Riding out the financial storm

Joseph Anis, GE Energy, Dubai

Joseph Anis is GE Energy’s Regional Executive for the Middle East. Joseph started in GE’s Industrial Systems business in the mid-1990s, moving to the services division of GE Energy and then sales division of GE Energy’s power generation business for the Middle East and Africa. Since 2007, he has been based in Dubai in his current role.

MEE: A number of power and water projects in the Middle East have been delayed. Are these delays, and the rising costs of finance, a concern to you?

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Anis: Obviously in the current environment customers are going to reexamine their plans, make sure that they have the right planning and forecasting going forward, and make their adjustments accordingly.

I don’t think it’s necessarily going to delay or push out projects, but we have to work with each of our customers, understand what their needs are, and support them.

MEE: Are we seeing a destruction of demand that will never return?

Anis: No. Overall, we are still seeing good demand for power across the region. We still see continuing growth in demand for power and water in the Middle East.

If you look at most of the customers across the region as a whole, you will find that most of the customers are government utilities, and most of them come out and announce their power and water needs in their budgets.

Most of the budgets have already been announced for the forthcoming fiscal year, with the exception of Qatar and Kuwait, and consistently across the region each country has an allocation to meet their power and water infrastructure needs. I haven’t seen governments reducing their expectations for power growth downwards.

The need is still there for power and the fact that utilities have to build more capacity means that those investments will be made.

We have recently taken an approximately $1 billion order from Saudi Electric Company for 30 of our Frame 7E gas turbines for the PP10 project in Riyadh (for 2010/11) and just before that we signed a $3 billion deal in Iraq for the delivery of 56, 50 Hz Frame 9E gas turbines. So there is still strong demand out there for power.

MEE: Will renewable energy projects be a casualty of the credit crisis in the Middle East?

Anis: We’re seeing governments across the Middle East put in place plans for renewables and alternative energy projects by 2020. Abu Dhabi wants seven per cent from renewables by 2020, Egypt has said 20 per cent. The region will continue its commitment to diversifying fuel sources and their energy mix, and investments will be made.

What’s important for renewables is that governments put the right policies in place to generate more interest in making investment into those sectors. It’s also important for the industry to come forward and bring solutions to make it happen.

Masdar in the UAE clearly has a drive to create alternative energy technology. GE has entered in a partnership with Masdar to showcase Ecomagination technology in Masdar City à‚— we will be one of the first tenants there.

MEE: What are GE Energy’s plans to develop non-fossil fuel based energy projects in the Middle East?

Anis: We are excited because GE has a diversified portfolio and so we can meet the energy needs of the region. We are well placed to do that with our thermal business to do that, of course, but we also have wind power, solar power and also nuclear. We acquired a majority stake in a US-based thin film photovoltaic company called PrimeStar in June 2008. We are very excited about this technology and we are expecting the business to evolve, just like our wind farm business that we acquired from Enron for $300 million, which grew to be a $7 billion business.

There is also some interest in concentrating solar power. There are a couple of projects that we are looking at. We are also involved in Iberdrola’s integrated solar/combined-cycle gas turbine power plant project in Egypt [El Kureimat].

We are also looking at a couple of opportunities in the IGCC (integrated gasification combined-cycle) field, where we could burn heavy oil fuel in a gasifier and use the resulting syngas at a power plant.

Also in our renewable portfolio we have our Jenbacher engine, which takes waste energy and transforms it into electricity. These are smaller engines of around 1 MW.

MEE: Does nuclear power have a role to play in GE Energy’s ambitions in the Middle East?

Anis: Through our joint venture with Hitachi, we will work with governments that express an interest in developing a nuclear programme in the region. Once various countries reach agreements with the US and Japanese governments to develop a nuclear programme, we will support them.

MEE: How is GE Energy supporting local engineering talent in the Middle East?

Anis: In Bahrain we have a graduate programme, where we bring in students, put them in a one-year training programme, rotate them into various functions and then hire them as full-time employees.

In Saudi Arabia the King Abdullah University for Science and Technology looking at developing alternative fuels, particularly in burning heavy fuel oils more efficiently in power stations.

We have a series of research hubs around the world: in the New York, USA; in Bangalore, India; in Munich, Germany; in Shanghai, China; and we will be opening up a smaller research facility in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi.

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