SIEW 2017: 5Qs with H.E. Dr Rashid Alleem, Chairman, Sharjah Electricity & Water Authority (SEWA)

Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW 2017) will be held from October 23-27, 2017 at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Dr Rashid Alleem is the chairman of Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (SEWA). He is widely considered a visionary and thought leader in the business, socio-economic, academic and cultural fields.

In his previous role, Dr Alleem served for more than a decade as Director General of Sharjah Department of Seaports and Customs, and Sharjah Free Zones Authority. Dr Rashid was the driving force in transforming the zones into a strategic commerce hub empowering thousands of businesses in the region, thereby contributing to the development of the UAE economy. He has been instrumental in bringing on board over 12,000 companies from across 157 nations and attracting $40 billion in foreign direct investment.

Dr Alleem’s leadership has helped create business excellence on other fronts through his involvement as Vice Chairman of World Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, as well as other organisations such as Sharjah Charity International, Sharjah About the Author Medical Zone, German Emirati Joint Council for Industry and Commerce and World Trade Development Council in Hong Kong.

An honorary that visits faculties in numerous local and international universities, addressing almost 15,000 people a year, Dr Alleem believes that excellence can only be achieved through sustainability by aligning commercial, social and environmental objectives.

1. What will SEWA be doing to increase clean energy use and diversify fuel sources as part of the UAE Energy Plan 2050?

Our main goals – as outlined in the SEWA Vision 2020 – are to reduce energy and waste consumption, carbon emission, and the environmental impact of our operations. These are in line with the broader, long term UAE Energy Plan 2050 that emphasises the diversification of fuel sources and finding a balance between the use of conventional fossil fuels and the use of non-conventional sources like solar.

Goal 7 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) highlights the importance of access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. Having a vision will inspire us to achieve this goal, and being clear about our objectives will help turn inspiration into results. We trust that the needs and goals laid out in the SEWA Vision 2020 are clear and achievable, and will sustain us for generations to come.
2. How is SEWA balancing sustainable energy aspirations with the need for affordability and reliability of supply?

Sharjah’s vision is to become a more sustainable city by reducing its ecological footprint with proactive energy efficiency policies, and adapting to climate change challenges through partnerships with the community and other government institutions. As a board member of the Sharjah Urban Planning Council (SUPC), we support the “smart city infrastructure” that is being adopted for sustainable urban planning and development.

Through SEWA’s R&D efforts at the University of Sharjah and our partnership with international energy organisations, we are monitoring advances in energy technologies and the cost of power generation. To date, the UAE has reported the lowest cost of production for solar. The lower the cost, the more likely customers are to adopt it. If we achieve this, then we are striking a balance between social aspirations and commercial obligations.

At the same time, SEWA is working with international partners on developing smart grid capabilities. We have started with smart metering, with 18,000 smart meters already installed throughout Sharjah. We are also using solar to generate electricity for small-scale applications like lights, water heaters and traffic signals, etc.

3. How is smart technology being used to improve security of energy supply and deployment of renewables?

We firmly believe that smart technology can contribute heavily to energy security. We have begun to deploy smart technologies, while advancing existing assets by phasing out some of the old machines and promoting energy efficiency – especially on the fuel side.

Sharjah is teaming up with leading organisations to become the region’s smart grid city. We have already introduced free charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs) and deployed EVs at central locations in the city.

To date, SEWA has installed 18,000 smart meters which can significantly contribute to the accuracy of meter readings and to identifying the actual amount of electricity consumption. We aim to replace all conventional meters by 2020 as part of the SEWA Vision 2020.

4. What best practices in sustainable energy management has SEWA adopted from its exchange with regional and international partners?

SEWA is dedicated to building a sustainable tomorrow and aims to become a zero waste company with low carbon emissions. We will achieve this through innovation, collaboration and international partnerships to increase understanding of environmental issues and disseminate good practices. We also believe that developing environment–friendly values and behaviors among the young is vital for our future. Recently, SEWA became the first Arab body to obtain the ISO 50001 – Energy Management Standard certification

We believe that using renewables and clean technologies will ensure a secure and sustainable future. As part of this, energy efficiency and productivity will be key to enhancing competitiveness and sustainable growth. For example, SEWA has retrofitted all street lights in Sharjah from conventional bulbs to LED ones, and these are powered by solar panels.

Our priority at SEWA is to ensure that the supply of power, water and gas in Sharjah is accessible and reliable, while conserving the many resources we have been entrusted with. SEWA is thus taking small yet meaningful steps towards a greener future.

5. What are your thoughts on the SIEW 2017 theme, “Rethinking Energy; Navigating Change”?*

I am a big supporter of similar themes, and the SIEW 2017 theme has come at the right time.

If we want to have a sustained and brighter tomorrow, we need to re-think how to capitalise on the resources we have without forgetting the rights of the future generation. SIEW is the platform for thought leaders, thinkers and change-makers from around the globe to explore the opportunities in the ever evolving energy landscape.

Achieving a 100% renewable energy fuelled economy is not a matter of availability of technologies, it is a matter of political will and setting the course today for a sustainable energy future.