Dietmar Siersdorfer: The power of ambition

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Siemens first established a presence in the Middle East 150 years ago, and since then has been closely involved in the construction of almost every key piece of infrastructure in the region. Active in fossil power generation, solar and hydro, wind power, oil and gas, energy service and power transmission, the firm’s Energy Sector last year posted a profit of more than $5.3 billion. Working across 16 countries and six separate divisions Dietmar Siersdorfer, CEO of the Energy Sector’s Middle East operations, is confident that the region is developing a serious ambition towards renewable power, but that traditional generation will be needed to finance the growth of green technology.

“When you look into the Middle East, while it has traditionally been an oil and gas region, it is now growing into renewables. But at the moment energy does not have a high price tag here, and this means that new technologies – which at the beginning are more cost-intensive – are not getting the emphasis they deserve. The governments and legislators in the region have to play a more active role to promote this, not only through words but also by putting the legal framework for it in place, and maybe looking at incentives.”

Siersdorfer points to Germany, which in 2011 constructed huge additional solar capacity, proving that the implementation of renewables can be swift and scalable.

“Solar will get cheaper, in terms of cost, when you implement more scale,” says Siersdorfer. “One thing to remember is that the traditional energy sources have to subsidise the new technologies. It’s like every innovation and technology – you have to earn the money to do the innovation, and its similar here in the region.”

Siersdorfer argues that with the cost of gas a deciding factor in the construction of new thermal power plants, prices need to be higher so that the surplus funds may be used to implement new technology.

“Implementing these technologies on a broader scale will then see them come down in price; for solar, this region is in the sun belt and has all the ingredients to be the world leader – I think it will be in the future.”

In the solar sector, Siemens is currently supplying both PV and CSP technology to the Middle Eastern market – the two key technologies in the race for solar dominance – and has also recently signed a one-year deal with renewable pioneers Masdar. The deal will see Siemens and Masdar cooperating in solar energy technology research and development in order to enhance the use of PV panels in the Middle East region, with joint testing and research activities investigating the properties of solar panel coatings.

“This is essential for the Middle East region,” Siersdorfer explains, “because we have a lot of dust and humidity and we need to develop better coating technology to clean the panels, otherwise the efficiency will decrease and you won’t get the yield you need from them.”

“We believe that in the next few years, 80 per cent of the Middle East’s power generation will be fossil dominated, dropping to 75 per cent in the next five to ten years. The demand on these plants is very high – if you look at Qurayyah in Saudi Arabia, which we were awarded recently, we’re talking about a 2,500 megawatt power plant. The biggest solar plant in the region at the moment is the Noor facility in Al Ain, which is 100MW, so you’d need 25 of those for the same generation. But this is possible with PV – it is scalable, and it’s really a matter of logistics and maintenance. You’d need a huge plot of land to do it, and there is land available here, and you need to have the right coatings on the panels, but it is possible.”

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