TBY talks to Dr. Osamah A. Alsayegh, Executive Director of the Energy and Building Research Center (EBRC), Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR), on increasing renewable energy generation capacity, improving energy security, and striving to align KISR with national development plans.

Dr. Osamah A. Alsayegh
Before assuming the position of Executive Director, Dr. Osamah A. Alsayegh was the Director of Science and Technology Division at the EBRC, KISR. He has led and participated in a number of energy system planning and strategy development projects for the State of Kuwait. Dr. Alsayegh received his bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees all in electrical engineering.

Can you tell us more about the Shagaya Renewable project?

We were granted 100sqkm to design and host multiple renewable energy technologies with the goal of commercially producing electricity to be supplied to the grid. Shagaya's implementation has been divided into three phases. Phase I is 80% complete. The purpose of this phase is to collect data and information for investors, which will be handled by the Ministry of Electricity and Water. We are also beginning Phase II now, and it is currently being adopted by the oil sector through Kuwait National Petroleum Company under the name of Al-Dibdibah. Phase II involves capacity installation of 1,200MW of renewable energy, and bid proposals are being reviewed. The Kuwait Authority for Project Partnership is now conducting feasibility studies for Phase III for another 1,000MW or more generated by the private sector; we see great interest from private-sector investors in the project and renewable energy.

How do you address the issues of energy security and drinking water in Kuwait?

Kuwait faces a challenge when it comes to water and energy. More than 95% of potable water comes from desalination, which is an energy-intensive technology as we basically burn oil, gas, and expensive resources to produce clean water. We are considering other technologies, especially renewable energy technologies, to be a part of the mix for the supply of potable water. Regarding electricity, the challenge is that we notice greater demand and consumption locally for energy due to transportation, building, and industry. We currently consume about 12-13% of the produced oil domestically among these sectors, and this is expected to rise to 20% by 2020. In addition to utility scale renewable stations, there are other initiatives that have been undertaken by Kuwait Foundation for Advancement of Science, Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, and Kuwait National Petroleum Companies to reverse this trajectory, and we see more business opportunities have emerged due to these initiatives to integrate renewable energy sources. We have three main goals for the benefit of Kuwait: free up more oil for exporting, protect the environment, and create new business opportunities and jobs.

How do you promote reduction of energy use in buildings?

If we want to promote greater efficiency with better consumer behavior, then it should not start with renewables but with energy-efficient measures. The problem is the low electricity tariff in Kuwait in general that has caused people not to look into this. We consume about 16MWh per capita annually, which is considered to be among the most inefficient consumption behavior in the world. Given that Kuwait is not an industrial country and our consumption does not contribute toward our economy, then the energy intensity is inefficient. Though, I am optimistic that energy reforms, price hikes in fuel and transportation, and possible electricity price reforms for industrial, commercial, and other sectors will result in better consumer behavior in the future.

How will your mission evolve along with the 2035 Development Plan?

To reach the 2035 goals, we need to diversify our sources of local energy so that we can export more oil for greater revenues and sustain our economy, which is so far not extremely diversified and still heavily reliant on oil. We also need to maintain Kuwait's position internationally by creating clean, environmentally friendly products. This is where innovation comes into play to make Kuwait's oil products more competitive and more attractive, adding value to our exports. This is the mission that the center is working on with the stakeholders. We are in the mid-term review of our eighth strategic plan that will end in 2020. We are reviewing what we have accomplished and are preparing the ninth strategic plan for 2020-2025. The 2035 vision has to truly be a fundamental part of our strategy.