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Final word: Power to the people

Tech utilities have the ability to create a happy population, says Alaa Elshimy, managing director & vice president, Huawei Enterprise Business, Middle East

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Alaa Elshimy, managing director & vice president, Huawei Enterprise Business, Middle East
Alaa Elshimy, managing director & vice president, Huawei Enterprise Business, Middle East

We are living in an age of mass energy consumption. Utility companies are being stretched so thin they risk snapping in two if they cannot discover ways to be more efficient and agile, and meet the demands of today’s society.

According to the International Energy Agency, global energy demand is set to increase by 37 percent by 2040. The Middle East has a well known diverse set of utility demands. For example, the UAE is making every effort to reduce its water consumption, having one of the highest water consumption rates per capita. Whereas, a little west, Jordan continues to struggle with water scarcity.

KSA has started outlining its post-oil economic plan, and Egypt has identified hydroelectricity as a means for economic and electricity generation. Although these initiatives are government-led, and they seek to benefit the national agenda, it’s the customer-facing utility providers that must prepare for the most disruption.

Innovation grows in tandem with consumer demand – always. When citizens begin to sense opportunities for a more connected, seamless lifestyle, public and private sector companies need to hop to it.

This is particularly important in the power and utilities sector, precisely due to the mandatory element of the product. Unlike other services, citizens are largely inclined to significantly engage with utilities – unless they’re particularly old fashioned. This is putting a bit of strain on providers to constantly evolve to meet the demands of citizens, tourists, and businesses. Utility CIOs need to take this trend into consideration when journeying through the digital transformation, to ensure the right people have been accommodated when big changes are made.

Fortunately, the Internet of Things is well on its way to the rescue. Thanks to IoT, we are able to significantly increase our energy efficiency – saving everyone time and money. Smart meters, for example, have become the most popular IoT device for utility companies. According to a report from Business Insider, installed smart meters will increase from 450 million in 2015 to 930 million in 2020.

The idea of tracking usage is good not only for governments with strict energy targets, but also citizens in energy-strapped countries. This is exactly what we mean when we discuss smart cities. Oil and gas is another beneficiary, with 62 percent of executives in the field claiming they will increase their digital technology investments in the coming five years or so.

Huawei has already witnessed the success of such initiatives. For example, Huawei has helped build smart grids in Nigeria, achieving a 100 percent success rate in remote daily collection of metering data – reducing line loss by 31 percent.

It’s a cliché, but the opportunities are fairly limitless at this point. Blockchain, for example, will allow a shared energy economy. Distributed energy resources will dictate new network management systems. Digital customer engagement will result in new service opportunities. Cooler still, drones will allow for more in-depth and creative field research. As I said, the possibilities are fairly endless.

Huawei has been developing solutions to enable these possibilities across the globe. In fact, our Better Connected Smart Grid has been deployed in 65 countries to date, serving more than 170 customers in the power sector. Partnering with government entities in the MENA region will allow us to deploy more of these solutions here, helping countries hit their ambitious energy targets.

To do this, we will need to become a leader of infrastructure in the electric power industry, providing customers with tailored solutions that meet their unique needs for generation, transmission, transformation, distribution, consumption, and dispatch.

The key for the typically slow moving utility sector is to focus on customer engagement and experience. Applying technological pressure here will result in practical, tangible societal benefits.

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