Sunday, March 29, 2015

Is the Future of Renewable Energy Already Upon Us?

Renewable energy sources have gained notable traction in the past few years that they have already taken their share of the spotlight in terms of many countries’ energy planning. A few years ago, integrating renewables in the overall mix of a country’s energy sources was almost next to impossible: The economics of doing so were challenging, and the impact on the electricity grid of adding too much capacity from renewables (like solar or wind) was unknown yet unsettling.

Today, the concerns of those days are gradually being eradicated by the tremendous development that renewable energy sources have undergone. There has been a remarkable reduction in prices among photovoltaic cells and wind turbines, making renewable power cost-competitive vis-à-vis traditional generation. In fact, a recent report issued by the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) declares that “with the right combination of new policies and investment, countries can integrate unprecedented shares of variable renewable energy into their grids without compromising adequacy, reliability or affordability.”

While this observation is undoubtedly exciting, realizing it will require massive amounts of adjustment and fine-tuning not only on the part of infrastructure but also, and more importantly, in thinking. Opening inroads into a higher level of renewable energy generation will entail grid modernization, adoption of new technologies, revised business models for utility providers and updated policy and regulatory framework. Moreover, as per the insights of ESMAP, to ensure the success of the transition, countries should work towards strengthening interconnections between areas, diversifying the contribution of different renewable sources from various location, and building complementary generation and demand response technologies.

While the above are, to some extent, doable, it will take years, or even decades to set up the conditions conducive to higher levels of renewable energy generation. Pushing such initiatives forward will require the collaboration and the agreement of myriad entities and agencies, and will necessitate years upon years of infrastructure construction and refurbishment. Renewable energy generation itself is still undergoing a feverish level of research and development in order to optimize and, ultimately, stabilize it.

As renewable energy technologies are being developed and constructed, and as the necessary modifications in policies and regulations are drafted and approved, other power-related technologies, like mobile electricity generation systems, will be able to provide the necessary support. Mobile power technologies are designed and engineered to keep the electricity supply buoyant in cases when conventional or renewable sources meet challenges in sustaining the electricity demand. As permanent power infrastructure are being improved and refurbished, and renewable energy generation facilities enhanced, temporary power stations can provide the electricity supply to fill in the gaps in energy production.

With rental power plants on board, the perceived limitations of conventional and renewable energy sources can be overcome, and the power can be bridged until the mentioned sources regain their stability and reliability. In this context, temporary power plants find their maximum benefit in being used as supplementary or back-up power, while permanent energy facilities are being constructed or refurbished, or when alternative energy sources are being advanced and improved.


Robert Bagatsing
Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505

Monday, March 16, 2015

“I Am So Happy I Felt Like Dancing”

Our Internet-based map was no longer calibrating correctly from the time we reached the foot of the mountain; coverage was already unstable. So we pulled out the paper maps that we had so diligently packed particularly in times like this, and realized that it would take an hour or two more before we reach that small village in Southeast Asia.

Good thing all seven of us stretched before attempting this feat. My mother would have had done the same when she went to the same place 10 years ago. I was only eight then, so I could be excused for not being able to understand the purpose of her visit to that small village. She never told me anything vital anyway; all she said was that she would be talking to someone "so happy". As a young girl, my idea of happiness was limited within the confines of a paper-house, with surprises inside, known to me and my contemporaries as a fast-food kid's meal. It was only when I was 12 that I learned that she interviewed a local woman named Ma Mya.

I was cleaning up her closet to find clothes or shoes we could donate when I saw a purple box sitting on the top-most rack. When I opened it, I saw a pile of newspaper and magazine clippings, maybe two hundred or more, that my mom had collected over the period when she was working as a freelance journalist. I browsed them one by one, only staring at the pictures, of course: Ladies in their wedding gowns, a plate of spaghetti, a gondolier standing on the edge of a gondola, my mom posing as if she were holding the Eiffel Tower, a lady in her late fifties holding a light bulb.

The last picture caught my attention; I gently pulled it out from the bunch: “I Am So Happy I Felt Like Dancing”. It was a free-wheeling conversation with Ma Mya, a Southeast Asian woman who, at that time, was to experience having electricity in their home for the first time in 58 years.


“I never thought electricity can make such a big difference in my life,” said Ma Mya. “I thought I would die without seeing another form of light besides fire.”

