Smart Grid – Key to Managing Energy Demand in Saudi Arabia

Electricity consumption in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been climbing steadily for the past few decades. Saudi electricity market is growing at an accelerating rate due to higher consumption rates in the private, commercial and industrial sectors. Current domestic energy consuming behaviors pose unescapable fatal consequences that affect both the Kingdom’s production and export levels. Therefore, an urgent action is needed to curb the increasing electricity demand and promote energy conservation. Smart grid is a dynamic solution which can bridge the gap between the current supply and increasing demand in Saudi Arabia.

What is Smart Grid?

A smart grid network makes for the ideal bridge where the goals of modernization can meet those of a reliable public infrastructure. Smart grid is a computerized technology, based on remote control network, aiming to completely alter the existing electric infrastructure and modernize the national power grid. This is through empowering the demand response which alerts consumers to reduce energy use at peak times. Moreover, demand response prevents blackouts, increases energy efficiency measures and contributes to resource conservation and help consumers to save money on their energy bills. Smart grid technology represents an advanced system enabling two way communications between energy provider and end users to reduce cost save energy and increase efficiency and reliability.

Advantages of Smart Grid

The beauty of adapting this technology will spread to not only utility but to all utility users including consumers and government.

Active Role of Consumers

The beauty of smart grid is that it provides consumers with the ability to play an active role in the country’s electricity grid. This is through a regulated price system where the electricity rate differsaccording to peak hours and consequently consumers cut down their energy use at those high stress times on the grid. Thus, smart grid offers consumers more choices over their energy use needs. 

Upgrading the Existing Grid

Utilities benefit from improving the grid’s power quality and reliability as mentioned through an integrated communication system with end users with more control over energy use. This is through decreasing services rates and eliminating any unnecessary energy loss in the network. Thus, all these positive advantages will make smart grid technology a smart and efficient tool for utilities.

Contributing to Energy Efficiency

The government of Saudi Arabia is already taking bold steps to adapt new energy efficiency standards as a national plan to reduce domestic energy consumption. For that, adapting and deploying smart grid will enable the kingdom to modernize the national grid. With the time the government will build efficient and informed consumers as a backbone in its current energy policy. Moreover, this advanced technology will help with electricity reduction targets and contribute to lowering the carbon dioxide emissions. Thus, this is a great opportunity for the kingdom to mitigate with the climate change measures.

A Dynamic Approach

Adoption of smart grid systems will help Saudi Arabia in increasing the efficiency of utilities as well as improving the ability of consumers to control their daily energy use. Smart grid technology offers a unique engagement that benefits consumers, utilities and government to become part of the solution. In addition, a smart grid technology is a viable option to enhance the value people receive from the national grid system. This smart transition will give the Saudi government a policy option to reduce drastically its domestic energy use, leveraging new technology through empowering the role of consumers’ active participants on the country’s grid.

As peak electricity demand grows across the country, it is important for KSA to make large-scale investment in smart grid solutions to improve energy efficiency and manage increasing energy demand. Undoubtedly, smart grid is more intelligent, versatile, decentralized, secure, resilient and controllable than conventional grid. However, to reap the benefits of smart grid systems, utilities in Saudi Arabia need to make major changes in their infrastructure and revolutionize the manner in which business is conducted.

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An Introduction to Smart Grid

A smart grid is an electrical grid that uses information and communications technology to gather and act on information, such as information about the behaviors of suppliers and consumers, in an automated fashion to improve the efficiency, reliability, economics, and sustainability of the production and distribution of electricity.

Smart grids are now being used in electricity networks, from the power plants all the way to the consumers of electricity in homes and businesses. The “grid” amounts to the networks that carry electricity from the plants where it is generated to consumers. The grid includes wires, substations, transformers, switches etc. The major benefits are significant improvement in energy efficiency on the electricity grid as well as in the energy users’ homes and offices.

What is Smart Grid

In a typical smart grid, central management center controls all the units connected to it making sure to operate them at the highest efficiencies. The central management center does not only assist in better energy management inside the facility but also it helps in reducing the electrical consumption during peak times. This reduction is reflected as huge energy savings.

