Using Power to Change the Future

One of the great thinkers in the modern history of the world, Abraham Lincoln, once said that the best way to predict the future was to create it. Change is inevitable, and we, humans, are constantly faced with the options of either effecting the change ourselves or being subject to the result of some other factor’s change.

Lincoln’s world-famous quote asserts that we have a say in what the future will hold for us, and that proactivity, as opposed to reactivity, will offer us our desired results.

This citation holds true till this very day, and still finds application in almost all facets of life. Each and every day, we, our relatives, our companies and even our governments are confronted with the compulsion to make decisions, selecting one or the other, to move forward. Oftentimes, the decision of the greater elements of the society sets off a domino effect, trickling the repercussion down to the nucleus. There may also be instances when the effects of the choices of the citizens escalate to the powers that be. In most cases, the relationship between the components of a society may not linear – there may be a constant push-and-pull or imposition-and-retaliation, or, at best, demand-and-submission.

Let us contextualize the foregoing discussion and throw the spotlight on the present energy situation in the Middle East. Let us examine the scenario through the prism of “choices”, and study how a marginal shift in behavior, say, leads to encompassing and durative effects.

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Power at home
It may be hard to argue that it is the choice of the residents of the Middle East to raise the temperatures during summer to as high as 50°C, or more, at times. We may also consider that putting on air conditioners is a foregone conclusion, otherwise the living conditions will be utterly unbearable. We may say, however, that they have a choice in which AC unit to buy, or in considering the lifecycle cost of an electric product instead of its first cost. We could also be excused in saying that they also have a choice in how to take advantage of the power subsidy that they get from their governments, and on ascertaining how much electricity is essentially needed in their daily lives.

Studies cite that Saudis, for example, use nine times more electricity than the citizens of the four largest Arab countries. An individual in Saudi Arabia consumes around 8,200 kilowatt in an hour compared to an average 951 kilowatt an hour by an individual from Egypt, Algeria, or Morocco. Moreover, energy consumption per individual in Saudi Arabia was observed to have risen by three per cent in 2011 and by nine per cent in 2012. In the entire energy mix, the housing sector was estimated to be responsible for consuming 50% of the country’s total energy production.

To which, however, can one attribute this dizzying energy consumption average? Though not absolute, energy industry experts ascribe a large part the high electricity consumption to the poor energy efficiency of AC systems that the citizens of the region ultimately bring home. HVAC systems consume approximately 51% of all electricity production in the region, and this can reach up to 70% during the summer months. A considerable number of AC systems on offer are observed to have low energy efficiency ratios (EERs) despite the presence and promotion of energy efficiency standards in Middle Eastern countries. In most cases, air conditioners with low EERs are the cheapest, attracting buyers to give premium to the price they see on the tag than to the number of stars rating the performance of the unit.

What most users are not aware of is that, though units with higher EER are more expensive, they run more efficiently, reducing monthly power consumption, thus reflecting as less billed electricity. More technologically advanced units also operate longer without the need for repair or servicing, thereby cutting on maintenance costs.

Power in the country
To support the region’s daily electricity consumption, countries use an estimated millions of barrels of oil a day – notably one of the highest in the world.

Industry experts observe that the upward trend in the regional power demand is owing to the fact that most of the Middle Eastern countries’ development is based on energy-intensive industries, like construction, manufacturing, water desalination and oil & gas. The region’s economic conditions are also highly attractive to expatriates and foreign businesses, which causes the Middle East’s population to spike. Due to the region’s unique climate, residents in the Middle East live energy-intensive lifestyles in their homes, offices and means of transportation.

The energy situation in the region is predicted to take more challenging turns. In Saudi Arabia, for example, authorities are predicting that by the year 2020, the demand for electricity in the Kingdom would have increased by 30,000 MW. The World Energy Council supports this forecast and adds that the power consumption in the Middle East and North Africa can rise by as much as 80%-114% till 2050.

With over 50% of the world’s proven oil reserves and approximately 40% of the world’s gas, the foremost choice for the Middle East will be to rely on fossil fuels for decades to come. The challenge, however, is that fossil fuels are finite resources, and some countries in the region are already feeling the pressure of the current demand on power generation.

Just recently, industry experts in Iraq have reported that the country’s ability to generate electricity was being hampered by a shortage of gas supply to its power plants. Owing to this predicament, Iraq’s electricity supply is deficient by at least 3,000 MW, and major power plants, such as Nainawa, Al Mansurya and Rumaila remain idle. Experts say that the peak power demand in the country hits 16,000 MW compared to only 12,000 MW of available electricity.

According to industry studies, there may be real dangers looming in light of the observed depletion of the Middle East’s fossil fuel reserves, largely due to the continuous growth of the regional power demand. First, when the dedicated fossil fuel resource could no longer support the electricity requirement, power supply may become unstable and interruptions may ensure, resulting in myriad negative impacts to the region’s economy, business and people. A power interruption affecting critical facilities, like hospitals, airports, telecommunication towers, data centers and oil & gas installations, has the potential to put an entire country or region to a standstill, and in light of regional integration among Middle Eastern countries, consequences are sure to spill over national borders.

Second, market projections suggest that the persistence of the current energy requirement patterns in the region may render Middle Eastern countries vulnerable to economic and social instability. Let us take Saudi Arabia as an example: The unrestrained domestic fuel consumption in the Kingdom may hamper its ability to export oil within a decade, and considering that over 80% of the country’s government spending is dependent on oil, a downtrend in the Kingdom’s oil export activities may affect its capacity to provide for its residents’ needs in the future. On the other hand, a limited supply to other countries could lead to soaring prices of oil and other petroleum products, which will consequently distress all the industries that depend on it for production and operation.

With predicaments such as these, what choices are there to make?

