WFES 2018 Preview

El Haddad ... The transition towards renewables

El Haddad ... The transition towards renewables

WFES capitalises on region’s green energy potential

The World Future Energy Summit 2018 expects more than 33,000 attendees from both the public and private sector over the four days coming from over 160 countries, WFES Group Event Director NAJI EL HADDAD tells K S SREEKUMAR


The World Future Energy Summit (WFES), the foremost platform dedicated to innovation, digitalisation and transformation in the global energy mix, which will be held in Abu Dhabi from January 15 to 18, 2018, will launch the inaugural edition of the Climate Innovation Exchange (CLIX) that will serve as a global marketplace for innovators, entrepreneurs and investors.

"We recently closed for submissions, which saw around 300 cleantech and environmental entrepreneurs apply for funding in order to roll out their product, which ranges from $300,000 to more than $12 million per project," says WFES Group Event Director Naji El Haddad in an exclusive interview with OGN.

Some 30 semi-finalists will pitch their ideas and products that focus on one of three main areas: air pollution, clean mobility and agriculture. This is the first of its kind in the region, and represents a unique and significant opportunity for all involved, he says.

Referring to renewables, El Haddad says solar energy prices per kilowatt hour are continuing to fall, as cheaper technologies and more efficient solutions enter the market. In October 2017, Masdar and EDF bid to supply power from a 300-megawatt photovoltaic plant in Saudi Arabia for the record-breaking cost of 1.79 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). The previous record price was for Abu Dhabi’s Sweihan solar plant at 2.42 cents / kWh.


Excerpts from the interview:

What will be the highlights of WFES 2018? What has been the tangible outcome from WFES editions over the years? Business-wise how did WFES fare last year?

The past year has been very important for the region’s solar industry, with record-breaking bids that will deliver the lowest price per kilowatt hour in the world. WFES 2018 will reflect this by providing a special focus on these solar developments with some of the world’s leading manufacturers, including many innovative businesses representing the Chinese market.

However, WFES 2018 will go beyond this to look at how the latest technological trends are also impacting the energy sector. This includes artificial intelligence and the emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which will disrupt existing models across the board.

As for past business successes, WFES is a business-first environment that provides a comprehensive ecosystem for energy sector actors to grow and develop. WFES 2017 saw 639 companies exhibiting from 30 countries. We set up a dedicated digital matchmaking platform for exhibitors and registered buyers, through which 8,600 meetings were organised.


What are the new things that you have added to WFES 2018 compared with the previous edition?

This year, we are pleased to be introducing the inaugural edition of the Climate Innovation Exchange (CLIX), which will serve as a global marketplace for innovators, entrepreneurs and investors. We recently closed for submissions, which saw around 300 cleantech and environmental entrepreneurs apply for funding in order to roll out their product, which ranges from $300,000 to more than $12 million per project. 30 semi-finalists will pitch their ideas and products that focus on one of three main areas: air pollution, clean mobility and agriculture.

This is the first of its kind in the region, and represents a unique and significant opportunity for all involved.

ClIX also provides a platform for education and engages directly with students from the region and encourages them to realise their potential in cleantech and entrepreneurial fields. This is a major factor for securing the future of renewable energies and stimulating a successful environment.


What will be the main themes and topics of discussion at WFES 2018? How will companies and organisations in the energy industry benefit from participating in the Summit?

As well as providing a special focus on solar energy and entrepreneurialism, the World Future Energy Summit will incorporate the theme of Easternisation. With the emergence of disruptive and game-changing industry players coming out of the Eastern market, WFES 2018 will highlight some of the latest challenges and opportunities surrounding these trends. This is a significant business opportunity for Eastern market actors and regional projects alike, and companies will be taking part in a truly international marketplace.


What has been the impact of the oil price crash on renewable energy? Won’t it throw a damper on efforts to embrace renewable energy as it will become costlier than fossil fuels?

Solar energy prices per kilowatt hour are continuing to fall, as cheaper technologies and more efficient solutions enter the market. In October 2017, Masdar and EDF bid to supply power from a 300-megawatt photovoltaic plant in Saudi Arabia for the record-breaking cost of 1.79 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). The previous record price was for Abu Dhabi’s Sweihan solar plant at 2.42 cents / kWh.

