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Saudi Arabia 2017 | GREEN ECONOMY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Hisham Ali Al-Bahkali, President & CEO of GE Saudi Arabia & Bahrain, on renewables, investing in infrastructure, and activities in the aviation sector.

How are you participating in renewable energy generation and the water sector?

Diversification of power generation in Saudi Arabia is now changing and will further accelerate, as the government has announced in Saudi Vision 2030 that renewables are to be an important part of the energy mix in the future. The Renewable Energy Project Development Office (REPDO), part of the Ministry of Energy, Industry & Mineral Resources, is drafting the right regulations and working to create a conducive environment for private companies to contribute to the renewables sector. General Electric is a global leader in the wind sector, and last year we agreed to install two wind turbines in the Kingdom with our long-term Saudi partners, one in the northern part of the country at Turaif and the second close to Riyadh at Huraymlah. Both wind turbines were installed in January 2017 at the same time, and were intended to demonstrate that wind turbine technology in Saudi Arabia is possible and worth pursuing. Today, both wind turbines are generating power. The government announced a target of 9.5GW of renewable energy by 2023 with the first 750MW now on the market. GE is proud to contribute to this and to be a part of clean energy projects in the Kingdom. From a water standpoint, GE is leading in water treatment plants, and we are generating 180 million cubic liters of clean water for remote areas.

What investments have you made in Saudi Arabia?

In each decade GE has been in the Kingdom, we have done something different from an investment point of view. From tapping oil resources, to helping different regions have access to electricity, to supporting aviation and the air force, to improving the healthcare system and latterly establishing an advanced manufacturing and innovation ecosystem. In 2012, GE launched what we referred to as Project Kingdom, which was a commitment to invest US$ 1 bn to support the economy by successfully undertaking localization projects in human capability development, manufacturing and innovation. When Saudi Vision 2030 was announced, we had been working on various investment initiatives for a few months at that time so GE was the first company to support the Vision by making a number of big announcement about a month later; .At this time we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Dussur (SAIIC) Saudi Arabian Industrial Investment Company)to co-invest around USD3 billion in strategic sectors that will support the localization of industrial value chains in Saudi Arabia to serve the domestic market and beyond. . We also signed a US$ 400 m agreement with Saudi Aramco and Cividale of Italy to set up a first-of-its-kind Forging & Casting manufacturing facility to serve the region's maritime and energy industries. At that time in May 2016 we also announced another eight programs including working with with MODON on smart factories, an aviation program with Middle East Propulsion Company (MEPC), and an agreement with AlSharqia Chamber to train 1,000 women in the Eastern Province on Digital and 3D design and printing. At GE, we work with stakeholders to make sure that all the Vision's areas are supported. Our collaboration with Dussur is to strengthen local content in Saudi Arabia, localize and support local hiring, and make sure that we support local Saudi suppliers and strengthen the “Made in Saudi" brand.

How do you currently participate in the aviation sector?

We are already working on the first investment we announced in May 2016 with MEPCon military aviation. We will bring support for the airplane engines such as the F110 and T700. We are currently building those localized capabilities and, later, with other investors, we are going to introduce overhaul and repair facilities.

Recent global spending cuts have affected research and innovation. How have you managed this?

We are working at high speed to demonstrate our R&D abilities in Saudi Arabia. We started a few years ago and of course there are high expectations from our local customers. As part of our investment initiatives, we have set up a research facility in Saudi and will be opening a new Hot & Harsh R&D facility at GEMTEC (GE Manufacturing & Technology Center), in Dammam that'll further focus on the energy sector. In Saudi Arabia we are working at the same speed and commitment and are working within the current environment to make sure that our commitments to our customers are not be affected.

What are your plans and expectations for the year ahead?

GE is here to stay and what we have built already is evidence of our long-term commitments. Our 2,000 strong GE team and our facilities are each part of a larger ecosystem. To see-through and to execute the results of it means that we need to continue to work hard in 2017, 2018, 2019 and beyond. The GE team is very excited and we have a lot of new blood in the company. In Saudi Arabia, GE planted seeds for the future and based on that we think that 2017 will be excellent year and 2018 will be even better for GE and its employees. We are going to continue what we have built, see the results, and take things to the very best level that we can.


 

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