At present, the governments of the Middle East have initiated tapping alternative sources of energy, like the sun, but designing, constructing, commissioning, testing and employing these technologies may take time and millions, if not billions, of Dollars in initial investment. Authorities have also launched conformity assessment schemes and energy efficiency & conservation programs aimed at modifying the attitude and the behavior of end-users towards energy consumption. Shifting the existing paradigm, however, may take decades, if not generations, and without curbing the present energy requirement, the region’s existing power resources may not be able to sustain it until the foreseeable future.

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Empowered choice
While the long-term solutions are underway, countries in the Middle East may take a proactive approach in dealing with the region’s energy situation by hiring the services of rental power companies.

Hiring temporary power generation plants to bridge the demand and the supply of electricity yields many advantages, particularly when there is a foreseeable delay in the completion of permanent electricity facilities or when a considerable amount of power is immediately needed. Interim power generators are essential, particularly in times when the electrical grid is unstable or when power distribution networks are unavailable. The technology is also vital in mitigating the effects of planned or unplanned facility shut down or of load shedding.

Temporary power plants also have tested and recognized benefits in times of emergency, natural calamities & weather disturbance or intense seasonal demand. Disasters, unanticipated weather shifts and peak power requirements put unpredicted pressure on the region’s energy reserves, and addressing these ad hoc cases could mean taking power resources already allocated for other functions. Utilizing interim power generators in times like these not only instantaneously resolves the deficiency in supply but also precludes untoward and long-term effects that reorganization of energy resources may have to a wide array of industries.

Interim power generation facilities are sustainable, efficient and cost-effective solutions to a gamut of energy-related challenges. They respond to the questions of immediacy, viability and affordability. They are highly practical especially for short- and medium-term hire, as building permanent facilities for provisional usage may not be the most economical and workable choice. Temporary power plants offer utmost flexibility, scalability and modularity to fit in any situation, for any requirement, and to every budget.

The future is what you make it
Fossil fuels are non-renewable and the Middle East’s reserves are observed to be gradually diminishing. Alternative sources of energy, like the sun, may be abundant, but projects that could launch them at the forefront of power generation will take decades and a huge amount of country’s resources. Governments and utility companies in the Middle East are now offered an alternative choice to respond to the region’s power challenges aside from venturing into multi-billion Dollar energy facilities or pushing for a shift in existing consumption standards. They now have an option to hire interim power plants to bridge the power gap where needed and when needed. Now, the onus is upon us to make good use of the resources on offer and take the choices that would lead us to a future that we have envisioned for us, for our children and our children’s children.

Technical Review Genset Special Cover

*The foregoing article is based on an article originally published in Issue 4 2014 of Technical Review Middle East, published by Alain Charles Publishers.*

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Altaaqa Global
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Power Leads to Economic Resilience

Africa is intensively pushing to build and grow its economy on the back of increased domestic demand, aggressive infrastructure construction activities and economic interconnection among countries in the continent. In fact, in a recent annual meeting in Rwanda, the African Development Bank (AfDB), presenting its African Economic Outlook 2014, reported that the continent’s economy was expected to grow by 4.8% in 2014 and 5.7% in 2015, approximating its growth figures pre-economic downturn.

The ongoing economic efforts in the continent will, naturally, have to be supported by energy. Gone are the days of organic economies, where economic growth could be achieved through mere human and animal strength. In this day and age, almost all economies rely on power to sustain their activities and produce tangible results. Power has become an integral component of any economy or society that outages and blackouts could bring about devastating consequences.

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Africa’s power scenario
To support Africa’s ambition to achieve economic sustainability, diversity and viability, it will primarily need to boost its infrastructure to support the growth of its various industries. To achieve that, the continent will require massive amounts of power. Does it, however, have enough energy to sustain this power-intensive phase?

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) sounded a warning that an escalating power supply deficiency in Africa may hamper the projected economic growth. It has been documented that some 25 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa were facing an energy crisis, evidenced by rolling blackouts, and that some 30 countries in region had suffered acute energy crises in recent years. While the Key World Energy Statistics by the International Energy Agency reported that electricity generation in Africa rose from 1.8% in 1973 to 3.1% in 2011, the continent still remained to have the smallest share globally, despite being the second most populous continent.

With Africa’s population expected to double to approximately 1.9 billion people by 2050, and with the continent’s industries projected to require power at almost full capacity, the World Bank said that a much higher investment would be needed to at least double Africa’s current levels of energy access by 2030. In fact, it is estimated that the Sub-Saharan region would require more than USD 300 billion in investments to achieve total electrification by 2030.

The power instability: The bigger picture
Sub-Saharan Africa was observed to have absorbed much of the blow of the recent power crisis. Blackout brought cities to a standstill and spelt terminal financial losses to small- and medium-scale companies. Mining, one of the region’s pillar industries, was severely affected, even prompting mining companies to shelve expansion plans and curtail local power usage.

Nigeria, for instance, a country that has three times the population of the Republic of South Africa (South Africa), only has one-tenth of the power generation capacity of the latter, and business in the country are reportedly starting the feel the effects of power interruptions in their daily turnover.

In Tanzania, a blackout that lasted for almost a month was experienced in Zanzibar when the underwater cable lines supplying power to the archipelago failed, owing to a huge surge in demand. As a result, residents needed to shell out USD 10 daily to run diesel-powered domestic generators, while businesses requiring refrigeration or heating had to suspend operations until power was restored.

In Angola, the occasional recession of the water level in some of the rivers affects power production, distressing allied services, like water distribution. Luanda’s water supply firm, EPAL, cited that various areas in the city experienced water supply shortage, owing to challenges related to power distribution.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), touted to be Africa’s biggest copper producer, in May 2014 advised mining companies in the country to suspend any project expansion that would require more power, amidst a power shortage that, the government said, would take years to resolve.

Even the Republic of South Africa, the region’s largest economy, was not exempt from power-related woes. In a communiqué in June 2014, Eskom, supplier of 95% of the country’s electricity, warned residents of a rolling blackout due to load-shedding, which, it said, was necessary to protect the electricity grid from total blackout. Eskom said it had begun scaling down maintenance to prepare for winter, but in the face of a rising energy demand, particularly during peak hours, it appealed to the public to reduce power consumption by at least 10%. If the power demand does not decline, then, the company said, load shedding would be the last resort to avoid a total power shutdown.