The oil market’s performance has highlighted the need to diversify domestic energy consumption worldwide, and renewable energies are the main source of investment. This is a trend we see across the industry and the region, with Saudi Arabia launching investments of $50 billion in renewables earlier this year, for example.

Of course, there is also an intersection between fossil fuels and renewables. In fact, the first session of WFES 2018 is titled ‘using renewables to reinvent the oil industry’s business model’, and address the ways in which oil companies are looking at renewable energy as a means of growing their existing businesses.


What are the key challenges and opportunities for the required transition? Which measures will help companies develop, produce and commercialise green technologies? Which regulations, policies and mechanisms can accelerate renewable deployment?

The groundwork for effective and sustainable transition to renewable energies has been accelerated through ambitious plans and significant funding. This is the start of the shift, and it will only gather momentum as individuals and the private sector follow suit.

Government incentives and initiatives are proven to be effective in driving the uptake of renewables. On an individual level, this is a trend we have seen globally with electric vehicles, for example, where government subsidies and tax cuts have contributed to wide uptake globally. Specific to the region, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority has encouraged individuals to install photovoltaic solar panels on their roofs and contribute surplus energy back into the grid. Similarly, Adwea has launched its Demand Side Management programme called "Tarsheed", which was actually announced at WFES 2017. This initiative aims to help and encourage customers to use water and electricity more efficiently, and contributes to UAE mandates for protecting the environment for the benefit of future generations.

The transition towards renewables is a global challenge that affects every market, and the World Future Energy Summit provides an appropriate context to learn from international experiences and apply them on a worldwide scale.


How would you describe the role of WFES in the development of renewable energies in the Mena region?

WFES is a business-first environment that makes the growing regional renewable energy sector accessible to international manufacturers and suppliers – from start-ups to established multinationals. We have representatives from some of the most significant renewable projects in the region, such as Masen in Morocco, which is to implement the largest Concentrated Solar Power complex in the world, capable of delivering 550 MW capacity in 2018. The Mena region is awash with renewable energy opportunities, and the World Future Energy Summit is an important place for businesses to form ties and forge the future of the sector.

WFES works to capitalise on the regional renewable energy potential by providing an encouraging, engaging and accessible environment for youth. As the upcoming generation that will pioneer the industry, this provides and important framework and opportunity for students of different ages to understand and enhance their role across the sector and industry. With a focus on career and entrepreneurial opportunities, CLIX is exemplar of this, and we look forward to seeing the results from this inaugural session, which we believe will be far-reaching.


How different will the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week be this year compared to the previous editions? What will be its key feature?

This year, Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week will bring a stronger focus on innovation and investing in the future. This includes the Climate Innovation Exchange at WFES, which has its match in Innovate @ IWS, the International Water Summit’s entrepreneurial and investment platform.

These are landmark developments that will stimulate the local cleantech sector by providing funding for projects that will positively impact global climate change solutions. Investors will have access to clean, green opportunities in the Middle East’s growing sustainability ecosystem.


What are your expectations regarding numbers of attendees and countries represented at the Summit from both the public and private sectors?

We expect more than 33,000 attendees over the four days coming from over 160 countries from both the public and private sector. As one of the leading events of its kind, the World Future Energy Summit consistently attracts thought leaders and stakeholders from relevant global players in the energy industry. Our online matchmaking platform has successfully facilitated introductions and meetings from a range of operators – before, during and after the Summit – and we look forward to seeing its benefits once again in 2018.


What key players and exhibitors from the region’s energy industry are expected to participate at the event?

Year on year, the World Future Energy Summit attracts leading individuals and organisations from the region’s energy industry. WFES 2018 will welcome senior representatives from the Ministry of Climate Change and the Ministry of Energy, while local authorities, such as the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority – the event’s strategic partner - and Dubai Electricity and Water Authority – one of the event’s key sponsors - have also provided their support once again.

Major International Oil Companies – such as Exxon, PB, Total, Oxy and Shell – will be present to showcase their latest innovations and developments, while National Oil Companies present include Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and Saudi Aramco.

In addition, notable multinationals – including Siemens, General Electric and others that are highly active in the region – will be exhibiting their latest capabilities and projects to regional and international audiences.




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