Middle Eastern promise
Following in its heritage of work in the Middle East, ESB International is continuing to build on its capabilities to the benefit of the region
ESB International is headquartered in One Dublin Airport Central, an ideal location for a company that employs more than 750 staff across operations in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South East Asia.
“It makes sense for the company to be located close to the airport,” says ESB International’s Managing Director Sean Atkinson, from the 5th floor of the recently refurbished building. Atkinson is a veteran of international operations for ESB International, having worked in the industry for over 30 years.
The company he heads up is working in partnership with clients around the world to deliver modern, efficient and dependable energy systems which transform economies and societies.
ESB International is focused on building its client base in the Middle East, where it established its first operations in Bahrain 44 years ago and is committed to continuing partnerships in other regional countries.
“ESB International has a long heritage of working in the Middle East,” says Atkinson. “While we have worked in most of the countries in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), our most consistent presence is in Bahrain where we are heavily involved with the electricity and water authority EWA. We have nearly 100 people in our office in Bahrain, most of them working with EWA on planning and engineering their transmission system. It has been the cornerstone of what we have done in the Middle East for a long time and a testament to our ability to deliver for our clients.”
The company is also in the process of completing and handing over a major project for Aluminium Bahrain (ALBA). ESB International was responsible for the planning, procurement, design review and construction and commissioning supervision of the ALBA Combined Cycle Gas Turbine power plant project that deploys the latest highly efficient H class machines.
ESB International has made significant inroads in the Middle East over the past 44 years. Key to this success, says Atkinson, is its deep-rooted virtually integrated utility background, which is an advantage over other engineering consultancies. That ability to see things from a utility perspective sets ESB International apart in the region and improves the service we can deliver to clients.
“We take the capability we have as a utility and make it available to our clients and that is what differentiates us,” he explains. “We are one of the few utilities that is also an engineering consultancy. We are owned by a utility and are living these issues ourselves, or have lived them in in the past, so we can cover the full energy value chain and take that experience and rigour to bear for clients. We can bring that depth of knowledge, combined with on-the-ground and local experience, whilst also ensuring local knowledge transfer.”
That presence extends throughout the GCC, for example in Oman where we are working with policy-makers and leaders in the country implementing independent power producer projects (IPPs) (efficient thermal, solar and wind generation), electricity sector privatisations, spot price market infrastructure and O&M consultancy. ESB International is currently embedded in the fabric of Oman’s diversification strategy providing consultancy services ranging from technical advisory to strategic advisory across the full energy value chain from generation to transmission.
And there are other opportunities in the GCC region, according to Atkinson. Many of the energy sectors in the region are undergoing significant change and evolving to a low carbon renewable model.
“The Middle East is very much talking to the low carbon agenda. Historically, they would have accessed the natural capital using indigenous oil and gas, but it is also a solar rich region as well and countries in the GCC have plans to lower their carbon footprint significantly in the energy sector. They see the opportunity to move not only to wind, solar and batteries but also to smart grids.
With parent company ESB having launched its Brighter Future Strategy to 2030 to lead the transition to a low-carbon energy future based on clean, reliable, affordable electricity, the company is in a prime position to leverage this knowledge and expertise to help countries and utilities in the region to address the challenge of achieving a low carbon future.
“Energy is a cyclical investment,” says Atkinson. “Not every market is at the same point at the same time. The Irish energy market is at a specific point and the ESB has gone on the journey to decarbonisation. We did a strategic review last year and we looked at what ESB International wants to do. We have aligned ourselves with that [Brighter Future] strategy which looks to the decarbonisation of the energy sector.”
That renewable experience and expertise adds to its considerable energy offering in the Middle East from utility management projects to the delivery of transmission and distribution networks to advisory and consultancy services. That capability leaves ESB International poised to capitalise on the Middle Eastern promise.