The first day of the Siemens Energy Middle East and Africa (MEA) Energy Week conference kicked off with a discussion on transformation.
The conference started with a keynote address from Damilola Ogunbiyi, the CEO and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), who spoke about the impact that energy access has on people’s lives.
Her impassioned speech touched on the importance of access to sustainable and clean energy which are the keys to unlock a prosperous future for billions of people around the world.
She acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted an incredible response in terms of innovation and life-saving electricity connections for health centers across Africa and Asia that otherwise struggle with large energy access.
“Countries need to pursue a ‘recover better’ strategy that invests in clean energy, can benefit from increased GDP, greater energy provision, job creation and improved agriculture, gender and health outcomes,” Ogunbiyi said.
“This strategy should focus on integrated, reliant energy transitions that accelerates the pace of progress on access, prioritising energy efficiency and support faster growth of renewables,” she added.
Following the keynote, was the first panel discussion of the day: “The energy of tomorrow and the shift to a more sustainable world.”
This session featured John Defterios, CNN’s Business Emerging Markets Editor, as a moderator, and a distinguished speaker list that included Siemens Energy CEO, Christian Bruch; UAE’s Masdar’s CEO Mohamed Al Ramahi; National Grid Saudi Arabia’s CEO Ibrahim Al Jarbou and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Director General Francesco La Camera.
The first panel touched on the challenges that the energy industry is facing as we advance towards greater sustainability, innovation and ultimately the transformation of the energy landscape. We are in the midst of paradigm shift in the energy world, moving away from fossil fuels and toward a more diverse energy mix including Hydrogen and Nuclear energy but the session also highlighted the importance of interim solutions while we make that shift to renewables.
“The energy world is very complex, and we cannot tackle it with a simplistic approach. It requires optionality and diversity of solutions,” Bruch said during the session.
“As we transition to a more sustainable energy landscape, it’s important to offer interim solutions and look into changing the bounding conditions. Renewables will play an essential role of course but the truth of the matter is that we still need gas and the shift in the energy dynamics will take time,” he added.
The second panel of the day, entitled “Energizing societies to enable successful and sustainable growth,” touched on the importance of government and private sector partnerships to address the address the energy transition. There are still 850 million people worldwide without reliable access to electricity and addressing that would require government initiatives and an adjustment of policies to encourage investment.
The session started with a keynote from Siemens Energy’s Karim Amin EVP Generation who emphasized the need to eradicate energy inequality and unreliability around the world, especially in the Middle East and Africa.
“There are still today areas that are suffering from significant (energy) shortcomings in the provision of access to electricity, not only in rural areas but in capitals and major cities. Africa is home to 17% of the world’s population but accounts for just 4% of global investment in electric energy. We need to act now to eradicate such energy inequality,” Amin said.
This session was moderated by Siemens energy’s Onyeche Tifase, the Managing Director for Nigeria and Head of Strategy, Technology, and Innovation at Siemens Energy’s Industrial Applications Division. The distinguished speaker list included His Excellency Majid El Emara, Iraq’s Minister of Electricity; His Excellency Sharif Al Olama, the undersecretary of the UAE’s Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure; His Excellency Goddy Jedy-Agba, Nigeria’s Minister of State, Power Federal Republic of Nigeria; His Excellency Dona Jean-Claude Houssou, Benin’s Minister of Energy; as well as Acwa Power’s President and Chief Executive Paddy Padmanathan and Siemens Energy’s Managing Director for the Middle East, Dietmar Siersdorfer.
The panelists discussed the various roadmaps and policy changes their countries are undertaking to meet their need for electrification and spur the energy transition. One key topic that was discussed was the need to provide clear regulation to encourage and attract investors.
“Governments need to become even more ambitious… and recognize all that technology that innovation and entrepreneurship is offering us. So what is really needed is a comprehensive, legal regulatory framework for investment, Padmanathan said.
“It is absolutely essential to attract the right partners and also it gives the confidence for us to make the very significant capital investments,” he added.
Siemens Energy’s Siersdorfer concluded the session saying that to achieve long-term successful energy transition it has to be inclusive for all the countries and communities. It should be customized to meet the national needs.
The last session of the day, entitled, “Financing tomorrow’s energy systems to realize the potential of sustainability”, was moderated by Siemens Energy’s Michael Bueker, SVP Finance in the Middle East. Distinguished panelists included Edna Schöne, Member of the Board of Euler Hermes; Niall Hannigan, UAE’s Masdar Chief Executive; Rola Abu Manneh, CEO of Standard Chartered Bank in the UAE; and Maria Ferraro, Siemens Energy’s CFO.
The session focused on the importance of holistic and competitive financing models that would enable the shift towards more sustainable energy systems.
“Opportunities abound but so does competition. With more competition, there needs to be more innovative and cost competitive financing solutions to be able to cope with this competition,” said Masdar’s Hannigan.
Ferraro concluded the last session of the day by emphasizing the need to work together and collaborate to achieve a successful energy transition.
“We need to work together, and I believe we have seen success when it is done that way. we want to energize society,” Ferraro said.
The event continues.