, while Abu Dhabi would also build the world's largest hydrogen power plant with 500 megawatts of capacity, noted Jaber.

A Masdar official indicated that the company will hold a 60% stake in the multi-billion-dollar joint venture, adding that the rest would be equally held by British Petroleum and Rio Tinto and the project's engineering and design would be concluded by the end of 2008.

While noting that the full plans for the project have not yet been finalised, Vivienne Cox, Chief Executive of BP Alternative Energy, also hinted at further hydrogen power plant projects for the region. She said, “We have not yet negotiated the full commercial framework for the project. There is interest from some countries in this region and we are in talks.”