“When they told me I can already connect the plug I was holding to the socket they installed on our wall, I was scared. I do not know what it will do; I was afraid it will explode and burn my face. When I did it, it felt like magic. I have never seen a series of colored bulbs light up my house. I was so happy I felt like dancing. Candles cannot do that.”

“I realized that electricity could do more than just to illuminate. Our husbands are finally freed from the task of gathering firewood and water, and are now able to work for a living. Thanks to having light at night, we are also able to work on the beaded necklaces we sell at the market even after the sun had set. We almost doubled our revenues that way. In fact, we used the extra money we had in the previous two months to buy electric stoves and a small TV set we stationed at the village hall.”

“Before, when it was already dark, we had nothing to do but sit under our houses and chat. Sometimes, we could not even recognize whom we are talking to. Now, we can talk outside our houses, cook together, share our food and talk again over dinner! Our lives have completely changed.”

Unfortunately, Ma Mya’s village was razed to the ground during a stand-off, and with it came the power infrastructure.   


After an hour and a half of trekking on uneven terrain, we finally reached Ma Mya’s village. We arrived at about 11:00 AM, and at this time, almost all of the village’s women were gathered under a sizable make-shift hut to make beaded accessories that they would sell at the central market.

“We came to bring you more beads. We also brought solar lamps, so you can go on and work even at night,” I said to a woman who unmistakably was Ma Mya. She laid the unfinished necklace on the table, stood from the stool, and approached me. “You heard our call,” she said.

“I never thought we would be living without electricity again,” said Ma Mya, who was noticeably sad but not exactly on the verge of tears. “I lived for 58 years without electricity, and have only experienced it for nine, but I never realized the important role it had come to play in my life and in my community. We are back to living like the old days. Our productivity is once again limited by the hours of sunlight, our husbands are again busy gathering firewood and clean water instead of earning a living, we are inside our huts again when it turns dark.”

Through our conversation, I learned that my mother left her our home telephone number so that when telecommunications services were already available in her village, she would call her and share with her more inspiring stories on how her life was constantly changing. “I made a call to her once, maybe twice, I don’t remember, but the last time I called, it was left unanswered. From then on, I never made any other calls anymore. When our village was destroyed, I asked my eldest to phone her number and inform her of the disaster that struck us.”

I answered that call.

Upon learning from her eldest about what happened, I immediately called upon my friends and colleagues to help me raise funds to purchase some relief and livelihood items. I knew that the primary business in their village was making beaded accessories, so we sourced raw materials that could last for a good half a year. I also learned that being able to work even at night had a notable economic impact on their income as a village, so we approached sustainable lighting companies for assistance, and they agreed to donate 10 units.

There is just so much that we can do to alleviate their situation. We can bring them all the materials they need to make beaded accessories, and even a hundred solar lamps, but that will still not be enough. Those cannot match the freedom, the comfort and the fulfillment that electrical power has brought to their village before it was destroyed. What Ma Mya’s village needs is electricity, and they need it immediately. For nine years that they had electrical energy, they were able to build a sustainable source of revenue, the men were able to find productive work, the women and children felt safer and the village was connected to the rest of the world. In barely a year without power, all that the village had achieved were gone. They are back to living like before, and, if the words of Ma Mya hold truth, they feel crippled.

Temporary power plants can provide the solution, now

Building a power plant and the necessary electricity infrastructure from nothing can be a daunting task. There are usually several entities involved in such a project, and getting them to work together and stay on the same page at times require intense coordination and constant follow-ups. Receiving funding from financial institutions, approval from regulatory entities, agreement from contractors, and endorsement from government agencies may take years, let alone the actual construction of the permanent power plant. As a result of this intricacy, the lead time to the actual powering on of the plant may take decades.    

Unlike traditional power stations, temporary power plants are capable of providing electricity supply solutions in a matter of days. Due to their provisional nature, rental power plants can be built and powered on without constructing large-scale civil infrastructure, needing a huge capital or going through a labyrinth of regulatory and government approvals. They can be easily shipped from the provider’s yard to anywhere in the world, because they are modular and containerized. As soon as they land on the location, they can be swiftly connected and set up owing to their plug-and-play configuration and state-of-the art mobile power technologies. In a matter of days, from delivery to build up, the temporary power plant can be turned on and thus start providing electricity to a village, a city, a province or even to an entire country.


It was getting dark, and I was afraid we had to leave. Ma Mya’s neighbors tried to put on the solar lamps that we had brought, but their light was still dim. The village was noticeably gloomy, at times tensed from the uncertainty that the night once again held. “I will call again,” Ma Mya shouted, as we turned our backs to go on our way. “I know there will be better things to speak about, soon,” she said.


