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Transforming the Middle East and Africa for the Energy Transition

image credit: Image source and rights: Siemens Energy
Paul Hobcraft's picture
Innovation & Energy Knowledge Provider, Agility Innovation

I work as a transition advocate for innovation, ecosystems, within IIoT, and the energy system as my points of focus. I relate content to context to give greater knowledge and build the...

  • Member since 2020
  • 139 items added with 66,389 views
  • Oct 22, 2020

I have just been attending a virtual event held by Siemens Energy focusing on their Middle East and African region during their #EnergyWeek.

There are three days of focused panels discussing areas around Transformation, Innovation & Sustainability in Energy within these regions. This is the report on day one.

For me, it was highly valuable. I have had periods living in the Middle East and Africa, the experiences hold many of my important moments over a business career that eventually covered living and working across six continents.

Listening to those involved on these panels sharing their energy challenges, their concerns but above hearing of the progress they are making within their parts of the Energy Transition we are all undertaking was uplifting.

We all constantly are reminded of the “have’s and have not”. When you are in a region of the world that is so diverse and full of conflicting issues it is hard to “square them” all in the same need but it is all our needs for clean, reliable energy is the common point of reference.

Some short opening stories from selected countries in Africa and the Middle East

When you listen to energy stories from Bènin, which ranks amongst the poorest countries to Nigeria, a country I have visited a few times as one of Africa’s two wealthiest economies but has overtaken India as home to the world’s greatest concentration of extreme poverty then you fully appreciate Energy is critical to each.

So many countries in this part of the world need to emerge from social pressures and deliver to young populations the opportunities to have security and the potential to grow comes from providing sustainable energy. Nigeria has the third-largest youth population in the world, after India and China, with more than 90 million of its population under the age of eighteen, expectations are simply just rising.

Then we had a brief glimpse into the story of Iraq. They have suffered such devastating consequences of dictatorships, followed by the war. Civil armed conflict continues and it is the ability to provide stable electricity after such technology and infrastructure losses. The need for power generation, fulfilling the energy hunger to establish better conditions for the country to rebound from these recent times.

The other country that was featured significantly on the panel was the UAE.

What a staggering transformation has been undertaken in the UAE. I first visited the UAE forty years ago and stayed in touch over all these years. You can’t fail to be impressed in all they have been undertaking, in progress, in leading and transforming, and no where is it not best illustrated than in their Energy Transition.

The UAE has an abundance of oil, they have been pragmatic and visionary to undergo the changes away from the reliance on fossil fuel production into one of the most innovative energy mixes you will find anywhere in the World. They have an abundance of sun, they are exploring Nuclear and Hydrogen in world-leading designs and concepts.

Anyone interested in the energy transition needs to appreciate what the UAE is undertaking to provide a lasting energy transition away from an overdependence on oil.

Straddling the diversity in the ME & A regions

How you “straddle” the differences within such a region as the Middle East and Africa is a challenge for anyone. African nations need access to energy, they need to radically overhaul their regulations, rapidly replace their aging infrastructure.

Countries specifically have to solve “energy for all” as here we have issues of cooking with charcoal, mostly in confined spaces and the health effects are significant in the emissions this gives. Across the globe but with a majority in Africa we still have 2.8 billion people reliant on cooking in these ways. Plus we have 0.8 billion with no electricity access at all.

Then you have the Middle East, riven by conflicts but having some of the world’s richest nations. Such a diversity of energy challenges to solve societal problems and undergo the energy transition to one based on clean energy.

Building the momentum within this event

The three-day event is entitled “The Energy Shaping of Tomorrow” The event by Siemens Energy is offering a window into their world of dealing day-in-day out across the Middle East and Africa in solving, delivering solutions, and collaborating on Energy issues.

The value of having such diverse panelists on each panel, you quickly get into conflicting debates and the myriad of ways to solve the energy transition. You hear the conflicting debates around the replacement of hydrocarbons with renewables and its timing, problems, and challenges to move towards the need to have a stable electricity supply based on renewable energy.

Each of the markets in the Middle East and Africa has different starting points to transform their energy into clean, sustainable sources that deliver reliable, affordable and sustaining this to ‘feed’ the energy-hungry of the population, not only to live but to be able to build their future from having energy secure

What has struck me very powerfully is how all that did speak all stressed about working together in partnerships to resolve the issues that will enable or constrain the energy transition.

