Energy efficiency – Key to a Sustainable Energy Future

Energy efficiency – Key to a Sustainable Energy Future

January 17, 2012 at 09:01am

By Joseph Anis, President and CEO, GE Energy in the Middle East

In recent years, the Middle East has jumped to the forefront of the global debate on renewable energy and sustainability. Nowhere is that more apparent than at the World Future Energy Summit (WFES), which is taking place in Abu Dhabi. Now in its fifth year, this annual meeting — which brings together some of the world’s most prominent energy experts — is a key platform to foster dialogue about sustainable development in the region and around the world.

Although renewable energy will be key to sustainable development, achieving efficiency along the entire energy value chain will play an equally important role. Doing more with less is at the heart of the UAE and the broader Middle East region’s energy efficiency drive. Therefore, it is critical that we evaluate and rethink current technology to enhance the energy sector’s efficiency, from generation through to transmission and down to consumption.

Re-energizing the region with renewables

The massive infrastructure development that is shaping several global cities in the Middle East is driving exponential growth in energy demand. At the same time, the region’s ambitious economic diversification has also fuelled the growth of energy intensive industries, like steel and aluminum.

In addition, between now and 2030, the Middle East’s population is predicted to increase by 38 percent, and the demand for electricity is set to increase by 115 percent. According to the International Energy Outlook 2011, energy consumption in the Middle East is set to grow by 77 percent by 2035, growing at an average of 2.1 percent annually, higher than the global average of 1.6 percent.

Oil and gas have largely supported the region in power generation and water desalination for many decades. The role of these carbon resource looks set to grow alongside the region’s rapid economic development. The consumption of liquid fuels is also expected to increase by about 2 percent annually, while natural gas usage is projected to rise by average 2.7 percent through 2035.

Already owning one of the largest carbon footprints, the region’s development can only be achieved by paying close attention to achieving greater sustainability in the environment. If business continues as usual, the region’s carbon emissions are expected to increase by about 67 percent.

To meet this expected increase in power and water without compromising the environment, several approaches must be taken. Turning to renewable energy and new water sources is widely acknowledged as the wise choice in the long haul. And there is good news on that front: renewable energy sources stand to grow by an average of 6.6 percent annually from 2008 to 2035. Abu Dhabi, for example, has announced its commitment to generate 7 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. Of this, solar power is expected to play an increasingly important role in the country’s energy mix.

The critical role of energy efficiency

While the need to diversify the region’s energy sources has been highlighted, another critical change in outlook -– the recognition of energy efficiency as another key solution – has been amplified by initiatives such as the World Future Energy Summit. This was an essential development, given the region’s rapid pace of growth.

The move towards sustainable development must be backed by an overall improvement in efficiency across the entire energy value chain — from production to transmission and consumption.

Technologies that offer an innovative and efficient way of generating power from cleaner burning natural gas and renewable energy sources can go a long way to achieve better efficiency for power generation; technologies such as GE’s, ecomagination-qualified FlexEfficiency* 50 power generation offering.

One of the key concerns associated with tapping renewable energy sources is the substantial initial capital costs involved in its set-up and operation, combined with the unpredictability of supply. Innovation and imagination are, again, critical in addressing these challenges, as GE has demonstrated through the international deployment of smart grid technologies that help utilities integrate electricity from various renewable sources such as wind and solar.

Over the years, GE has focused on scaling up the company’s technologies, product and technology differentials, tight linkages between technology and business strategy and innovation –- thus enabling us to offer solutions that meet real-world needs.

With a strong infrastructure for power generation and water distribution already in place, the Middle East region’s manifesto for sustainable energy management, ideally, should begin with a concerted focus on enhancing the operational efficiencies of these existing infrastructure assets.

That means switching to the most advanced technologies that help the region enhance energy efficiency while concurrently making wise investments in renewables. After all, the region not only has oil and gas reserves, it is also awash with sunlight.

Clearly this presents a challenge and an opportunity. As a key energy technology partner to the region, GE, with its 80 year successful heritage in the region, supports the generation of nearly 40% of the region’s electricity. The company is well positioned to support the Middle East pursue its energy and water infrastructure priorities, key to achieving its growth and development.

Joseph Anis is GE Energy’s President and CEO for the Middle East

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