Current Developmentsby Adam Lane on Oct 15, 2012
Catching up with Alstom Grid’s Mazen Hamadallah at this year’s International Council on Large Electrical Systems (CIGRE) in Paris, gave UME an opportunity to see how global power developments can and will apply in the Middle East.
Whilst we can get used to viewing the region’s power requirements as particular and unique, issues such as managing grid loads and integrating renewable energy are a global concern.
At the same time, the Middle East remains a paricularly attractive market for power firms such as Alstom, due to the continued investment in generation and transmission.
“The near and middle east region is a very important market in our industry, because although geographically and in terms of population it’s a small part of the world, in terms of investment in the electricity grid, the investment is very high. Just twelve countries from the Middle East account for 15% of the worldwide investment in the grid.
“The main reason for this very strong investment is the growth in the region in terms of energy, in terms of population which requires energy, and it’s also due to the need for the grid in this part of the world to optimise and introduce new technology.”
Of course, any strong, growing market will naturally attract many different players to the region – something which Hamadallah says Alstom welcomes.
“We believe competition is a good thing for the market – it pushes technology and innovation into the market. It allows the utilities that are our direct customers to work with different suppliers, and it basically allows the whole economy to develop for the benefit of the suppliers and for the customers.”
Discussions on smart grids were a central focus of many delegates at CIGRE, with aspects such as digital substation solutions and smart control room software amongst the offerings
“All the market is buzzing about it. Everyone wants to know what they can do with it. Ultimately there are several benefits that come with smart grids. There is the reliability of the network – the grid becomes less prone to any black-outs or shortages.
Secondly, it improves the stability of the network – and without network stability you find a lot of losses on the network and that costs money.
“Thirdly, it’s about sustainability. One application that is not yet there in the Middle East is what we call the ‘energy market’. This is about making the customer pay for electricity, not at a flat rate, but at a different rate depending on the supply and demand of the energy in the market.
“This is not yet happening in the region, but we do hear that some people are thinking about it in a country like Saudi Arabia for instance.
“There is a plan to have several generating companies compete against each other, so probably that will be a future area where we can see an energy market in the region. Definitely, technology can be an enabler for this to happen. To price the power in a different way – depending on the time or the day – you need
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