Interview with Unicorn Electromechanical

In an interview with MEP Middle East, Mohammed Rashied Ali, director, Unicorn Electromechanical, talks about the power sector in the Middle East

Mohammed Rashied Ali, director, Unicorn Electromechanical.
Mohammed Rashied Ali, director, Unicorn Electromechanical.

In an interview with MEP Middle East, Mohammed Rashied Ali, director, Unicorn Electromechanical, talks about the power sector in the Middle East. 

Do elaborate on the power/electrical sector in the Middle East? How is the growth and demand?

Power/Electricity demand is increasing rapidly in the Middle East driven by urbanisation, economic development, industrialization, and increasing population. In the coming years, we expect this demand to continue rising; thus, it is essential to increase the regions current capacity to generate enough to meet the demand. Especially in the UAE with Expo 2020 approaching, the power consumption in the region will be more than doubled and the government needs to considerably increase the energy supply in the future, especially cleanly generated electricity.

We can already see a major change in government policies to shift to solar and other renewable sources of energy rather than depending on hydrocarbons. UAE is building its first nuclear power station in Barakah set to start power generation in May 2017. The entire plant will be fully operational by 2020. Once completed, Barakah Nuclear plant will produce 25% of country’s power requirement and will save 12 million Tons in carbon emissions every year. Many countries are diversifying fuel sources and investing in renewable energies, especially solar power, as part of their efforts to expand power supply.

Companies in the power sector should evolve and adapt to changes in the market demand. There is huge demand for solar power plant equipment suppliers and contractors. Also, many countries are planning to shift to electric vehicles and we can expect demand for electric vehicle charging stations. Power distribution companies have released new regulations for solar power plants and electric vehicle charging stations to which contractors have to comply.

HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai has initiated for 10 Giga Watt Plant by 2020 for clean energy. His vision has successfully converted into the currently expansion happening for 1 Giga Watt each in both emirates Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The world’s largest single-site solar park located near Al Qudra in Dubai can generate up to 200MW solar energy daily. This initiative has great potential for electromechanical companies like Unicorn and general suppliers, solar panel suppliers, cable suppliers. Unicorn Electromechanical was bidding for this project as an MEP Contractor with a vision of employing 30% of UAE nationals to execute this mega project, but unfortunately could not win to be a part of this prestigious project. 

Saudi Arabia too plays a significant role by announcing 300 Mega Watt plant recently. Kuwait, Oman, and Egypt across the Middle East can see lot of potential for this sector.

This move will encourage foreign investments from across the globe and increase employment in the region.

What are the challenges facing the power sector in this region?

With the rapid increase in the power demand in the Middle East in the past many years, major challenge faced by the power sector in this region is the security of supply with ever increasing demand. To generate power the obstacles faced are affordability, efficiency, and sustainability.

Governments are working hard for better, efficient and cost-effective sources for power generation with sustainable resources and looking to maximise options to decrease the consumption of energy. Governments are also looking into partnering with the private sector and independent power producers to increase the regions electricity supply.

As governments are diversifying the power sources like solar, nuclear, gas etc., the power sector should gear up with innovative products matching with the regulations of power distribution companies. One another major challenge in the solar sector is that we still do not have cheap power storing batteries and good solar power maintenance companies.

The trend in electrical sector is changing from fossil (gas and coal) to clean energy (wind/solar). The tariff across the globe, back in 2012 was 10 cents per kwh which has now drastically reduced to 2 ½ cents per kwh. This kind of competitive tariff is creating challenges across electromechanical companies like us. Electromechanical companies are unable to reduce MEP construction cost as we are unable to lower the high expense on labour, material, labour accommodation, rental equipment etc. We are looking for support from the concerned authorities to revise the labour accommodation policies and visa costs for the labourers and would really appreciate if the authorities could come up with some kind of exemption for this sector which will help electromechanical companies like Unicorn to set-off their cost which will in turn benefit this sector.

Power generated is mainly consumed for the HVAC equipment in the Middle East. Wrong selection of equipment, glazed buildings and unmaintained equipment will further increase the power consumption. Every watt saved will be a watt generated. The authorities need to look into these concerns being one of the key challenges faced by power industry. 

According to you, what are some of the innovative products in the coming years for switchgears?

The switch gear industry is directly linked with the construction and industrial sector of the region. The growth in the construction industry has never dropped down in UAE even in the tougher times which will raise the need of advanced switch gears as well. The Middle East market is more in to importing the branded switchgear components which will be assembled according to the local authority specifications. The coming years will observe thinner and compact switch gears which will make smaller electrical cabinets in near future. The switches also started vanishing nowadays with the arrival of smart control systems and IP-based controllers.

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