Interview: Jean-Pascal Tricoire

What steps must be taken to ensure that Saudi Arabia’s growing power and water needs are met? What role can technology play in ensuring this?

JEAN-PASCAL TRICOIRE: Technology and innovation are essential tools in the fight for sustainable power generation and against water scarcity worldwide. In Saudi Arabia, as elsewhere too, the growth in alternative sources of energy has created new opportunities for companies to integrate fresh energy sources with smarter upgrade projects across the country.

Smart grid solutions have played a central role in transforming the power industry, both by protecting energy sources from blackouts or attacks, and also by giving customers greater control over their own power consumption. Smart water management solutions can connect water utilities, providing valuable feedback on the best mechanisms to augment water resources without damaging the natural cycle.

To what extent should renewable energy sources be tapped for water and power generation?

TRICOIRE: Renewable resources will be critical to resolving any shortage in the power supply. Our goal is for power and water plants that are built from 2020 onwards to run on solar energy. This will provide access to secure and cost-efficient energy in different segments of the water supply chain, thereby reducing the pressure on existing infrastructure.

Moreover, the emerging trend of solar-based pumping solutions has offered a cost-effective alternative to grid and diesel-based irrigation pump sets. Water utilities are looking increasingly at distributed renewable energy solutions to improve efficiency and increase the resilience of supply networks.

Renewable energy-based desalination technologies are also playing a significant role in bridging the gap in the water supply. Such steps will prove to be vital for the years ahead, as water scarcity is now the single greatest challenge for all those concerned about responsible environmental stewardship.

How can the efficiency of electricity generation, transmission and consumption be improved?

TRICOIRE: A smart power grid can help improve the overall efficiency of electricity consumption, by significantly reducing electricity consumption. The price of a smart grid is paid back over time through the energy saved by residents and the capital expenditure reduction by the utility. Indeed, clean and affordable sources of energy are a key requirement to effectively combat future environmental challenges.

Solar panels, for instance, are safe, easy to install, reliable and widely available. The opportunities offered by these alternatives should be taken up more widely as a priority for all stakeholders. Even so, adequate policy measures to create a level playing field are still not available in all markets.

In what ways can more efficient monitoring and management of the energy supply contribute to greater usage of renewable energy sources?

TRICOIRE: As a result, it has become increasingly important to save non-renewable resources and switch to alternatives such as solar, wind and other renewables. Around $260bn a year has already been invested globally over the past five years. Alternative energy sources have already shown commercial promise across the Middle East, where the climate is favourable, costs have remained relatively low and other sources of power are expensive.

Smart grid solutions are also playing a central role in transforming the power industry. By letting businesses know how much power they are using, the machines involved and the costs every minute of the day, you provide them with the necessary tools to measure and reduce energy consumption.

Ultimately, to successfully manage the country’s energy supply, we must be able to monitor it, benchmark it, report on it and prioritise it for the coming years. This will be facilitated by big data and the innovations enabled by device-level monitoring.