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INTERVIEW: Novak Stevanovic, region manager, ABB

Novak Stevanovic discusses renewables, efficiency and regional plans.

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Stevanovic: ABB is involved in renewable energy projects around the world.
Stevanovic: ABB is involved in renewable energy projects around the world.

ABB’s Novak Stevanovic, region manager, India and MEA, Power Systems, talks exclusively to Utilities Middle East.

How much is ABB presently focusing on renewables for power generation in the region?

Renewable energy is here to stay and increase its share steadily in the overall power generation capacity in the region. UAE is leading in this initiative and it is evident as Abu Dhabi is the base of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

ABB is involved in many renewable energy power generation projects around the world, whether it is PV (photovoltaic), CSP (Concentrated Solar Power Plant) or Co-generation (hybrid) sometimes as a system solution provider or in some cases an EPC contractor.

We, for instance, have delivered electrical, communication, settlement & metering and instrumentation systems on turnkey basis for a Concentrated Solar Power Plant (CSP) in the UAE. Similar scope was contributed for a PV solar plant in Saudi Arabia and we are in an advanced stage of negotiation for a PV installation in Dubai.

Renewable energy is a big part of ABB’s portfolio and as the winner of the Zayed Future Energy Prize 2013, we are proud of the recognition that part of our business is getting in the region.

By winning the coveted international award for sustainability and renewable energy, ABB has burnished its environmental credentials. Gaining the prestigious accolade against big international rivals highlights our driving concerns with energy efficiency, sustainability and advanced technology, whether via breakthroughs in high-voltage direct current, electric vehicle charging or renewables and solar power.

How fast is the region picking up in terms of energy efficiency?

I think energy efficiency is and needs to be a key issue in the region. The Dubai Supreme Council of Energy vision aims to reduce energy demand by 30% which can be achieved by switching to energy efficient products and solutions.

Optimization of production, distribution and consumption of power and water are key elements for major investments in the region. Energy-efficient grids, buildings and mass transport systems like electric railways are classic examples of this.

There is a huge world of opportunity waiting in terms of energy efficiency. We have many products and solutions like green transformers, building automation solutions and energy audits for industries that address specific needs.

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Tell us about you energy efficiency audits offering. 

We have seen a large interest in our energy efficiency audits in the region especially with our industrial customers. Electrical efficiency is a big concern here for industries especially those manufacturing cement and steel.

We have also invested a considerable amount in this field and globally we have over 10,000 people involved in research and development of energy efficient products and solutions.

Tell us about your latest and upcoming water projects in the region.

We predict a large number of water projects coming up in the region owing to the Dubai Expo 2020 and the Qatar World Cup 2022. This will be towards establishing water networks to both potable water and waste water.

One of the recent projects we are proud of is where we supplied ABB solutions to the world’s largest seawater desalination plant using reverse osmosis technology – in Algeria – which helped boost energy efficiency and cut maintenance downtime from weeks to days compared to current industry benchmarks.

Located at Oran, Algeria’s second largest city, the reverse osmosis seawater desalination plant will produce up to 500,000 cubic meters of drinking water a day, enough to meet the daily requirements of about five million people.

Electrical power consumption is one of the biggest single running costs of desalination, so making the process more energy efficient directly translates into affordable potable water.

ABB supplied the complete electrical solution for the entire desalination plant and a 220 kV outdoor substation that connects to the facility to the Algerian power grid and ensured that the plant receives a reliable supply of electricity without impacting grid stability.

The solution also included 33 medium voltage drives that reduce plant electrical losses from the benchmark target of 5 percent to only 3 percent – a huge improvement in energy efficiency compared to accepted industry standards.

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ABB recently won a $160mn substation order in Kuwait, a country facing massive power crisis that continues to hinder its oil production. What kind of opportunities do you see coming for ABB in the near future?

We are looking at Kuwait market optimistically. Over US$20 billion worth of contracts are expected to be signed in the near future in this GCC country.

