What were the main highlights of 2019 and your expectations for 2020 in this regard?
We have looked at recent developments in renewable energy, whether solar, wind, or other options, and at the ease of disposal of diesel, subsidies, and environmental factors, to determine if they are feasible. Oman's National Vision also has the goal of 30% renewables by 2030, so Tanweer is a contributor to the country's wider vision. In 2019, one of our achievements was to take over a 50-MW wind project. That was commissioned, handed over to us, and is in the operational stage contributing to the grid in southern Oman. We are also in an advanced stage with respect to other renewable energy procurement activities. We have identified 11 sites where we have done expressions of interest and the pre-qualification stage. Hopefully in 2020, we will finalize the procurement cycle for these 11 renewable energy sites and then award these projects. Besides these activities, Tanweer is also involved in efficiency improvements and competencies development as we look to the renewable energy horizon.
What will be Tanweer's main procurement activities in 2020 in each of its licensed areas?
For Phase I of our hybrid renewable projects for the 11 sites, we have already passed the pre-qualification stage. We are now onto the technical bidding stage. This is why we have only qualified 15 out of the 60-plus consortiums that expressed an interest. We are at the stage where the consortiums have to submit their technical proposals for maximizing renewable energy resources and improving efficiency. The 15 consortiums are a mix of local and international portfolios of companies. It is encouraging to see this mix of different types of commercial arrangements. We are not sure if all of them will continue through the tendering stage or if some will drop out because there are elements of these 11 sites that are extremely challenging. We are working on Phase II of our renewable hybrid program, and it will come once we have identified a few more sites. However, we want to go through the learning cycle of this first phase before we move on to other projects.
The 50-MW Dhofar Wind farm is an important milestone for the GCC region. What does it mean for Oman's energy mix, and what role will wind energy have in completing Oman-wide electricity coverage?
Wind potential is strong in southern Oman, and solar potential is strong in the north. Dhofar is the first of many wind projects in the pipeline. Having 50MW is insignificant in terms of the overall potential in that area. Any investment in wind technology would have to cope with the demand in that area. In the future, we expect there to be inter-connection between the north and south. If that happens, we will be able to add much more capacity than 50MW. It will definitely be a significant contributor to Oman's energy mix; however, the main driver will be the planning of these projects to cope with the growth in demand, as well as the inter-link between north and south Oman. The interlink project is progressing and will go all the way to Duqm in Phase I, which will be operational by 2023.
Will we witness any milestones in 2020 regarding these disruptive technologies?
Yes, automatic meter reading is one of them. That will be a game-changer. Instead of manual readings and issuing of bills, we are moving more toward automated meter readings and green bills. The water sector has stopped printing bills. We have to do that too, but in a way that is controlled and managed. We do not want to leap into disruptive technology that leads to immediate unemployment. For example, we have a number of meter readers, so changes such as introducing smart meters have to include re-skilling those people into other fields, such as analytics.