Meet The Driving Force Behind DEWA: Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer

In an exclusive interview with Impact4All, His Excellency Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, DEWA managing director and CEO, talks about his vision for the future and the vital lessons he’s learned from building the world’s largest solar park

The emirate of Dubai has approved sustainable energy projects worth over $7 billion this year. The initiatives, which will be implemented by Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), are part of the emirate’s drive to invest in traditional and non-traditional energy sources and advanced technology to make Dubai a smart and sustainable city.

As the MD and CEO of DEWA, HE Saeed Al Tayer is also tasked with stewarding Dubai’s sprawling Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the largest single-site solar park in the world, based on the IPP model. The park is set to generate 1,000MW by 2020 and 5,000MW by 2030.

In this exclusive interview, Al Tayer, who has more than 32 years experience in the fields of water and energy, shares his vision for Dubai’s sustainable future.

His Excellency Al Tayer, what lessons have you learned from the launch of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park?

We have learned many lessons. I can break this down into four sections:

First of all, we have learned about renewable prices. When DEWA started the 13 MW project (phase one of the Solar Park), one of the challenges was the price. We put in place a full mitigation plan to meet our requirements and we got world records in solar prices: 5.6 cent/Kwh for phase II 200 MW project in April 2015 and 2.99 cents/kWh for phase III 800 MW project in May 2016 – which is one of the lowest in the world. DEWA recently achieved a remarkable USD 7.3 cents (kW/h) for the fourth phase for a 700MW CSP plant based on the IPP model.

Secondly, large scale utility projects require a strong regulatory framework. In Dubai we have established  comprehensive legal and regulatory frameworks, which are IPP models with robust regulation that encourage private sector investments. We are also working with world-class institutions as we need UAE national engineers who are skilled in solar power and who are making a difference today to the future of Dubai and the UAE.

Thirdly, given the variable nature of power generation, renewable energy requires storage technologies:

  • So we aim to build the largest CSP project in the world with IPP.
  • We installed 1MW energy storage (battery storage) and the other 1MW is under construction for piloting.
  • We are constructing a pumped storage hydroelectric plant.
  • We are monitoring the advancement of other energy storage techniques such as fuel cells and batteries.

Finally, we are working to develop  world class capacity building and skills. DEWA has signed multiple Memorandum’s of Understanding (MoU) with international organisations to train DEWA employees in Europe, and the US, while exchanging skills and learning about international developments in energy, water, and environment.

 

DEWA Head Office

DEWA aims to use solar plants to increase its share of clean energy in Dubai’s power output to 75 per cent by 2050. What factors are driving this shift to solar power for Dubai?

In the emirate of Dubai, DEWA’s strategy stems from the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, to generate seven per cent of Dubai’s total power output from clean energy by 2020, 25 per cent by 2030 and 75% by 2050. This strategy reflects the vision of the wise leadership to be ready to bid farewell to the last drop of oil, and provides a practical solution for addressing the environmental challenges the world is facing.

The significant development of solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies, combined with a 75 per cent drop in cost over the past 10 years, have made it a popular option in various parts of the world to increasingly rely on solar power.

In the UAE, we are blessed with the sun, all year round, as the country is located within the sunbelt. In Dubai, Global Horizontal Irradiation (GHI) is 2283.6 Kilowatt hour per square metre per year, while Direct Normal Irradiation (DNI) is 1,988 Kilowatt hour per square metre per year that can be used for power generation using PV technology and concentrated solar power technology.

One of DEWA’s major renewable energy projects to achieve Dubai’s targets is the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, which is the largest single-site renewable energy project in the world and uses the Independent Power Producer model (IPP).

The Solar Park will produce 1,000MW by 2020 and 5,000MW by 2030. It will have a total investment of $13.6 billion and upon completion, the solar park will help reduce over 6.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions per year. The current PV and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) projects’ capacity will exceed 1,700 MW.

An important advantage of CSP is that thermal heat, which is used to produce electricity, can be stored easily, which makes it possible to produce electricity after sunset. The project will use thermal storage for 8-12 hours daily.

An important advantage of CSP is that thermal heat, which is used to produce electricity, can be stored easily, which makes it possible to produce electricity after sunset.

Finally, Dubai also aims to have solar panels on the rooftops of all buildings in the emirate by 2030, as part of its Shams Dubai Initiative.

What part will digitisation play in DEWA’s clean energy strategy?

DEWA is guided in all its projects and initiatives by the vision of HH Sheikh Mohammed to make Dubai a global model for green economy by using the disruptive technologies of the 4th industrial revolution disruptive technologies such as: AI, UAVs, energy storage, blockchain, the IoT and many more.

DEWA is guided in all its projects and initiatives by the vision of HH Sheikh Mohammed to make Dubai a global model for green economy by using the disruptive technologies of the 4th industrial revolution disruptive technologies such as: AI, UAVs, energy storage, blockchain, the IoT and many more.

We support the 10X initiative which aims to propel Dubai towards the future, making it 10 years ahead of other global cities through government innovation. We decided to reshape the concept of utilities and create a new digital future for Dubai by launching ‘Digital DEWA,’ the digital arm of DEWA.

DEWA will implement a pioneering new model for utilities that uses innovation in renewable energy, energy storage, artificial intelligence and digital services. This model will disrupt the entire business of public utilities by becoming the world’s first digital utility using autonomous systems for renewable-energy and its storage, expansion in AI adoption, and providing digital services.

DEWA will launch a futuristic digital platform, a data hub named MORO, to improve the UAE’s digital capabilities to develop smart cities, provide state-of-the-art innovative solutions, and a successful model for Dubai and the world to benefit from our innovative approach.

Do you think the GCC could benefit from a regional renewable energy grid?

The GCC realised the importance of a unified electricity grid and therefore established the GCC Interconnection Authority (GCCIA) in 2001. This regional grid currently serves as an emergency back-up system for the region. As part of its long terms strategy, and given the growing demand for renewable energy, the GCCIA is working to expand its offerings by investing in the renewable business, so they would be in the best position to create a regional renewable energy grid. Considering our growing experience in the renewable field, we are ready and prepared to share new insights and best practices and regularly host delegations and multi-nationals not just from the GCC, but from all over the world.

How do you see the global renewable energy mix playing out in the next decade?

The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2030 there will be over $1.2 trillion annually invested globally in renewables, more than five times the investment into fossil fuels.

The share of renewable energy will definitely continue to rise. In the UAE, we will strive to achieve the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 to transform Dubai into a global hub for clean energy and green economy.

We have worked on major programmes to diversify our energy mix and manage the demand for electricity. By 2030, 25 per cent of Dubai’s energy mix will be generated from solar power, seven per cent from nuclear, seven per cent from clean coal and 61 per cent from gas. Renewable energy reduces greenhouse gas emissions, diversifies energy supplies, and reduces dependency on fossil fuels.

 

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