Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Market Panic

Though stock market closures due to power outages rarely occur, they happen. And when they do, they can cause major problems. Our continuing feature on industries most affected by power outages.

The stock market is a highly sensitive and fluctuating trading platform, with ups and downs occurring in as little as seconds. Owing to the uncertainty, stock exchange participants keep a keen eye on the market’s every move in order to calculate and plan for their strategies and decisions. Now, imagine their reaction if the stock market suddenly shuts down and suspends trading owing to a power outage, for instance.

Stock exchange shutdowns, though fairly rare, have happened. Power outages, and their consequent effects on computers, databases, software and hardware, have affected even the largest exchanges in the world, including the London Stock Exchange, Frankfurt Stock Exchange, Nasdaq, Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange, New York Stock Exchange, OMX Nordic Exchange and the Australian and New Zealand Stock Exchange.

As stock exchanges have a high degree of accountability towards its customers, owing to the billions of Dollars being traded every day, they cannot afford to suspend operations and put such a huge sum at great risk. Because their operation is highly critical, it is advisable that stock exchanges take a proactive stance against the possibility of power outages, be it by natural or man-made reasons. They can opt to hire the services of a temporary power provider, which can supply them with large-scale interim power stations that guarantee to bridge the electricity gap in times when electrical power is cut or insufficient. Mobile large-scale generators are modular, flexible and cost-efficient, and are infused with state-of-the-art electrical engineering technologies.

Because temporary power plants are modular and containerized, they can be deployed from and to virtually any point on Earth: Remote areas are not an issue. They are equipped with flexible technologies that allow them to produce the exact amount of power as needed by the client at any moment in time. This means that the customer will be ensured of an efficient and precise power supply in any given situation. They are also highly cost-beneficial when used in short- and medium-terms, as running them is comparatively lower than the projected losses and recovery expenditures should stock exchanges suffer the consequences of a power outage due to load shedding, power plant shutdowns, natural disasters or human error.

With the amount of money running through stock exchanges throughout the world, even a momentary suspension of business can lead to serious financial consequences. Because every second counts in stock market transactions, reacting to problems as they occur is insufficient and, at times, unacceptable. It is, then, essential for trading platforms to be proactive and prepared for the worst possible electricity supply scenarios, because, much like every industry in the world today, power is the lifeblood of their business.


Robert Bagatsing
Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505

Monday, October 27, 2014

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.

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.

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.

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


Robert Bagatsing
Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505

Sunday, October 26, 2014

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.

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.

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.

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.

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


Robert Bagatsing
Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505

Power One Can Bank On

It may be safe to say that money is one of the most important instruments in the world today. For crucial processes, like those that involve financial transactions, taking energy-related preventive measures is a good idea. Our continuing feature on industries most affected by blackouts. 

Customers of one of the world’s largest banks were denied access to their accounts from noon till the early hours of the evening. They were not able to use their debit or credit cards, nor withdraw money from ATM machines or transfer funds on-line. Telephone banking was also said to have been suspended. After a thorough investigation of the issue, it was discovered that the IT-related problems stemmed from a power outage. Customers were reportedly outraged and were fearing for the security of their accounts, particularly since the reported problem lasted for approximately seven hours.

In a separate incident, more than 110,000 customers of a state-based bank in the US had the receipt of their unemployment benefits delayed for a couple of days after a blackout affected the bank’s system. Similar to the previous situation, customers of the bank had troubles accessing their on-line accounts and withdrawing funds from ATM machines. Benefits transmitted by direct deposit were said to have been postponed until the succeeding banking day, when the power was restored.

In today’s world, money is an important instrument in conducting day-to-day activities, be it at the office or at home. Going to the bank, accessing on-line accounts or taking some money via ATM machines are part of almost everybody’s daily routine. Indeed, money has become ubiquitous that a momentary impediment to the access to it may cause inconvenience and anxiety.

To avoid the disastrous consequences of power outages in banks, it may be essential to have back-up and supplemental power sources readily available. Temporary electrical power plants can instantly provide the necessary power in case the permanent power sources fail. The inability of the permanent power plant to supply the needed electricity may be due to several reasons, including unstable electricity infrastructure, scheduled power plant shutdowns, emergency repairs, and natural calamities, among others. Wherever the problem may come from, interim power stations are industry-proven to be capable of bridging the power gap when needed, where needed and as needed.