Robert Bagatsing
Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Day the Teacher Taught About Fruits

Adisa, a schoolboy of seven years, held the hand of his mother, Lesedi, a public school teacher, as he was closing the door of their home in a village in Sub-Saharan Africa. He carefully wore his rubber slippers, making sure that each was on the correct foot, and began to walk towards the east, following the lead of his mother. They were going to the school nearest to their village, which would take about two and a half hours to reach by foot.

It was 3:30 AM.

At about 6:00 AM, they reached the public school. Lesedi led Adisa to his classroom, then walked a few steps to enter the make-shift teachers’ lounge. Adisa sat beside two classmates, one was nine and the other 10, who still seemed half-asleep, greatly owing to the early hours of the day. As minutes passed, Adisa’s classmates began to arrive, one by one.

By 6:30 AM, as the class was about to start, they were six.

At last their teacher entered the room. It was Lesedi. It should come as no surprise, for in that school there were only three teachers: Lesedi and a colleague, who take charge of the primary schoolchildren, and another one, who handles the intermediate students. That day, Lesedi was supposed to give a quiz on the Alphabet, but since she was not able to print copies of the test paper (electricity supply to the school had been interrupted since the previous week), she decided to teach her students a new action song about fruits instead.

The children enjoyed learning the new song, save for the fact that there were some fruits mentioned that they had not seen before. It was obvious that they struggled to even pronounce them. They asked Lesedi what they were, but not having any visual aid available (the school had no projector nor computers available in each classroom), she told them that she would instead travel to the city to buy some and show them the real fruits the following day.

The bell sounded at 10:30 AM.

It was time for the children to go home. When all the other five students had left the room, Lesedi gently pulled Adisa to a corner and asked him to pass by the central market and buy the fruits that they were asking about. Not having seen them himself, Adisa asked his mother to draw them on a piece of paper, so he would have an idea on how they looked like. “You have to do this, Adisa,” said Lesedi, “I do not have time; I still have another four hours to work.” Adisa agreed and went on his way.

It was 2:30 PM.

Adisa reached home. He pulled the fruits he bought from the central market out of the bag, lined them up on the table, and compared each one with his mother’s drawings. Confident that that he got them all correct, he put them back inside the bag.

Adisa had finished changing his clothes. He carefully wore his rubber slippers to make sure that each was on the correct foot, and went on his way. Instead of heading east, he took the bend that led to the west, to collect firewood and fetch clean drinking water.

Proper education needs electricity 

The story of Lesedi and Adisa, though completely fictional, is a potential reflection of the situation in several schools in the Sub-Sahara. It is not unusual to hear stories of African children travelling hours by foot to reach the nearest school. Schools are built in areas with access to electricity, but, unfortunately, this is not always maintained throughout the existence of the buildings. As power plants break down and electrical infrastructure age, they become less reliable and dependable. As a result, load shedding and power interruptions occur, affecting the overall quality and integrity of teaching and education in the affected schools.

Millions upon millions of African children go to school that lack electricity. Owing to this, classes have to be conducted without the use of modern technologies, like projectors, radios, TVs or computers. Teachers have to cover the lessons without any visual aids, and cannot assign supplementary readings or homework, because the children themselves do not have access to electrical power, let alone to the Internet or to a working computer.

At home, instead of reviewing the lessons for the day, children are forced to collect wood and clean water, because their houses have no stoves or gas ranges to cook and boil water for drinking. This distraction, suggests research, contributes to poor school performance and absenteeism.

The myriad inadequacies of schools in such locations discourage well-trained and well-educated teachers from working in them. As a result, very few teachers take up employment in such institutions, where they find themselves working several shifts, and teaching students of dissimilar ages and grades in one classroom. The proficiency of the students are therefore compromised by the difference in their levels, as most of the time, such a set up makes the global standard curriculum difficult to follow.

One vital key to overcoming such challenges is a reliable and sustainable supply of electrical energy. With electricity, schools can be equipped with innovative teaching aids, and students can enhance their learning with further research or reading at home. Students will no longer be constrained to spend hours collecting fuel and water, and thus will have more time to concentrate on their studies. As the standard of education gradually becomes better, more capable and qualified teachers will be encouraged to hold classes.