At present, solutions are underway – but these, naturally, will not come without a hefty price and cannot be completed within days or weeks. Economic reports indicated that, at the prevailing growth rate of the demand from industries and residents, the region would have to double its power generating capacity by 2025, at an approximate cost of USD 171 billion in South Africa alone.

In order to sustain this projection, the governments in Africa have identified potential sources of funds, such as power rate hikes and foreign investment. Yet, power hikes could stir social unrest and could prompt industrial entities to cut down on operations, putting jobs and production at risk. Foreign investment agreements, on the other hand, could take time to materialize, and the planning, designing, installation and commissioning of permanent power generation projects may entail several years, if not decades.

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How temporary power plants can help
Power is indeed a fundamental element for any economy to function, as every sector of the modern society, be it domestic, commercial or industrial, is, in a way or another, dependent on electricity. Nowadays, a power interruption affecting critical facilities, like hospitals, airports, telecommunications towers, data centers, mining facilities and oil & gas installations, has the potential to put an entire country, region or city to a standstill, and in light of globalization and economic integration, the consequences could spill over regional, national or even continental borders.

Hiring interim power plants to bridge the gap between the demand and the supply of electricity yields many advantages, particularly when there is a foreseeable delay in the construction of permanent power generation facilities or while waiting for the permanent power plants to be completed.

When time is of essence, rental power companies, like Altaaqa Global CAT Rental Power, are capable of providing solutions as needed, when needed. Utility companies in the region, like Eskom in South Africa, Kenya Electricity Generating Company, Tanzania Electric Supply Company, the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, the Concelho Nacional de Electricidade in Mozambique, the Empresa Nacional de Electricidade in Angola and the Société nationale d’électricité in DRC, among others, can hire temporary power plants in times when the demand outpaces the supply, when the electrical grid becomes unstable due to a spike in electricity requirement or when power distribution networks are unavailable, like in the rural areas. This will allow them to bridge the supply deficit immediately. Hiring power generators can prove to be a viable solution to power supply inefficiency, bridging the power gap while the permanent power solution is still in progress.

With an immediate solution on hand, the governments and the utility companies can avert resorting to raising the prices of electricity or curtailing the supply of power during peak hours. On a greater scope, an instantaneous resolution of Africa’s escalating energy supply challenges will preclude social and political instability and massive financial losses to businesses and individuals.

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The power to go further
The continent that was once regarded as a tail-ender in terms of development, is now making an aggressive move towards economic stability and viability. To sustain the economic growth that Africa is now enjoying, it is imperative that the governments in the continent address the critical issue of chronic power shortage, which could hamper the development of various industries in the countries. The effort that the African governments are putting to address this predicament is commendable, but there exist other entities that can help them to further alleviate the situation. Rental power companies propose solutions that address the issues of urgency, cost-efficiency, reliability, energy-efficiency and environmental safety. It is advisable that utility companies provide for a contingent power solution in cases of power interruption that may lead to operational delays and, ultimately, negative social, political, economic and financial consequences.

IMIESA October coverage cover

The foregoing article was originally published in the October 2014 issue of IMIESA, published by 3S Media, South Africa.

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Robert Bagatsing
Altaaqa Global
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Putting power in the hands of the communities

Kenya has had a taste of the consequences of high costs of electricity and erratic electric power generation. Droughts experienced in recent years had driven water heights in major dams to precarious levels, that power industry authorities were left with no other conceivable choice but to rely on imported fuel to produce electricity. High cost of available fuel in the international market drove electricity prices up – a burden that would have to be passed on to industrial and private consumers that were fortunate enough to be connected to power lines.

While rising energy prices were the bane of these end-users, approximately 90% of Kenya’s rural population and an estimated 45% of the country’s urban residents were yet to gain access to electricity, while a projected 60% of Kenya’s total population still used biomass as a source of energy for cooking.

The energy situation in Kenya was far from being stable, to say the least.

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Kenya’s renewable energy potential

The country’s energy situation represented a daunting affair for any government to try to overturn. But somehow, something has to be started somewhere, so Kenyan authorities trained their gaze on renewable energy sources for solutions. Today, Kenya’s renewable energy sector is touted to be one of the most active in Africa, with investments in wind, geothermal, small-scale hydro and biomass rising from virtually zero in 2009 to approximately USD 1.3 billion in recent years. Kenya is considered to be the largest producer of geothermal power in Africa and is known as a world leader in the number of solar power systems installed per capita.

Kenya’s renewable energy sources hold enormous potential. For instance, experts from the African Energy Policy Research Network 2004 observe that, at an average, Kenya receives an estimated four to six kWh per square meter per day of solar insolation, which is equivalent to about 300 million tons of oil. The study adds that most areas in the country can enjoy the benefits of solar energy, because they receive more than six hours of direct sunlight per day.

Moreover, according to scientific studies, Kenya has one of the best wind resources in the world, averaging between three and 10 m/s, with northern Kenya even hitting record speeds of up 11 m/s. Experts suggest that wind energy facilities can be strategically installed along the coast and in areas where agricultural production is counter-intuitive, like in the Northeastern Province. The Lake Turkana Wind Project currently underway is poised to provide 300 MW of wind power to Kenya’s national grid.

While the country has already been thriving in geothermal energy production, experts say that only two per cent of the country’s geothermal potential has been tapped, adding that the total estimated potential for geothermal power capacity in Kenya is in the area of 7,000 to 10,000 MW. Currently, the Geothermal Development Company has laid out plans to drill 1,400 steam wells to provide steam for up to 5,000 MW of geothermal power capacity by 2030.

