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Digitalisation is driving change in the region

Countries are leapfrogging technological advancements with the power of IoT, says Mostafa AlGuezeri, managing director, ABB operations, United Arab Emirates

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Mostafa AlGuezeri, managing director, ABB operations, United Arab Emirates
Mostafa AlGuezeri, managing director, ABB operations, United Arab Emirates

Digitalisation, decentralised resources and electrification of transport are transforming the energy grid in the way it is operated, developed and used by customers. These trends are blurring traditional boundaries across sectors (mobility, ICT, urban planning and infrastructure) and across the electricity value chain.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has identified that these transformations can unlock significant economic value to the industry, customers and broader society. I was part of the panel at WEF in Jordan to discuss these changes and how we can capitalize on this new energy revolution to build smarter, more connected cities.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), GCC electricity consumption is expected to reach 856 terawatt-hours by 2020, requiring 100 GW of additional power over the next 10 years to meet the demand.

To close the gap will require huge levels of investment in projects that provide additional generation capacity and improve the efficiency of our energy use. In the region, it gives us the opportunity to create solutions for highly efficient energy systems that both supply our energy needs locally and connect to a growing world market in energy technology.

Renewables have formed an important part in the GCC governments’ strategies to diversify the domestic energy mix with the region’s consumption anticipated to continue growing at a fast pace over the next two decades. Reports suggest also extensive job creation with this industry.

We also anticipate significant concentrations of electric vehicles and renewables in certain city districts. In fact, ABB is the first supplier of E-mobility fast chargers in Jordan.

However, this growth in distributed energy sources presents a number of challenges in terms of energy stability and grid management. Left unmanaged, new loads can dramatically increase load on the system at certain times of the day and cause circuit breakers or fuses to trip with resulting outages. The traditional response would be to resize substations or strengthen distribution lines and equipment. Grid automation can be used to defer some of these upgrades.

Meeting future power demands and preserving the integrity of the electrical grid while concurrently curtailing and even shutting down fossil-fired generation, requires careful planning. 

ABB’s FACTS (Flexible Alternating Current Transmission Systems) technologies compensate for fluctuations in the voltage and current of an electric grid by instantly injecting and absorbing reactive power. It allows the development of grids that are able to manage new complexities both on the supply and demand side e.g. intermittent renewables, more distributed power generation, demand management and new loads like electric vehicles and data centres.

Africa – Challenges, Way Ahead

600 million people lack access to electricity. Only seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa – Cameroon, Côte D’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Namibia, Senegal and South Africa – have electricity access rates exceeding 50 percent (McKinsey & Company report).

Until recently, solving Africa’s power challenge would have taken decades and required massive investment in fossil-fuel generation and grid connections. With the Energy Revolution, new technologies can bring reliable, sustainable power within reach of both urban and rural communities within a much shorter timeframe.

On the generation side, automation and control technologies are making possible unprecedented efficiencies in traditional fossil fuel production, as well as dramatically reducing harmful emissions.

Another game changer in energy is distributed energy resources such as hybrid and renewables-powered microgrids, which are ideal for off-grid rural communities as well as urban installations where they can support grid stability.

The Energy Revolution is accelerating the expansion of access to electricity, improving people’s lives and empowering the next generation. The internet is changing the face of industry, levelling the playing field and opening up new opportunities to those who can deploy technology most innovatively and effectively. At ABB, we are already engaged in many of the state-of-the-art projects across the region where we help utilities bring clean and reliable power to the cities through our smart and connected products and technologies.

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