Reliable electricity need not wait

Providing electricity to such remote locations used to mean huge investments, decades of waiting, getting caught in a web of approval processes and coordinating numerous teams of professionals. Those days are gone.

Today, technologies such as temporary power plants make it possible to bring electricity to such areas without the troubles associated with past processes.

Rental power plants represent the fastest, most reliable and most cost-efficient solution to electrify villages and towns that remain unconnected to the grid. They are capable of providing the precise amount of energy required at any time and in any place required. They are modular and containerized, so they can be delivered to virtually anywhere in the world and can be installed in a matter of a few days. As they are only rented, they require minimal or no civil work prior to installation, and can be easily demobilized after the service. Thus, there will be no permanent infrastructure to maintain, no aging electrical equipment, and no additional cost to pay the salaries of permanent site engineers.

The next morning…

It was 3:30 AM.

Adisa carefully wore his slippers to make sure that each was on the correct foot. Following the lead of his mother, he began to make his way towards the east. He was calmly walking when all of a sudden, the bag containing the fruits broke. It might have been pierced by a stalk. The round ones rolled quite far from him, and as he and his mother scrambled to pick up the fruits, a man dressed in red and with a pair of shoes stouter than usual handed him a Marula.   


Robert Bagatsing
Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Five Renewable Energy Records Broken in 2014

2014 was a banner year for renewable energy. After a three year correction in renewable energy finance, reports show that investments increased last year, particularly towards the construction of wind farms and solar energy facilities. Numbers from Bloomberg New Energy Finance demonstrate that, last year, China was the world’s largest renewable energy investor, followed by the US.

These reports are supported by the myriad news items on record achievements in renewable energy generation. For instance, last year around 100 GW of solar and wind power capacity were built, which represented a notable increase compared to the 74 GW of the previous year.

As we look forward to an even bigger year for sustainable power, we present to you five renewable energy records that were smashed in 2014.

Denmark gets 39.1% of its overall electricity from wind

In 2014, Denmark set a new world record for wind energy production, achieving a total generation equal to almost 40% of its overall electricity supply. With this latest feat, experts concur that the country is well on its way to meets its goal for 2020 of getting 50% of its power from renewable sources. Additionally, wind was declared as the cheapest form of energy in Denmark in 2014.

UK wind power generation rises to 28.1 TWh

In the UK, wind power generation in 2014 rose by 15% from 24.5 TWh. With this historic achievement, the country was said to be in the position to supply the electrical power needs of more than 6.7 million households. Reports add that a combination of grid-connected wind farms and standalone turbines in the UK was able to produce 9.3% of the country’s electricity demand in 2014, from only 7.8% in 2013.

Germany produces 26% of its energy from renewable sources

According to Berlin-based information agency Agora Energiewende, in 2014, Germany was able to produce 26% of its electricity supply from clean sources. Germany has consistently posted record numbers on this front, growing its renewable energy output eight-fold since 1990.

Scottish wind turbines provide a monthly average of 746,510 MWh of electricity

December 2014 was a record month for the Scottish renewable energy sector. During that month, wind turbines alone were said to have provided approximately 1,279 MWh of electrical energy to the national grid, which was said to be enough to supply the energy needs of a whopping 164% of Scottish households.

For over six months in 2014, wind generated enough electricity to power more than 100% of Scottish consumers, while in places such as Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness, there was enough sunshine to provide more than the necessary energy supply for an average home in June and July.
With way things are going for Ireland, experts agree that the country’s power grid could be 100% renewable by 2030.

Ireland’s wind energy production enough to power 1.26 million homes

Based on the figures reported by EirGrid, the state-owned electric power transmission operator in Ireland, wind energy in country created 1,942 MW of energy, said to be enough to supply electrical energy to approximately 1.3 million homes. Ireland’s previous wind energy output was at 1,872 MW.

Onwards to more record numbers

Hot on the heels of smashing renewable energy figures in 2014, the energy industry is looking forward to an even more prolific year in 2015. One sector of the industry that can definitely help boost renewable energy production is temporary power. Rental alternative energy solutions are capable of supporting renewable energy facilities in times of varying and/or erratic supply of principal drivers, like wind or sunshine. They are cost-effective and highly adaptable to different usage patterns and extent. They boast of an advanced, state-of-the-art design that is proven to decrease supply loss by precisely producing only the necessary amount of power at the right places at most opportune times. In addition, they are modular and containerized, so they can easily be transported and installed even in remote sites anywhere in the world.  


Robert Bagatsing
Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505