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It is not just power; it is empowerment

Beyond providing large-scale additional power to Kenya’s national energy generation capacity, renewable energy solutions hold a significance much closer to home. Owing to their flexibility and scalability, renewable energy sources could be locally installed in rural and urban communities, and in industrial facilities, encouraging power decentralization and source diversification. Experts opine that this fact can potentially be a workable solution to over-dependence on hydro and thermal power, which could at times be unreliable or expensive. Decentralized and localized renewable energy projects will find merits in terms of mitigating the risks of climate change and environmental degradation, as well as of the rising prices of fuel in the world market. Giving local communities and industrial players the opportunity to “create” their own power will additionally pave the way to fully capitalizing on the renewable energy potential of Kenya and to unraveling further economic growth.

While localized renewable energy projects in Kenyan rural and urban communities and in industrial facilities are still in the nascent stages, there are technologies available that are able to sustain their progress and advancement. Mobile power technologies are designed and engineered to support power generation when permanent or renewable sources meet challenges in sustaining the electricity demand. As national frameworks are created to promote renewable energy investments at the community levels, temporary power stations can provide the power supply that installed renewable facilities are still not able to produce. As wind or solar power plants depend on unpredictable natural elements for “fuel”, interim generators will be able to supplement the generated power in cases when wind or solar supply is insufficient.

As Kenya improves its hydropower and thermal energy generation capacities, veering away from over-reliance on fossil-based power, mobile electric power stations will be able to support existing permanent power infrastructure in times when the national electric power requirement outstrips the supply. Owing to the fact that rental gensets do not require steep initial investment to procure, the Kenyan government will be able to preserve the budgetary allotment aimed at the construction of renewable energy facilities at the grass-root levels.

Empowering local communities

National economic growth may never be sustainable if a significant percentage of a country’s population and industries has yet to be empowered. Today, with the advancement in research and technology, local electrification and community empowerment is within reach. Renewable technologies are maturing, and are now proving to be viable and sustainable sources of energy. As communities and industrial facilities enjoying the benefits of electric power grow in number, the road map ahead of a country’s economy becomes increasingly clear.

Empowerment, however, does not simply mean being connected to the grid. Encapsulated within the very essence of the word is giving rural and urban communities alike the opportunity to care for their environment, to plot their own future and to traverse their own paths to economic and social advancement.

Kenya Engineer Sept 2014 Cover

The foregoing article was originally published in the September-October 2014 issue of Kenya Engineer, published by Intercontinental Publishers, Kenya.

 

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Altaaqa Global
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Hydropower-dependent Economies: The Big Dry

Many developing countries are gradually embracing the hydropower technology as one of their main sources of electrical power. Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and in the Middle East are actively pursuing the construction of large dams to develop more hydropower resources. In recent years however, hydropower facilities have been facing power generation challenges, largely owing to variations in climatic parameters brought about by climate change and discrepancies in the pattern of seasonal months. Some countries have been experiencing low amounts of rainfall, and the heavy rains expected to kick in during the wet months have been delayed. As a result, water levels in many reservoirs in developing countries have dropped, causing the amount of electricity generated by hydropower plants to recede.

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Countries that have anchored a major part of their national power supply to hydroplants are bound to encounter economic, social and political obstacles in the face of changes to weather patterns. Myriad case studies conducted throughout the world have shown that lack of reliable power sets off a disastrous domino effect, wreaking havoc in several industries, including utility generation, industrial and commercial production, telecommunications, transportation, urban and rural electrification, mining and petrochemicals. Massive losses in finances and in social services could result in public unrest, often leading to street protests and demonstrations. As the country’s political stability may be threatened by social discontent, transformative investors could lose confidence altogether in pouring in money in ongoing and prospective projects in that country.

Emerging countries can find benefit in studying the impacts of climate change and prolonged summer months before and during the implementation of hydropower projects. Proactive approaches such as this may help them respond and adapt to the effects of climate change, and save costs in maintenance and refurbishment in the long run.

Power for insufficient power
In cases when the power generation capacity of hydropower plants is not enough to meet the existing energy demand during extremely hot months and days of elevated temperatures, there are available technologies that are capable of supporting them, like large-scale mobile rental power generators. Employing temporary power technologies can potentially be an integral part of any proactive approach to counter the effects of climate change on hydropower facilities. For one, interim electric generators represent a cost-effective alternative when supplemental power is required for short periods of time, like during droughts or prolonged absence of rain. As procuring them does not require large capital outlays, provisional power technologies can secure a government or a utility company’s cash flow by not necessitating considerable initial expenditure.

Because every minute counts during potential electricity interruptions, such as load shedding or electric blackouts, solutions to bridge the power gap should be swiftly and rapidly deployed at any given time. Owing to their flexibility and modularity, hiring rental power plants can be a quick and temporary solution for emergency and exceptional situations. Interim power stations are furthermore equipped with cutting-edge innovations that allow their capacities to be ramped up or scaled down, depending on the need of the situation. For instance, when rains start to kick in but are still not enough, utility companies have the liberty to lower the temporary power generation, gradually blending the productions from hydropower plants and rental gensets.

Choosing a power partner
As with the technology, choosing an appropriate interim power partner is an important element of a proactive initiative to mitigate the effects of climate change on hydropower plants. As was established in the foregoing discussion, hydropower generation has increasingly become one, if not the foremost, sources of power for many countries, thus hiring a temporary power provider entails momentous stakes. Imagine, when a country’s economic, social and political stability is on the line, should the government or hydropower companies entrust the power project to companies with little experience in large-scale operations?

There are several factors to consider in choosing a suitable mobile power provider. Governments and utility companies have to be discerning of a rental power supplier’s experience and track record in delivering executable, measurable and sustainable solutions to projects involving hydropower facilities. Industry stakeholders are advised to avoid dealing with backyard companies, which may not be able to deliver the required solutions on time nor on budget. This may create more problems in the long run, leaving vital institutions of a country – schools, hospitals, production plants, airports, telecommunication entities and petrochemical companies – suffering prolonged hours of no electricity and losing millions of dollars in cash and in opportunities by the minute.

