Confronted as it is with a fast-growing population and rapid urbanisation and industrialisation, Saudi Arabia faces the challenge of high domestic power consumption. Another challenge is a deeply entrenched low tariff regimen, though it must be said the Kingdom in mid-2010 did revise its tariffs in a bid to limit subsidies. Industrial units and government consumer groups were introduced to higher tariffs.
The former challenge impacts the volumes of crude oil that can be reserved for export, which has an impact on GDP. While it is true the country is purposefully exploring solar and nuclear energy options, the policy makers ought to pursue energy efficiency with increased intensity.
Energy efficiency has been described as the low-hanging fruit – and for good reason. It is easily accessible and achievable, be through switching over to LED lamps; variable frequency drives (VFDs); energy modelling of buildings; proper commissioning, re-commissioning or continuous commissioning regimens; district cooling; or modern cooling systems, such as VRVs, TVRs or VRFs.
Energy efficiency presents itself as a better path to pursue. If allowed to percolate into the national fabric of society, it will allow for a smoother transition to a tariff structure, encompassing all sections of the society that is in keeping with the financial demands of unavoidable expansion of power capacity, despite the potential ameliorating effects of district cooling, LEDs, VFDs and cogeneration schemes.
As mentioned earlier, the mid-2010 revision of tariffs covered only the industrial and government consumer group sectors; the residential sector, which accounts for the largest share of the demand, is not yet significantly part of the belt-tightening measures in Saudi Arabia.
Arguably, another low-hanging fruit is a concerted drive to plug leakages, be it at the power generation stage or during the transmission and distribution stages. Substation losses in the Kingdom are in the region of 10%, and transmission and distribution losses in the region of 15%.
Renewable is laudable, but why not do more to look at solutions well within our grasp?
– B Surendar