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‘Renewable energy is no longer an intention, it is a reality’

Valerie Levkov, Senior VP (Africa & Middle East), EDF France, provides an update on the company’s projects across the Middle East, the value of local partnerships and the importance of cybersecurity, following growing integration of digital platforms in utility-scale projects. Excerpts from the interview with Hannah Jo Uy of Climate Control Middle East on the sidelines of the World Future Energy Summit, held from January 13 to 16 in Abu Dhabi…

| | Mar 24, 2020 | 9:30 am
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Valerie Levkov

FROM AN EDF PERSPECTIVE, COULD YOU SHARE TRENDS RELATED TO THE ADOPTION OF RENEWABLE ENERGY IN THE MIDDLE EAST?

We have an objective to double our portfolio of renewable energy and to triple internationally. And Middle East is a key region for EDF’s strategic development, thanks to the policies and vision in terms of the renewable energy sector. This year, we have seen a lot of heads of state coming here to the World Future Energy Summit, and we have seen very inspiring speeches, presentation and panels. This year, we can say, renewable energy is a reality. A few years ago, it was an intention; today, it is a reality, and we will not come back to fossil fuel-energy leadership anymore.

WHICH COUNTRIES IN THE MIDDLE EAST OR AFRICA IS EDF LOOKING AT WITH GREAT INTEREST IN TERMS OF POTENTIAL AND PROJECTS?

First of all, we want to support the energy policies in the region in terms of competitive, innovative and carbon-neutral solutions. We have signed with a new joint venture with Masdar towards energy efficiency and self-consumption of renewable energy for clients. What does that mean? It means we want to offer clients solutions that reduce the consumption of energy and develop their use of solar energy by using rooftop solar technologies; so, coupling, reduction of energy and developing solar energy will lead to a better use of electricity in the region. So, this JV with Masdar is the beginning of a new era.

In partnership with Masdar, we are also developing a utility-scale solar and wind project with DEWA (Dubai Electricity & Water Authority) for an 800 MW solar park. In Saudi Arabia, we have an agenda of a 400 MW wind farm project, again in partnership with Masdar. In Morocco, we have been awarded an 800 MW, very innovative solar CSP plus PV hybrid power plant, the first of its kind, worldwide. There is lot of innovation. The utility scale project together with Masdar, and now this new JV, it will be a smaller project dedicated to clients, smaller but important from a carbon-neutral perspective.

HOW IS EDF TRANSFERRING BEST PRACTICES AND KNOWLEDGE FROM ITS EXPERIENCE AS A FRENCH COMPANY TO THE MIDDLE EAST MARKET? DO YOU SEE ITS LONG EXPERIENCE OF HAVING PROJECTS IN EUROPE AS A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE?

I am deeply convinced that the best energy solutions are the ones implemented locally. For that, we partner with local players. Masdar is an important partnership, because Masdar can really develop solutions that are needed here. What we do is we bring our solutions developed in Europe here to the region and, with Masdar, transfer the solution here to our clients, whether the clients are government or private companies. To give you an example, with this joint venture we will use the remote control and monitoring digitalised platform we have been developing in Europe here in the region. We have installed a remote control energy management system facility in Saudi Arabia. This is the first of its kind, and we are developing with a client there the first energy savings in a big tower, thanks to this platform that embeds an algorithm, so we can have up to 10% energy savings without any investment.

The second step is that we will propose an investment to redesign some equipment to lower consumption and share the benefit with the client. And that is the purpose of this joint venture with Masdar, to do the same with many clients in the region together, such as in Saudi Arabia. So, we come with our subsidiaries, like EDF Renewables, carrying their solutions that have been developed for Europe, and transfer them with the cooperation of Masdar, for the benefit of our local clients.

YOU TOUCHED ON THE INTEGRATION OF INTERNET OF THINGS. WITH THE INCREASE IN USE OF TECHNOLOGY, HOW MUCH OF AN EMPHASIS IS BEING PLACED ON CYBERSECURITY, ESPECIALLY CONSIDERING THESE DIGITAL PLATFORMS ARE VITAL TO OPERATIONS OF UTILITIES, WHICH CAN AFFORD NO DOWN TIME?

You’re right, it is a very important point. First of all, the digitalised system we developed for the energy efficiency joint venture with Masdar is based on an artificial intelligence IoT model. Now, we are in data-centric activity – electricity has become data-centric and customer-centric activity. We are using more and more digitalised systems and developing algorithms that use the data to provide better services and more efficient electricity consumption. It’s about efficiency, lowering the consumption, and for sure IoT and AI are at the heart of the development of the digitalised system. You are right, cybersecurity is key. We have been developing a lot of systems to ensure our own cybersecurity and our clients’ cybersecurity in each and every one of our projects. This particular theme is part of our checklist, we cannot afford any fault or leak. It is very important, and we can see all our clients are asking for this as a specification and pre-requisite. At EDF, we have EUR 550 million R&D facility a year. We are developing a lot of innovative and high-level solution in all the fields, including in cybersecurity for smart grids, and smart systems in the world.


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