Governments and hydropower companies should also consider the manpower expertise and after-sales service delivery of a prospective rental power supplier. A temporary energy partner should have spare parts and human resources readily available to carry-out after-installation support in times of emergency at any given location anytime.

Industry stakeholders should also be keen on a power supplier’s capability of providing flexible, scalable and turnkey solutions for a wide array of requirements. The potential power partner should have the appropriate expertise to study and evaluate a situation and to prescribe the exact solution up to the minutest exigency of a project. In order to translate plans into tangible and executable output, a rental power provider should have adequate and state-of-the-art technologies available in its product line.

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Proactivity is key
Reversing the effects of climate change may involve time – years or, even, decades. It entails paradigm shifts, not only in one country, but in all countries, developed and developing alike. The magnitude of the task at hand is enormous, and governments in several countries are working to commence the change. It remains to be a work in progress, and not all of us may be lucky to see its fulfillment. To support these efforts, governments and utility companies should be proactive and vigilant in moderating the consequences of climate change on the lives of their citizens and customers, respectively. As a sweeping transformation could not implemented overnight, the best thing to do at this very moment is to prepare. Humans of today are fortunate to have acquired the ability to foretell the effects of climate change, and to have on hand solutions to assuage or preclude them. The onus is now on us to put them to productive use.

AWW Sept 2014 coverage cover

The foregoing article was originally published in the September 2014 issue of Arab Water World, published by CPH Media, Middle East.

 

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Robert Bagatsing
Altaaqa Global
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Demand-Supply Mismatch

India is currently experiencing an economic upturn, with projected growth rates hitting pre-financial-crisis levels at more than 6%. There is, however, an escalating power supply shortage that may potentially hamper India’s continuous economic growth.

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Energy experts reveal that, to date, an estimated 300 million people in India have no access to electricity – which may seem an irony, in light of the fact that recorded data in recent years show that the demand for power in India has constantly outstripped the supply, both in terms of base load energy and peak availability. Owing to this imbalance, the country is said to register an 8.5% deficit in base load requirement and a 9.8% short-fall in peak load requirement.

This prevailing energy challenge is manifesting. Who could forget the massive blackout of 2012 that left 700 million people in India without electricity? In what is touted to be one of the worst blackouts in history, twenty of India’s 28 states suffered the effects of the power interruption that almost incited social instability and protests for fears that the country was no longer in the position to support its booming local energy demand. The repercussion was widespread and was nothing short of catastrophic: traffic jams all over the affected cities, babies wailing of heat, bodies half-burnt at crematoriums, patients gasping for every breath of life, miners trapped underground in complete darkness, passengers stranded in the middle of miles of track.

While other regions in the country are predicted to be severely affected by the energy shortage, India’s Central Electricity Authority forecasts that Northern India can expect a power surplus during the monsoon months, as most of its power generation capacity is predominantly dependent on hydropower.

This fact bodes well for region and for the other areas where it exports its surplus power, but it may not be permanently dependable. As it is largely conditioned by the amount of rainfall, one of the drawbacks of hydropower generation is that the capacity may gradually recede during seasons of less precipitation or of drought.

In recognition of these shortcomings, the government is currently taking steps to mitigate the effects of power insufficiency and has then launched ambitious rural electrification programs. The caveat, however, is that the rate of building or refurbishing permanent infrastructure still lags behind the pace of the increase in energy demand. As a result, ground research shows that approximately 400 million Indians still lose power during blackouts and that 35.5% of Indian households still has limited access to electricity. As India’s demand for electricity is not showing signs of slowing down, the country’s energy supply just cannot keep in step.

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The much needed power boost

In times when permanent power plants are still in progress and when the customary sources of energy cannot keep up with the electricity requirements, the Government and the utility industry stakeholders may opt to hire temporary power plants. Temporary power generation companies, like Altaaqa Global CAT Rental Power, have the products that can support the existing power generation infrastructure, with the end of bridging the gap in electricity supply as, where and when the necessity be.

Hiring power plants has tested and recognized merits, particularly in cases of emergencies, natural calamities and abrupt seasonal changes. Signing an agreement with interim power providers can also prove beneficial when electricity distribution facilities are not available in certain areas, like in dispersed communities; when permanent power stations are still being constructed or commissioned or when energy generation facilities are being expanded or refurbished.

India’s initiative to harness alternative sources of energy, like hydroelectric, solar, wind, geothermal and tidal has proven to be effective, but seasonal changes may alter the operations of the aforementioned facilities. For instance, some parts of the country where hydroelectric power stations operate may experience droughts or prolonged absence of rain, which in turn can drastically reduce the power generation capacity of the said plants. Solar or photovoltaic farms thrive during summer months but may experience shortage in production in months when days are predominantly cloudy or rainy. In these cases, rental power plants may support the power generation capacity of the current facilities if only to bridge the gap during the crucial months of seasonal change.

Power need not run dry

Tapping the potential of alternative sources of energy definitely has its merits, particularly in the context of natural gas conservation and of sustainability. Yet, one salient disadvantage of these alternative power technologies is their perceived dependence on nature, say on the amount of sunshine, wind or water. With the help of temporary power plants, these alternative energy infrastructure can continue to work at the optimum level, even in times of seasonal change. As a result, the areas where these facilities supply power to will not have to suffer from energy deficiency and constant load shedding. With the aid of interim generators, power need not set as the sun sets, drop as the wind drops and dry up as water dries up.

Power Watch India Sept 2014 Cover

*The foregoing article was originally published in the September 2014 issue of Power Watch magazine, India.*

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Altaaqa Global
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Altaaqa Global – The Power of Now

Power is considered to be a foremost driving force of development and economic growth. Almost all sectors of society depend on electricity to function. What happens, though, when the supply of power is not enough to support the demand? Does one have to wait in the dark?

