Finding the Balance: The Energy Ecosystem in a Time of Transition

Finding the Balance: The Energy Ecosystem in a Time of Transition

September 10, 2019 at 01:09pm

By Nabil Habayeb, President and CEO, GE Middle East, North Africa and Turkey

The evolving energy ecosystem in the region continues to take center stage, as nations put in place the building blocks of the future energy mix.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) remain prime examples. In 2019, according to the Saudi Electricity Company, it has two sources of supply, by 2030 it will have seven.

The energy mix in the Kingdom will expand from gas and liquids to include concentrated solar power (CSP), wind, solar PV, and new gas.

It’s a similar story in the UAE. Only a few years ago, it too relied on gas and liquids to fuel its power plants. Today new generating capacity is either up and running or under construction using solar PV, CSP, coal and nuclear technologies. Even wind power is under consideration.

What’s going on?

Countries, from the UAE in the East to Morocco in the West, are recognizing that the energy system, which has been stable for much of the past half century, has begun to change. The region, and the world, have started down a path of transition, from reliance on just a few fossil fuels, to an environment where we are likely to derive at least half of our electricity from renewable energy, as part of a more diverse energy mix.

This shift is happening for a number of reasons, including technological advances and falling prices, a global awareness that the world’s nations must act to address climate change, as well as government policies seeking to foster economic diversification, nurture innovation and improve energy security in this evolving landscape.

Saudi Vision 2030 encompasses many of these goals, as it seeks to reduce dependence on oil exports by setting in motion reforms, initiatives and investments to drive economic growth and diversification, and increase international competitiveness.

In the UAE, Vision 2021 also places sustainability, economic development and enabling a knowledge-intensive economy as top priorities. Further elaborating the sustainability goals, UAE Energy Plan 2050 sets ambitious targets, including 44% of electricity from renewable energy, 6% from nuclear, 12% from clean coal and 38% from natural gas by 2050.

Innovate during change

While change of any kind creates anxiety, it also creates opportunity, and that’s defining our approach in the face of this energy ecosystem transition. GE is bringing innovations across the energy ecosystem, in areas such as renewables, digitization and industrial IoT, clean coal, and gas turbine technology.

In renewables, for example, GE has developed the Cypress wind turbine platform that offers the largest blade lengths and some of the biggest turbine capacity, in excess of 5 megawatts, for higher annual energy production and a lower levelized cost of electricity.

Through its expertise in digitization, the industrial internet of things, and battery storage, GE is helping ensure the grid is “renewable ready”. Through software, smart devices and smart sensors connected across GE’s cloud-based Predix operating system for industry, GE helps utilities model their networks, perform grid-wide analytics, better manage maintenance and repairs, deploy distributed management solutions.

GE’s ultra-super-critical steam technology will help the under-construction 2,400MW Hassyan clean coal power plant achieve exceptional levels of steam efficiency with lower emissions.

Advances in gas turbine technologies are helping GE customers further extend the benefits of natural gas. GE Power’s record-breaking HA heavy-duty gas turbine is the world’s most efficient, now available at more than 64% efficiency in a combined-cycle configuration.

This innovative turbine has the flexibility required for today’s transitioning energy system because it can manage rapid load changes caused by changing availability of renewable power. The HA offers efficient and fast ramp-up, as well as low turndown levels.

GE developments in the field of gas turbine upgrades means existing fleets can be improved to increase efficiency, and reduce emissions and fuel consumption. Advanced Gas Path (AGP) upgrades, for example, can help GE 9F gas turbines increase output by up to 8% and efficiency by up to 2%. A number of power plants and industrial users in the UAE, Kuwait, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have already implemented the upgrades.

As countries across the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey take a  range of steps as part of their transition to a more sustainable energy future, this increasingly diversified energy mix is creating opportunities for innovation. These innovations, in turn, can be the catalysts to help economies grow and diversify, while at the same time becoming more sustainable and more energy secure.

Read more about GE Power’s contribution to a more sustainable future across the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey and Pakistan region.

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