POWERING AHEAD

Oman 2018 | GREEN ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Yaqoob Saif Al Kiyumi, CEO of Oman Power and Water Procurement Company (OPWP), on the challenges of growing water and electricity demand, planning for renewable energy projects, and its key objectives in the long term.

Yaqoob Saif Al Kiyumi
BIOGRAPHY
Yaqoob Saif Al Kiyumi has over 20 years of experience in different sectors in both technical and leadership roles. He previously worked for Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) and Occidental Oman in the oil and gas industry. He also had extensive exposure in the manufacturing industry and was with Sohar Aluminum prior to joining OPWP over three years ago. He is a graduate of the first cohort of the National CEO program and obtained his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Coventry University in the UK.

How has the current demand for power and water in Oman developed in recent years?

Regional growth continues to be enormous for both electricity and water, with residential, industrial, and commercial growth driving this demand. In the last 10 years, Oman has seen almost 9% growth in the power sector every year, and reaching this demand each year was keeping us on our toes. Energy usage by the end of 2017 was around 34GWh. Water is no different; demand has grown around 6%. Desalinated water usage in 2017 was close to 400 million cbm, or over 1 million cbm of desalinized water per day. The growth of the water network itself will also make a difference. Not all of Oman is covered by the main network, and the more we expand the network, the greater demand will be. We work with Rural Areas Electricity Company (RAECO), which distributes electricity in rural areas that are not connected to the main grid. We developed a power plant for RAECO in the province of Musandam to drive down costs and improve reliability of supply. With regard to a wind project in Dhofar, we will be buying electricity from RAECO, which is the eventual owner of the project.

How is OPWP moving forward in regard to renewable energy projects, and how are they expected to impact the economy?

The recent development in solar sources of energy and the economies of scale of developers and manufacturers are pushing prices low enough to make it economical for OPWP to purchase. OPWP is moving ahead with renewable energy and we now have a mandate from the Counsel of Financial Affairs and Energy Resources to have 10% of our energy, be produced by renewables by 2025. Our first tender for renewable energy could easily supply between 400 and 600MW, instead of the previously planned 200MW. There is a huge interest from developers in Oman's renewable opportunities. We have done a great deal of preparation in the past five years and have collected ground data at multiple locations as we want to ensure that interested developers have a bankable project. Once the initial projects are installed and we learn through their experience, we will then accelerate our pace. We want to reach our goals for 2025 much sooner, and if possible we will try to grow beyond our 10% target. The main challenge in the coming years may be energy storage that aims to address the intermittency of renewable energy supply, which is currently very expensive. Another set of challenges are the locations of solar projects and how we can get plots of land for given projects, as they require a fair bit of land. We also need to consider the transmission investment as well. Nevertheless, we will create a road map for ourselves in 2018 in order to reach our targets as best as possible.

What are OPWP's main objectives for 2018?

By mandate, we need to ensure that there are adequate capacities in water and power throughout the Sultanate. Power is key to our success as it is an OPWP responsibility, whereas we share the responsibility for water with PAEW. Fuel diversification is another key factor for 2018, and we need to ensure that momentum does not slow down. In the past few years, we worked in optimizing the use of gas per unit of power produced. The growth of power has increased, which is why we have been optimizing the use of gas per unit of power produced. In the last few years, we have managed to save almost OMR50 million (USD130 million) worth of gas, and we plan to work with our partners in 2018 on continuously optimizing the use of gas in power generation.