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Signs of recovery from the recent economic downturn are increasingly becoming noticeable in many of the world’s economy. The South East Asia and Gulf Cooperating Countries, for instance, with its new-found economic and social buoyancy, is showing renewed aggressiveness in infrastructure projects and massive commercial and residential developments. Its neighboring region, the Indian Sub-continent, is also enjoying an upturn. According to a recently published market report from the Asian Development Bank, the South Asian region, to which the Indian Sub-continent belongs, is predicted to grow by 5.3% in 2014 and by 5.8% in 2015. In fact, India alone is forecast to achieve growth rates of anywhere between 5.5% and 6%.

Since the industrial revolution, power has always been identified as a key factor in encouraging economic growth, and that has not changed till today. As the demand for energy exponentially increases in an expanding economy, with the spike in construction and utility infrastructure projects, and the rise in population and household and commercial consumption, the need to support the Sub-continent’s power requirements becomes ever more urgent. In order to sustain the region’s momentum, an ample supply of clean, viable and affordable energy is imperative. In this light, the Indian Sub-continent should be able to explore new energy sources and technologies that do not only promote energy efficiency but also environmental stewardship.

Facing power shortage

It is worthy to note that some countries in the Indian Sub-continent are still experiencing challenges in the context of supporting electricity demands. Power failure, owing to several factors, including limitation in resources, low generation capacity, extreme levels of demand, and derated capacity of power station machinery, among others, has become an acute problem in several areas.

Take Bangladesh as an example. An article from the Journal of Selected Areas in Renewable and Sustainable Energy, titled “Power crisis and its solutions through renewable energy in Bangladesh”, by Khairul Anam and Husnain Al Bustam of the Islamic University of Technology, reports that only 10% of Bangladesh’s rural households has access to electricity, and that some parts of the country will not be connected to the national grid until 2030. Despite the effort of the national government to add power generation units to the national grid, the areas that are connected to power sources are still suffering from severe load shedding.

Even India is not saved from power distribution woes. Majority of the country’s supply is derived from thermal or hydroelectric sources, and with the country’s rapidly growing economy and population, power generation facilities are increasingly finding it difficult to cope up with the requirement. A manifestation of this was the reported failure of the Northern and Eastern grids, which put activities in cities such as Delhi to a halt. The negative effects of the two-day partial power outage was reportedly felt across several segments, most notably in the industrial sector.

Moreover, several reports in national and regional publications cite that approximately a third of India’s population is not connected to electricity and that those that are experience regular power interruptions.

Other countries in the Sub-continent, including Nepal and Sri Lanka, have similar stories to tell. In Nepal, the demand for electricity, which stands at 1,200 MW, cannot be supported by the local production of 750 MW during the rainy season and of 450 MW during the dry season. This has prompted the country’s government to declare a national energy crisis in 2008 and to form task forces to further explore the potential of hydropower in the next 20 years. In Sri Lanka, while nearly 60% of the population reportedly has access to electricity, much of the fraction is concentrated on the more developed Western Province, leaving the other areas with less than 30% access.

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Now, what can be done

Unstable electricity production and regular power interruptions bring about myriad negative impacts to a country’s economy, business and people. In today’s world, power is a fundamental element for any economy to function, as every sector of the modern society, be it domestic, commercial or industrial, is heavily dependent on electricity. Nowadays, a power interruption affecting critical facilities, like hospitals, airports, telecommunications towers, data centres and oil & gas installations, has the potential to put an entire country or region to a standstill, and in light of globalisation, the consequences may transcend national or regional borders.

Altaaqa Global CAT Rental Power, the global provider of temporary solutions, recognizes not only the economic opportunities in the Indian Sub-continent but also the pressing need to provide innovative and creative solutions to the region’s pressing power needs.

Altaaqa Global offers state-of-the-art interim power generation solutions that are viable, cost-effective and environment friendly. For instance, the company’s diesel generators are equipped with a fuel management technology that maximizes fuel efficiency while minimizing plant shut downs by ensuring that sub-standard fuel does not affect the system. Additionally, Altaaqa Global provides power generators with gas, diesel or dual-fuel technology, specifically developed to reduce fuel costs, hence a reduction in customer expenditure for electricity. It’s dynamic blending dual-fuel technology, combining 70% gas and 30% diesel interim power plants, not only cut back on power cost but also decrease operational emissions.

The key word is ‘now’

Hiring interim power generation plants as a stop-gap measure yields many advantages, particularly when there is a foreseeable delay in the construction of permanent power generation facilities or when the spike in electricity demand proves to be seasonal.

In the context of the above-mentioned case studies, countries in the Indian Sub-continent are looking to mitigate the observed deficiency in power supply by harnessing alternative sources of energy, including geothermal, solar, hydro and nuclear. While the afore-mentioned alternative sources have recognized and acknowledged merits and potential, they may require further research, legislation and physical facilities to be operational; and this may take time.

In a study conducted by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries in 2012, 61% of the companies that participated in the survey reported more than 10% in production short-fall due to power interruptions. Moreover, the participant companies also cited revenue losses between INR 1,000 and INR 40,000 per day, due to power cuts. The set-backs caused by power fluctuations are similar. Naturally, businesses may not be able to survive operational losses of this magnitude while waiting for permanent power generation facilities to be functional. Needless to say, the situation calls for an urgent solution.

Rental power companies, like Altaaqa Global, are capable of providing solutions as needed, when needed. Utility companies can hire temporary power plants in times when demand outpaces the supply, when the electrical grid is unstable or when power distribution networks are unavailable. This will allow them to bridge the supply deficit without waiting for another day. Hiring power generators can prove to be a viable solution to power supply inefficiency, while the permanent power infrastructure is constructed.

‘Falsus in unum, falsus in omnibus’?

Not all rental power companies are the same’False in one, false in all’ does not apply in choosing an interim power partner. While the selection of the temporary power technology to be required may be indicated by operational tendencies and budget allocation, the choice of a service provider may entail a keener investigation and a more discriminating process of evaluation and elimination.

In choosing an interim power plant partner, utility companies in the Indian Sub-continent should consider a provider’s experience, support system, rate of deployment, and equipment reliability and sustainability before signing an agreement with it.