One great takeaway for me was when you are working on such a complex energy transformation each country is working upon, the best solution is to construct this jointly. By building a collaborative, open clarity of the energy journey, the benefits are enormous by building a comprehensive and realistic roadmap. You then achieve s more focused transition that builds progressively.

As stated by Paddy Padmanathan CEO of @ACWAPower supported by Dieter Sierdorfer, the CEO of Siemens Energy MEA: “Be brutal on your Energy assessments on where you are

As you set about building Energy Roadmaps there is a need to ensure there is a clear Society Engagement & reality and truth of the challenges needing to be faced and clarity of the timeline, however unpalatable that might be.

The takeaway headlines for me on this first day of a three-day event were

– Shaping the Energy Systems of the Future had a fascinating opening panel of discussions & views of the #EnergyTransition challenges. It highlighted gaps and discussed ways for closing these gaps in the Middle East and Africa

– Energy solutions need to tackle inequality, provide impact, and access to #energy. Working through the mechanics of really diverse solutions that will need to optimize heat and power, accelerate new technologies, and provide flexible grids and build new infrastructure. To achieve this. it is a mix of both interim and long-term energy solutions.

– There is a period in these next decades for Africa NOT to lose this unique opportunity to achieve energy independence.

– It is easy to say, tough to implement but there was the message that we should not bail out the past, or attempt to retrofit the past, we need to find the solutions that lead to the #Energy Shaping of our future

– I related strongly to the comment “Africa is (so often) unrecognized and underappreciated” in their individual #EnergyTransition One message I heard is this building of Energy Roadmaps are vital to begin to gain recognition and attract the required capital to achieve these ambitions.

What is so important to appreciate in listening to the Energy panel on @Siemens_Energy#EnergyWeek in ME & Africa is getting electrification to all. As @Siersdorfer_D stated “A basic right of all of society is access to Electricity” This comes from collaborations & partnerships but selecting the right energy solutions that fit individual country circumstances.

The further great takeaways for me were:

– Panel 3 today was about views from the financial gurus showing their passion and commitment. The risk & need equation, reducing today’s more anxious capital markets, getting #EnergyTransition back on an accelerated path

– What was driven home, for me at least by the Financial panelists was until we have clear definitions, certification & classifications the “pent-up” capital waiting to invest in #EnergyTransition is being frustrated. We need energy and capital to fit.

– How do developing countries access Energy Capital? Investors want quantification, in impact and need clear measures. Building clear ambitious and transparent agenda and comprehensive roadmaps certainly help. It begins the transparency that investors require to quantify the risk and returns.

-Knowing the ambitions and vision that Energy will need to provide for meeting society's needs and “fleshing out” the Capital support needs working on but it brings engagement and growing confidence to all those that need to be involved, from Government, suppliers, to investors.

– The solutions of crowd sourcing and blockchain for #EnergyTransition are developing tools to sharpen and hone. Getting the release of capital needs different financing tools- Corporate and Project Bonds need evolving.

– When a financial panel concludes “Striving to do more good, desire is not enough and reaffirming transparent partnerships can bring Capital to the table” then for developing countries their need is to build stronger energy narratives as a matter of urgency.

So in conclusion there were some powerful, insightful discussions at @Siemens_Energy and their #Energy Week, just on day one!

There is two days left where the different panels discuss the role of #innovation on day two and what role it plays in #energy in three separate sessions; preparing society, #digitalization of energy, and #decarbonization of the hydrocarbon industry

The third day is all about Sustainability delving into grid stability, complexity, and renewable integrations, then driving the sector coupling and a Fireside chat to finish between John Defterios (CNN) and the CEO of Siemens Energy, Christian Bruch.

I certainly began to look forward to hearing more. The event is over but the link is

It was good to visit the Middle East, virtually. It saved me a lot of time and cost.

It was well worth attending. You can’t fail to learn something of lasting value around the energy transition we are all undertaking together when you get panelists like these.

Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Dr. Amal Khashab on Oct 22, 2020

Hi Paul

What about Egypt? Has been not there?

Paul Hobcraft's picture
Paul Hobcraft on Oct 23, 2020

Egypt was mentioned a fair amount by panelists on the power success story but no one was specifically presenting or representing Egypt

Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Dr. Amal Khashab on Oct 27, 2020

I am so sorry for that. It was better for Siemens to tell its success story in Egypt. Realy it is a big one.

Paul Hobcraft's picture
Thank Paul for the Post!
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