Hiring the services of temporary power plant providers makes sense on several front. First, generators for hire are modular and packaged, making them easily deployable to and from any place on Earth. They are also flexible and adjustable, allowing them to provide the exact amount of power needed, precluding under- or over-production of electricity that leads to inefficiency or wastage, respectively. Rental gensets are also cost-beneficial, as running them for back-up or supplementary purposes can prevent costly operational troubles in the event of a blackout or load shedding.

It may be safe to say that money is one of the most important instruments in the world today. For crucial processes, like those that involve financial transactions, taking energy-related preventive measures is a good idea. Having temporary power plants on board can ensure that transactions continue and banking services are maintained, keeping customers happy, contented and secured.


Robert Bagatsing
Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Closing Time?

When people pay huge sums to buy a ticket for a game, a concert or a show, they expect it to be worth it. And they can easily be disappointed even by a slight mishap. Our continuing feature on the industries mostly affected by power outages.

Tom Jones, Kate Bush, Justin Bieber, Paramore, and Tony Bennet. Los Angeles Angels, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Los Angeles Clippers. These are some of the world famous names and brands which have been, at least once in their existence, embroiled in a performance-related problem caused by an unexpected power outage.

In 2013, crooner Tom Jones’ concert in Doha, Qatar was temporarily halted due to a blackout. In 2014, singer Tony Bennett’s performance was cancelled owing to a massive power outage that affected large areas of Southern Santa Barbara County in California, USA. During one of Justin Bieber’s private concerts, stage instruments ceased to sound, and the young singer was left to perform a Capella. In a Paramore concert, a technical fault due to a power outage lasted for 15 minutes, throwing the crowd into confusion as to how and when the concert of the American band might go on.

Baseball teams Angels and Rays had to stop a game for 19 minutes as a thunderstorm going on outside the stadium caused several lights in the field to go out. NBA teams Thunder and Clippers had to play the remainder of the first half of one of their post-season matches in low light, after an unexpected power interruption happened at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Though in some cases fans stayed on and weathered the momentary inconvenience, there have been reports that a considerable number of people chose to head to the exits and demanded for refunds. Imagine the logistic and the financial impact of returning money to the disappointed ticket-holders. Imagine what they would say about the event organization, the venue and the artist, as they vent out their frustration. Imagine what the reception of the next event would be like after news of the blackout seeps out of the arena.

When holding large-scale events like concerts and indoor & outdoor sports spectacles, it is always advisable to be prepared and proactive, because electricity supply-related problems can strike when least expected. Hiring the services of temporary power service providers to provide stand-by, supplemental and emergency power at the event is a good idea. The price of getting rental power stations on board as a preventive measure is considerably minimal compared to the headache and the losses that can be brought about by refund demands and negative publicity. Power plants for hire can easily be delivered and installed at the event venue, because they are modular and work on plug-and-play configuration. After the event, they are also easy to disengage, with trained and experienced engineers dedicated for the job.

In such a highly competitive industry, like events and performance production, even the slightest negative review can largely affect a company’s next venture. After all, the popular industry adage is true till today: “You're only as good as your last success”.


Robert Bagatsing
Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Power or Water? Why not both?

The issue on power and water represents a classic Catch-22: Desalination is becoming increasingly necessary because of drinking water scarcity, but the process gobbles down copious amounts of electricity, to be created by power plants that need water. Is there a way out of this cycle?

Veera Gnaneswar Gude, a professor and researcher at the Mississippi State University, thinks so. She suggests a side-by-side power and desalination plant as a solution to the foregoing conundrum. “There is mutual benefit for both in combining these two processes together,” she says, adding that she and her team have spent the last eight years devising a system that will make desalination-power generation partnership possible.

This is how the technique works: Instead of using water for cooling purposes, Gude’s technology incorporates a power plant refrigeration system that produces cold air. This systems is run by waste heat, which is already being produced in the power plant and, hence, does not require any outside energy sources. “The waste heat,” explains Gude, “can also be used to power a neighboring low-temperature desalination (LTD) plant.”

