Get ‘smart’ and transform conventional grids
Dubai, February 9, 2011
Leading energy experts outlined the importance of shared knowledge in creating their own ‘smart grids’ during a discussion at the Middle East Electricity 2011 Leaders’ Forum in Dubai.
Specifically, adapting conventional power grids to integrate with alternative, renewable energy sources was one of the key issues, as surging power demand places the emphasis on sustainable energy in supplementing power supplied by conventional hydrocarbon-based sources.
Scott Minos, senior policy and communications specialist, US Department of Energy, was one of the keynote speakers at the forum held on Tuesday.
He gave an overview of the US experience in modernising and transforming its grid for renewable sources of energy including solar, wind and hydro-electric power.
“As a nation, we started out with lots of very small urban pockets, so unfortunately our electricity grid was created in a very patchwork manner. This has meant we now have to go back and modernise this in making it compatible with new energy technologies,” Minos said.
An additional challenge faced in the US related to the lack of a federalised energy regulatory framework, which means each state has created its own strategy, with little standardisation across the nation, he added.
“The National United States grid developed incrementally, in response to local load growth, meaning that today there are 180,000 miles of transmission line and 14,000 transmission substations, with a distribution grid of over 100 million loads connecting these, comprising residential, industrial and commercial customers,” added Minos.
Applying his comments to the Gulf region highlights the importance of a new strategic approach, which places sustainability, efficiency and diversity at the centre of GCC energy policy.
In the UAE and other parts of the Gulf, structures such as Private Public Partnerships (PPP) are beginning to play an integral support role in the development of energy programmes, the experts stated.
“Governments and private companies benefit from PPPs. The government part-privatises the project saving development costs and limiting its longer term operational commitment. The contractor gets an equity stake and readily available finance from the government, allowing it to complete the project,” said Anita Mathews, exhibition director, Middle East Electricity 2011.
Middle East Electricity 2011, organised by IIR Middle East, features 1,000 exhibitors from 58 countries, covering 45,000 sq m of exhibition space and is expecting around 50,000 trade visitors over the three-day show.
'The demand for energy and potable water throughout the region is growing significantly and inextricably linked. With an average of 38 per cent of the GCC population under 14 years of age, regional governments will face severe water shortages if nothing is done,' said Mathews.
'Desalination plants remain the most popular choice to produce potable water, which of course in turn will need sustainable power,” she added.-TradeArabia News Service