Experience:

A provider should have a proven track record in delivering executable, measurable and sustainable solutions to multifarious projects. The exercise of hiring a temporary power company will be counter-productive if the company does not have the technical experience to deliver what it promises.

Support system:

The rental company should have the spare parts and the human resources to carry out after-sales support to installed and commissioned projects at any given location.

Rapid deployment:

The interim power provider should have the capability to react, deploy, mobilise and commission temporary power plants at a moment’s notice. This means that the provider should have available equipment and manpower on the ground to carry out a rapid delivery.

Equipment reliability and sustainability:

The service provider should have the adequate technology to address the unique needs of different clients. In addition, in light of an increasingly rigid set of licensing and sustainability regulations of most of the governments in the world, the rental company should be capable of providing technologies that encourage environmental stewardship, while maximising fuel efficiency. Systems that operate on liquefied natural gas (LNG) and on compressed natural gas (CNG), for instance, are already available.

 

Load Shedding

Altaaqa Global can provide the optimal solution to customer’s energy needs.

Load shedding is detrimental to progress wherever and whenever it is applied. Switching off power in key areas to reduce the demand for energy is an inconvenience that can be avoided by hiring interim power plants to support existing power grids or at the site itself (factories, for instance). This allows day-to-day activities in the business and urban sectors to continue.

Load shedding can be avoided by hiring an interim power plant either for the utility provider’s power grid or directly for the consumer’s business sites.

Load shedding is a necessary, though inconvenient, procedure where electricity is shut down to avoid overloading the system, which, in turn, results in a total blackout. This usually happens when the demand for electricity outstrips the ability of the system to supply for it. These blackouts generally occur locally, but may even spread to large areas, such as a whole country or even a continent. There are two causes for blackouts: Lack of generation volume and deficient infrastructure to distribute enough power to the locale where it is needed.

Load shedding normally happens in countries where the energy distribution is hampered by poor and inadequate infrastructure. The opposite happens in advanced countries due to well-managed systems and adequate infrastructure.

All in all, load shedding has the capability to incapacitate the daily activities of a country. The negative effects are numerous and may lead to economic instability.

Load shedding (also known as rolling blackout, brownout or electricity interruption), is commonly utilized in industrial, large commercial, and utility operations. While waiting for the permanent solution, the quickest way to end load shedding is to hire a temporary power plant.

Facility Shutdown or Power Plant Maintenance

A proactive temporary power plant reduces risks and costs during shutdown/maintenance

There are times when utility providers need the support of supplementary power when current power facilities undergo maintenance; are under replacement or are being upgraded to the latest, more efficient technologies. Altaaqa Global’s interim power solutions represent a reliable alternative during these scheduled periods of outages with the aim of minimizing interruption in electricity supply.

A period of interruption, especially of electric current, means that the utility infrastructure and its associate power facilities are disrupted for a period of time.

A shutdown is a planned general outage of equipment used by a business for production or delivery of service, usually caused by maintenance or upgrading. All main power and other utilities are cut off for a given amount of time, disrupting the activities of normal business, which may lead to customer inconvenience. That is why minimizing the effects of a shutdown is critical.

Managing Risks

Managing shutdowns is a precise operation. Steps must be taken to ensure the proper flow of procedure. Altaaqa Global manages not only internal risks but also external risks. This list guarantees a well-orchestrated shutdown:

  • Packaged and turnkey temporary power equipment (generators, fuel tanks, transformers, switchgears and all power ancillaries)
  • Materials management & spare parts
  • Utility supplies
  • Engineering services
  • Utility company engineering departments
  • Regulatory compliance and insurance
  • Qualified & CAT certified manpower
  • Work permissions from authorities, neighboring shared services or properties
  • Shutdowns should be planned before implementation, a necessary action that will reduce the time the facility is non-operational.

Shutdowns should be planned before implementation. This is a necessary action that will reduce the time when the facility is non-operational. The shutdown plan and Altaaqa Global’s temporary power solution is divided into three specific stages:

  • Pre-shutdown – Site preparation and commissioning of the temporary power plant
  • Shutdown – Temporary power plant is running continuously, 24/7
  • Post-shutdown – Temporary power plant demobilizes

The above approach is vital because maximizing the maintenance will shorten downtime. Resourcefulness, creativity and collaboration between everyone involved is important in minimizing the outage period.

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Peak Lopping

Avoid being charged a premium or being asked to lower power consumption during peak production

Hiring a temporary power plant during times when peak production is high, to augment the existing power supply, is an option industrial companies can choose to take. There are also times when utility companies set ceiling caps for electricity consumption or when they charge you extra during peak hours. It is then more economical to hire a temporary power plant to ensure production is continuous.

In your peak production month, the utility company tells you: “Lower your power consumption or you will pay a hefty penalty!” Will you sacrifice opportunity? We can provide a load lopping solution that will guarantee the continuance of your production without paying a penalty.

Reasons to hire a temporary power plant:

  • Industrial companies have the option to hire a temporary power plant when power demand is high during peak production if the permanent utility power provider could not supply extra power
  • When utility companies set a ceiling cap for electricity consumption but one requires more power
  • If utility increases its tariff rate during peak hours and it is more economical to run an alternative power source
  • If the company incurs monetary losses due to stiff penalties imposed by utility companies for over-consumption of electricity
  • Peak lopping is used to describe how utility companies lop- or cut-off electricity when a consumer reaches the peak of consumption. This affects domestic and industrial users. However, the latter is affected more. Industries are penalized when they exceed a certain cap by being charged extra. For example:

Factory A uses the same amount of power as Factory B. The difference is that Factory A uses in two days what Factory B uses in a month. Therefore, Factory A will pay more because they will require more energy in those two days and the utility company has to get pricier, higher capacity equipment to be able to supply the needed power.

Some resort to reduce peak demand just to avoid production delays. A factory can choose to shut down parts of the complex when consumption is high. The downside associated with peak lopping can be prevented by hiring temporary power plants. It is more cost-effective than upgrading the existing system and the long-term benefits are immeasurable in terms of the impact on the day-to-day activities of the domestic and industrial sectors.