A smart grid also facilitates switch from conventional energy to renewable energy. In case of having a source of renewable energy in the facility, the grid allows an easy access to integrate it into the grid. Smart grid permits greater penetration of highly variable renewable sources of energy, such as wind power and solar energy.

Smart grid is a new gateway to a green future. It not only provides better energy benefits but also opens up new avenues of employment for youngsters. For example, conversion of normal operating units into smart ones capable of connecting to the smart grid is full of new and exciting opportunities. The global market for smart instruments is trending up with out-of-the-box ideas and innovations from young energetic minds.  

Smart Grid Prospects in the Middle East

The Middle East electricity market is growing at an accelerating rate due to higher consumption rates in the private, commercial and industrial sectors. This results in the need for a successful implementation strategy that can bridge the gap between the current supply and increasing demand. A smart grid network makes for the ideal bridge where the goals of modernization can meet those of a reliable public infrastructure.

Regional countries such as UAE, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are moving ahead smart meter rollouts. The high incomes in those countries, high electricity consumption, and small populations will drive smart meter deployments in the medium-term. The technologies used and lessons learned in these deployments will then be diffused throughout the region.

Smart grid offers an excellent opportunity to modernize Middle East power infrastructure, lay the foundation for energy management, provide new employment opportunities and ultimately reduce region’s dependence on fossil fuels. The Middle East region has the highest per capita carbon footprint in the world which can be offset by deployment of smart energy systems.

In the last few years, the number of events, conferences and meetings focused on smart grid and smart energy has sky-rocketed in the Middle East. The growing amount of attention being paid to this area reflects an increased sense of urgency to meet the energy requirements of fast-growing population and sustain the rapid industrial growth across the region.

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Energy Efficiency in MENA – A Tool to Reduce GHG Emissions

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is the largest oil-exporting region in the world. Around 85 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions come from energy production, electricity generation, industrial sector and domestic energy consumption. Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia figure among the world’s top-10 per capita carbon emitters. Without a change in energy policies and energy consumption behavior, MENA‘s energy-related GHG emissions will continue to grow. Presently, MENA countries are heavily dependent on fossil fuels to meet their energy requirement which is a major challenge in climate change mitigation efforts. However it also encourages local governments to craft policies and adapt stringent environmental regulations to reduce the GHG emissions.

Energy Efficiency Prospects

There is a great potential for MENA region to cut the projected GHG emissions growth by adopting energy-efficiency programs in commercial industrial and domestic sector. MENA governments need to create a policy environment that rewards energy-efficient choices and encourages innovation through both consumers and businesses. The Middle East electricity market is growing at an accelerating rate due to higher consumption rates in the private, commercial and industrial sectors. This results in the need for a successful implementation strategy that can bridge the gap between the current supply and increasing demand.

The MENA region has great ambitious plans and already adapted an efficient energy programs aiming to achieve real energy efficiency gains related to environment. An immediate gain of adapting energy efficiency policy is to be seen in elevating consumers’ energy awareness, improving energy products procurement and services, reducing pollutant and saving money.

MENA governments should put energy efficiency at the top of energy policy agenda with a committed goal to reduce GHG emissions through energy efficiency programs. For example, Obama’s administration has focused on the importance of energy efficiency investment programs as an engine of economic growth and environment conservation in the United States. According to President Obama, “energy efficiency is one of the fastest, easiest, and cheapest ways to make our economy stronger and cleaner.” 

Energy Efficiency Outlook

There is a wide array of measures which could help MENA countries in promoting and implementing policies to moderate increasing energy demand and reduce pollution in the generating, transmitting, and distributing energy from power plants.  Energy conservation may not yet be a way of life in the Middle East but the rapid changes being seen there are an indicator of what is to come. Formal energy efficiency programs and voluntary measures combined will help the region to maintain its economic strength in the region. Energy conservation programs in residential, commercial and industrial sectors can significantly reduce carbon emissions and augment energy supply in the MENA region.