According to the team’s study, the partnership works because LTD is significantly less energy-intensive than conventional desalination plants. “LTD,” continues Gude, “separates the salt by condensing water at a lower pressure point and temperature than conventional systems. The LTD process does not require any mechanical pumping or cooling, which contributes in saving energy.”
To sum up, Gude highlights that LTD is useful for places that are in need of power but don’t have access to water. “It avoids using up a precious resource.”

Letting the technology develop
The technology that Gude and her team is proposing has the potential to hold water, as it attempts to resolve one of the most pressing problems of the world today: How can the world conserve water, when water is needed to produce potable water?

Having said this, it may be possible to see an exponential increase in the number of such installation, particularly in areas where water is scarce, but at the same time where electrification is crucial. It, however, can take years or decades, as developing and optimizing a technology is no mean feat. Add to it the external impositions of actually building the system, like securing funding, ascertaining an appropriate location, providing labor and obtaining approvals. Ten to twenty years of lead time may not at all be an exaggeration.

As technological development and market appreciation take their natural course, temporary power plants can provide the necessary power needed to produce safe drinking water anywhere in the world. Rental power stations are flexible, modular and cost-beneficial technologies that can be rapidly deployed from and to anywhere in the world. They are able to provide the exact amount of power needed by industrial processes, and are more cost-efficient, compared to building traditional power plants. Interim energy systems can offer the necessary power to produce potable water when future technologies, like the one proposed by Gude and her team, are still being enhanced. 


Robert Bagatsing
Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505

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.

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.

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. 

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


Robert Bagatsing
Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

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.

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.

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.

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


Robert Bagatsing
Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505

Do Airplanes Have to Fly Blind?

Aviation professionals say that a power outage at a flight control center is “absolutely the worst scenario” one can think of. Our continuing feature on industries most affected by power outages.

In one of the worst flight control center blackouts in recent years, a major power failure at a key control center in California, USA, disrupted hundreds of commercial flights and delayed the test of a launch missile.

In July 21, 2006, the Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center lost electrical power for two hours after a pick-up truck rammed into a power pole. The center automatically began running small-scale back-up generators, until those lost power as well. From then on, the building went dark.

In an interview with the Aviation Law News website, Bruce Bates, one of the center’s controllers, described the horrendous event as one of the absolutely worst scenarios a controller like him could ever think of. “For the duration of the blackout, the airplanes were up there, flying blind.”

To work around the pressing situation, Bates and his fellow controllers were compelled to use their cellular phones, which are normally required to be turned off in the control room. “We used our phones,” said Bates, "to contact other control towers to ask them to issue warnings to the aircraft.”

The Los Angeles center was responsible for directing high-altitude aircraft in Southern California, Nevada, Utah and parts of Arizona. Owing to the outage, approximately 350 flights were either grounded, delayed or diverted, and more than 25,000 passengers were inconvenienced.

Also affected was the test launch of one Minuteman III missile, which was postponed for a day because air traffic control could not give a go with a clear airspace.

In situations such as this, large-scale temporary power plants could have provided the necessary electrical power that would last till the crisis was resolved. As in the foregoing scenario of a blackout owing to a human error or emergency causes, rental power stations will also prove beneficial in cases of power utility plant shutdowns, aviation power plant maintenance, airport power plant expansion, delayed construction of permanent power sources, load shedding or peak shaving.

Interim power stations are modular, flexible and cost-effective. They can be deployed from and to any point on Earth, owing to their compact and modular design, which gives no challenge in delivering them. Thanks to the cutting-edge technologies infused in most modern large-scale generators, they are flexible and are able to supply to the exact power requirement of the client. They are also cost-efficient, representing prices that are significantly lower than the projected losses and damages should aviation facilities stay without electricity.

With air transportation being a prime mover of goods and people in today’s world, air traffic control centers cannot afford to lose power for even a moment. The aviation industry can never be grounded, no matter what. Thanks to large-scale temporary power plant technologies, the continuation of aviation operations can be guaranteed.


Robert Bagatsing
Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505