For ABB, this is a key area of business and we have a strong and experienced team located in the country. ABB has a presence in Kuwait for more than 35 years with wide experience and the infrastructure to support and service all voltage levels and power in utility, as well as oil and gas operations.

The clean fuel project bids are under evaluation in addition to various housing and hospital projects and finally the Al-Zour power station (1500 MW), which is expected to add additional capacity as the country approaches zero reserve capacity in terms of electricity by 2014.

ABB is strengthening its presence in Kuwait by increasing our local footprint (more offices and employees), as we anticipate a general increase in business knowing in addition to the previously mentioned growth plans, transmission and distribution network in the country will be strengthened with an outlay of US $10 billion.

As for brown filed opportunities, the aging transmission, distribution network and power stations is a huge challenge. This unfolds opportunities for us where we could partner with the end users to find solutions to upgrade/renovate, refurbish and extend the life of the equipment.

You recently won a GIS order for Saudi Arabia's KAEC. How's the overall business in the kingdom?

We recently announced the signing of a US $30 million contract to refurbish two Static Var Compensators (SVC's) located at the Shedgum & Faras substation.

These SVC's are part of our Flexible AC Transmission Systems (FACTS) offering. FACTS devices support system reliability by using advanced power electronics and control systems to quickly respond to system disturbances. Saudi Arabia has a growing demand for FACTS devices due to the rapid growth in power demand.

We are also following the development of HVDC transmission in Saudi Arabia. HVDC transmission provides high capacity, long distance, and controllable power flow to optimize power management across different regions of the country. Two HVDC transmission projects are currently being planned for construction in Saudi Arabia.

We also have a strong presence in Saudi Arabia for the automation and communication technologies of substations, power plants, and water transmission. These advanced control and communication systems provide reliable protection, control, communication and operation interfaces to ensure optimum utilization of the large power and water infrastructure investments happening in Saudi Arabia.

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A recent report says that GCC countries can potentially save over US $5bn to $10 billion in infrastructural investment by 2020, through the use of smart grid technology. How fast do you think is the GCC adopting on smart grid technology?

GCC is aiming to generate nearly 25GW of power through solar energy by 2020. One key challenge that will impact this goal is capability of utilities to integrate this intermittent source of power with the T&D network in a stable manner. This is an issue best addressed by Smart Grids. Also, the GCC has a vision of reducing carbon di-oxide (CO2) by enabling 3% of its electricity generation reductions through renewable and variable sources.

This will be followed by achieving the same up to 7% by 2050. Six GCC countries contribute approximately 45 to 50 percent of the cumulative Arab countries’ CO2 emissions. These are ambitious goals to increase the share of renewable energy and reduce the CO2 emission. Thus, Smart Grid is being considered as ultimate solution to reach to their target.

ABB has solutions and technologies for smart grids right from generation through to household consumption and we are building a model grid in Gotland, Sweden that will serve as a model to Europe and pave the way for EU’s 2020 carbon di-oxide emission reduction goals.

How much does Dubai's EXPO 2020 win matter to ABB's businesses in the region?

ABB considers Dubai’s Expo 2020 bid a platform to help pioneer new solutions for growth and a sustainable future. We make sure that all our products, solutions and services are EXPO ready and contribute to an efficient, sustainable and steady energy demand growth.

We anticipate during the Expo if there are any power or water issues, it will need immediate attention by a team of qualified professional and ABB is ready to handle that pace of request with our large service division. Plus, Dubai is placing a huge emphasis on smart city initiatives as a build up to the Expo and these solutions need to be sustainable and energy efficient and ABB has global expertise in implementing these initiatives.

What are you demonstrating at WETEX 2014?

At the upcoming WETEX 2014 ABB will focus on ‘Making Cities Energy Smart’ by presenting its smart grid and energy efficient technology, as well as its innovative renewable solutions. Improving reliability and delivering the right information, to the right person, at the right time with intuitive interface technologies is an area we will focus on at this WETEX.
Jochen Kreusel, head of the Smart Grids sector initiative of the ABB group will attend WETEX 2014 exhibition and present ABBs overall portfolio to develop a Smart Energy Future.

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