Across the MENA region, there is a growing interest in renewable energy, such as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass, which could enable regional countries to adopt a green economy and cut down on fossil fuel consumption. In the transportation sector there are many energy-efficient adaptations to reduce air pollution and GHG emissions, like public transportation, carpooling, electric vehicles and alternative fuels. MENA countries can adapt new alternatives to fossil fuels such as fuel cells, bioethanol and biogas. 

The linkage between energy efficiency adaptations and GHG emission is crucial in the fight against global warming. Emerging technologies like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) involves the capture of carbon dioxide from power plants and large industrial sources, and then injection into deep underground geological formations for long-term storage. CCS can not only reduce carbon emissions from power generation sector but also expand renewable energy capacity and increase energy efficiency.

Another attractive energy conservation method is Smart Grid which involves modernizing the system of transmitting electricity all the way from generation to end use. Unlike the tradition electricity meters, the smart meters provides consumers with situational awareness about how much electricity are consuming per unit of output. Smart grid offers an excellent opportunity to modernize power infrastructure, lay the foundation for energy management, provide new employment opportunities and ultimately reduce region’s dependence on fossil fuels.

Conclusion

The Middle East region has the highest per capita carbon footprint in the world which can be offset by mass deployment of energy-efficient systems. An improved energy efficiency plan for MENA region (in both supply and use) will help in mitigating the domestic and global environmental impact of energy by reducing both atmospheric particulate matter and GHG emissions.

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Sustainable Development and the Arab World

Sustainable development is a pattern of growth in which resource use aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come. Arab world is facing major sustainability challenges in achieving social, economic and environmental goals. Extremely arid climate, acute water scarcity, high energy consumption and polluting oil and gas industry present a unique challenge in Arab countries.

There are four major dimensions of sustainable development – social, economic, environmental and institutional.

Social

Availability of energy has a direct impact on poverty, employment opportunities, education, demographic transition, indoor pollution and health, and has gender- and age-related implications. In rich Arab countries countries, energy for lighting, heating and cooking is available in the most convenient manner. On the other hand, more than 40 percent of the Arab population does not have adequate access to energy services. In poor countries, up to six hours a day is required to collect wood and dung for cooking and heating, and this task is usually done by women, who could be otherwise engaged in more productive activities.

Economic

Modern economies depend on a reliable and adequate energy supply, and developing countries need to secure this as a prerequisite for industrialization. Almost one-fifth of the Arab population relies on non-commercial fuels for different energy uses. All sectors of the economy — residential, commercial, transport, service and agriculture — demands modern energy services. These services in turn foster economic and social development at the local level by raising productivity and enabling local income generation. Energy supply affects jobs, productivity and development. Electricity is the dominant form of energy for communications, information technology, manufacturing and services.

Environmental

The production, distribution and use of energy create pressures on the environment in the household, workplace and city, and at the national, regional and global levels. The environmental impacts can depend greatly on how energy is produced and used, the fuel mix, the structure of the energy systems and related energy regulatory actions and pricing structures. Air quality is a major aspect of the quality of life leading to sustainable development in many areas of the world. Gaseous emissions from the exploration and burning of fossil fuels pollute the atmosphere. Compared to other countries, Arab countries experience higher emissions of oxides of nitrogen, sulphur dioxide and volatile organic compounds. Air pollution control strategies are now being taken seriously, on both regional and national levels, and governments have taken important steps for air pollution control.

Institutional

Infrastructure is the backbone of any national energy system. Countries need to monitor the state of their major energy infrastructures to ensure a sustainable energy future. Many countries now depend on major energy infrastructures that are obsolete, inefficient, insufficient or environmentally unacceptable. The Arab energy market is growing at an accelerating rate due to higher consumption rates in the private, commercial and industrial sectors. This results in the need for a successful implementation strategy that can bridge the gap between the current supply and increasing demand. A smart grid network makes for the ideal bridge where the goals of modernization can meet those of a reliable public infrastructure.