SMART METERING TECHNOLOGIES

Lebanon 2018 | ENERGY & INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Fady Abou Jaoude, General Manager of BUTEC Utility Services (BUS), on how to better monitor developments, transitioning to smart systems, and developing its renewable activities.

 Fady Abou Jaoude
BIOGRAPHY
A graduate of the École Superieure des Affaires in Beirut and the École Superieure de Commerce de Paris, Fady Abou Jaoude has been the general manager of BUS since 2012. A distribution service provider managing around 520,000 customers, he has overseen the design, planning, and construction of new facilities, network O&M, meter reading, bill collection, and customer service at BUS, not to mention the roll-out of around 430,000 smart meters. Prior to this, he spent several years on large projects in Qatar and Abu Dhabi, including but not limited to the New Doha International Airport Cargo Warehouse, a USD75-million project.

What strategy is BUS employing to grow and achieve its goals?

We understood from the beginning the challenge was people-oriented rather than technical. We had to choose strong partners both in the region and across the globe to help us build this knowledge within the group. We were specialized in terms of EPC, but we also started working to diversify into services. We worked with some of the best firms to help us design and implement strategies to reach our goals, but we understood that the main success would come from developing the skills and competencies of people within our company. To this end, our training and the technical facility we established were key. This new facility is designed to train our people on both the technical and process fronts. We also implemented a complete project control system that allow us to monitor developments in great detail and see how our project is progressing and how we might improve our efforts. It has also allowed us to verify that proper safety procedures were being implemented. We have a dedicated department within the company that is tasked with monitoring everything, conducting analyses, and issuing reports.

How successful have your smart metering technologies been?

This project, which we were awarded in 2012, covers the whole value chain of the distribution sector, and we are managing the distribution sector on behalf of EDL. We are also doing the design and planning for the whole system and are working hard to take into consideration the growth of demand. We are responsible for the construction of new networks and facilities, as well as operations and maintenance. Additionally, we are the sole point of communication for customers and are responsible for metering, bill collection, and reporting. The smart metering is at the core of this project. Since we were unable to install these meters in the first five years of the project, we received an extension allowing us enough time to install them. As a core part of fixing and modernizing the distribution network, these meters are vital. We have done a number of live tests and pilot projects; however, though everything went well, especially with the testimony of international experts, we could not get the green light to deploy the system. This is a major milestone for EDL, and it wants to make sure that transitioning to smart systems can be as problem free as possible. Smart meters are valuable because they improve the collection process of EDL and reduce the instances of illegal activity. The meters do this through accurate consumption readings and then automatically transmit this data to the AMI center.

How have the group's activities in renewable energy sources been developed?

The group is interested in developing its activities on the renewable side. We have an IPP in Jordan and have just signed a PPA with the ministry here in Lebanon. We will also be participating with one of the three companies that the ministry has signed PPAs with to build wind farms. We are investing in one of these farms and have started to work on the early stages of the project. We strongly believe in the renewable sector. We have also expressed interest in solar farms that the ministry has proposed, and are among the firms that have submitted applications and expressions of interest. The timeline for the solar farm is largely contingent on how quickly the government is able to move.

What are BUS' main business objectives for 2018?

We are looking to expand our knowledge and experience abroad through our two main competitive advantages: our proven track record of success and the fact that we are from one of the most difficult countries in terms of electrical distribution; whoever succeeds in Lebanon can succeed anywhere.