Emergency Power

Altaaqa Global understands that every minute counts during a power outage

When factories, industrial zones and tourism areas experience interruptions in electricity, the serious effects to the economy can adversely affect growth and eventually lead to severe losses. Causes of emergency power generation may be attributed to natural disasters, accidents and situations where the human factor is involved. Whatever the cause of the power interruption, Altaaqa Global can rapidly deliver a temporary power plant on short notice.

Emergency power is required when the current power supply is inaccessible and a quick solution is immediately due.

We provide temporary power in all types of emergency cases, such as:

  • Weather calamities
  • Man-made errors or accidents resulting in power outages
  • Natural disaster
  • Post-conflict
  • There are cases where utilities experience energy shortages because of reduced power from a next-door country. This may happen due to technical failure or an unexpected contractual change. Whatever the case is, consumers urgently require additional electricity either for base load, continuous operation or for emergency back-up and, hopefully, manage the situation.

Altaaqa Global’s temporary power products and technologies are the most efficient solution for a fast-track capacity application because their modular design has been custom engineered for rapid mobilization and start-up.

We guarantee energy when you need it. Fast.

Case Study

CAT® rental power provides strong, coordinated response to customers after Hurricane Sandy.

On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy reached New York City, flooding streets, tunnels and subway lines, causing massive power outages. When devastation like this occurs, quick response is essential. The Electric Power team and the Cat® Dealer Network supported the recovery efforts by sending equipment, personnel and other resources to help the affected areas.

After the storm hit, more than 1,400 generator sets — creating an astounding 1.1 GW of power — were deployed to customers, including gas stations, hospitals, and commercial and industrial facilities. In addition to the generators, dozens of transformers and fuels tanks, 2.5 miles of power cable and hundreds of light towers, pumps and heaters were also sent. CAT Rental Power responded directly to customer demand or sent equipment and personnel in support of the recovery effort

Back up or Standby Power

Don’t let the lack of power slow your company down

From planned shutdowns to unplanned power load shedding, a temporary power plant providing backup power to your facilities is critical to ensuring the power you require is there when you need it. Altaaqa Global is always ready to get you set up and running quickly with the largest fleet of generator sets and ancillary equipment.

Shutdowns are a costly, but necessary step to maintain equipment and ensure that it is in the best condition. Petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, refineries and other industries that heavily rely on equipment can have their production severely affected by long periods of shutdowns. Imagine a long line where the product must pass through several stages and you could already imagine how difficult it is to stop a certain stage without affecting the others. That is why scheduling and minimizing the time it takes to do maintenance is vital to the flow of production. Hiring generators is essential to avoid prolonged downtime. This is most true in industries that use refrigeration as part of the production stage. Some products have to be kept at a certain temperatures, so maintenance operations have to be properly scheduled to prevent spoilage or deterioration.

Altaaqa Global can provide multi-megawatt power generators that suit your large industrial power needs.

  • Scheduled power shutdowns
  • Remote construction sites
  • New or expanded facilities
  • Seasonal peak load needs
  • Unscheduled downtime on equipment

We can rapidly deploy anytime, anywhere and fulfill power requirements. We’ll help you find solutions and keep your production going.

Peak Shaving

How to maximize your production without paying a higher price

Most companies usually reduce the amount of energy used during peak operating hours to avoid paying the higher rates. The increased charges are usually applied during noon until 6pm where consumption is highest although it may vary depending on location. At Altaaqa Global, we realize that peak shaving solutions are part of a portfolio of services we can offer to clients. Temporary power plant companies like Altaaqa Global can help maximize the full production potential of a company.

Demand for electricity is at an all-time high. As more and more industries develop, there are markets where the need for power exceeds the supply. The demand varies according to seasons, caused by temperature extremes or lack of rainfall in hydro dependent countries. With peak shaving solutions, a temporary power plant is hired to supply electricity during peak demand periods.

Many industries and businesses often pay for consumed electricity on a need-to-use basis. Usually, this means they are charged more during peak operational hours from noon until 6:00pm and less for the rest of the day. That is why Altaaqa Global can supply you with the necessary solutions to avoid peak shaving and allow your facility to perform optimally when you need it to. This cost-efficient way of getting power without having to resort to peak shaving is vital to productivity.

Altaaqa Global is more than capable of providing long or short term, cost-effective peak shaving solutions when you need it most. Along with technologically advanced generators and power specialists to assist you every step of the way, it is our assurance to help you and your facility maximize productivity.

Conclusion

To maintain the momentum that it is presently enjoying, it is imperative that the Indian Sub-continent take steps and measures to mitigate the economic and industrial impact of the present power shortage. Foraying into the domain of renewable sources of energy, like geothermal, solar, hydro and nuclear, has the potential to be a long-term solution, but waiting for the facilities to be operational may take time, owing to legislative and infrastructure requirements. Rental power companies, like Altaaqa Global, proposes solutions that address the issues of urgency, cost-efficiency, reliability, energy-efficiency and environmental safety. In recognition of the indispensable role of electricity in today’s modern society, it is advisable that utility companies should provide for a contingent and power solution in cases of power interruption that may lead to operational delays and, ultimately, negative economic and financial consequences.

END

The foregoing article was originally published in the May 2014 issue of Power Watch India.

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About Altaaqa Global

Altaaqa Global, a subsidiary of Zahid Group, has been selected by Caterpillar Inc. to deliver multi-megawatt turnkey temporary power solutions worldwide. The company owns, mobilizes, installs, and operates efficient temporary independent power plants (IPP’s) at customer sites, focusing on the emerging markets of Sub-Sahara Africa, Central Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, Latin America, South East Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. Offering power rental equipment that will operate with different types of fuel such as diesel, natural gas, or dual-fuel, Altaaqa Global is positioned to rapidly deploy and provide temporary power plant solutions, delivering electricity whenever and wherever it may be needed.

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