Oman and Ireland: Shoulder to shoulder in powering change
Conall Doyle, ESB International Country Manager for Oman
I have had a long and varied career with ESB International for almost two decades now. Since 2017, I have been ESB International’s country manager in Oman, taking care of day-to-day operations and working as business development manager. I also provide project management on one of our strategic contracts with Oman Power and Water, supervisory consultancy for Ibri and Sohar 3.2 GW CCGT independent power projects.
What has struck me in the time I have been working and living here is that although Oman and Ireland appear very different at first glance, there are many similarities. Obviously, the weather is a significant exception! But, while Oman has a much larger land mass than Ireland, it has a similar size population, load profile, transmission system and generation capacity.
The challenges associated with Oman’s diversification and low carbon future strategies, de-centralisation of the energy value chain and liberalisation of the energy market have many parallels with Ireland’s past, current and future journey and ESB’s Brighter Future Strategy.
These are some of the many areas where ESB International is bringing its know-how to the table.
Over its 93-year history, ESB (Electricity Supply Board of Ireland) has brought the transformative power of electricity to the cities, towns, villages and remote areas of Ireland. This has helped transform the country into one of the most successful global economies, enjoying the third highest standard of living in the world.
For over 40 of those years, ESB International has been delivering important capital and transformational projects for our parent company, and we’ve been sharing that utility expertise in over 120 countries worldwide; with a 40-year legacy in transmission and distribution in neighbouring Bahrain.
As with many middle eastern countries, Oman is undergoing significant change in the energy value chain, with sustainability and diversification from fossil fuels at the heart of government policies. ESB International is embedded in this change, providing a range of consultancy services across the full energy value chain from generation to transmission.
The experience we bring from our parent company, ESB, as a diversified, vertically integrated utility – operating across the electricity market from generation, through transmission and distribution to the end customer – puts us in good stead. We have gained valuable lessons from making the transition to a liberalised energy market with the unbundling of various group business functions. We are applying what we learnt on this journey to projects in Oman and worldwide.
Given the depth of our experiences, ESB International has already advised on the semi-privatisation
of Oman’s transmission company. We have also provided supervisory services to the government power purchaser during execution of 3.2 GWs of power plants.
The technical and commercial privatisation of a company or supervising and testing of a power plant is one element, but given our experience, we are also able to advise on the effects of that element – and how the asset or process will look like in 5-25 years’ time. That’s where we add value. A typical consultant might come in to do a job – and not have the utility experience we have in terms of planning the life-cycle of projects and management of change.
The values of a utility are key to what ESB International offers – not only to develop an asset but sustain that asset through periods of change. This follows into how it affects customers on the very end of that value chain. It is about having a holistic view of the market and applying our experience to go the extramile for our clients.
Oman’s policy makers are leaders in the region and among the first to seek to liberalise the electricity market. ESB International is advising on this process.
We were at the leading edge of the electricity market liberalisation in Ireland. The spot price market
was one of the first markets that was developed which has now transitioned into the single energy market. As a utility we had to transition into a new way of generating and selling power. A more flexible market
requires more flexible plants and with the ongoing integration of renewables into our hydro and thermal generation fleet in both Ireland and the UK, there was and still is a lot of learning in terms of what flexible generation
looks like and what impact it has on power plants and the wider market.
That is a key part of what we translate into our international business. We are working collaboratively with the transmission company in Oman and their stakeholders to prepare for that transition, advising them on the market integration
with the power plants, the market manager, the impact of renewables on their system and the changes which may be needed to their grid codes and other techno/commercial considerations. That is a real transition-of-knowledge
Oman’s power generation sector is currently dependent on gas-fired generation. This firm thermal generation has been the backbone of Oman’s growth for the last 40 years. That is changing. The country has a diversification strategy to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels with a target of at least 30 per cent of electricity output coming from renewables by 2030. This will include solar
resources, of course, but also wind, energy storage
and potentially the use of hydrogen as a green fuel.
Leveraging the experience gained from the ESB Brighter Future Strategy is invaluable in this drive towards the de-carbonisation
of the energy value chain.
What we have to offer in the region and in Oman encompasses the full energy value chain
. We focus in on areas of change. Where a place like Oman wants to introduce 30 per cent renewables by 2030, we have experience with the impacts this will have. If I’m consulting on a power plant project, I’m not just there to build a power plant – I’m there to challenge and ask how flexible this plant can be when required to transition into a world with renewables; how reliable it will be and how might that affect the rest of the value chain.
Oman is also leading the introduction of cost reflective tariffs
for large industrial users which has increased focus on energy efficiency supported also by regulator initiatives
and recent energy saving company opportunities.
Smart energy services
and behind-the-meter solutions is an area that ESB International is expanding to the Middle East. We have significant experience in this arena from the Irish and European market and have been tying in with Irish education institutes to bring Omani students – studying sustainability and renewables in Ireland – under our wing.
Renewable energy graduate Abdullah Al Rawahi – the first student to take part in this initiative – is now working on smart energy projects in our Oman office. Knowledge transfer is part of ESB International’s core values. And this is not just for clients, it also applies to our own employees in our international offices where we foster future talent.
We are at the forefront of the management of change in the energy value chain in Oman. We hope to further our involvement in Oman’s successful de-carbonisation strategy and continue contributing to the brighter future in the Middle East region as a whole.
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