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Sat 13 Feb 2010 04:00 AM

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Energy evolution

Change is afoot in the world's power sector. Two of Siemens top executives describe how the German firm is keeping apace.

Energy evolution
Ralf Christian, CEO of power distribution, Siemens.
Energy evolution
Wolfgang Braun, general manager, Siemens power T&D in the Middle East region.

Change is afoot in the world's power sector. Two of Siemens top executives describe how the German firm is keeping apace.

Siemens is one of the major players in power and distribution in the Middle East region and the world. The firm offers a wide range of services and technologies, which in a time of transition for power companies, can prove to be extremely useful.

"Siemens is a company that covers the whole electricity and energy portfolio. We have nearly all technologies available to us. It goes from the generation to the distribution and into power consumption. We have a unique position because we are the only company that covers the whole chain," says Ralf Christian CEO of power distribution, Siemens.

The firm is aiming to take this wide range of expertise further into the renewable energy market and in this region, that means targeting the biggest renewable energy project here and possibly in the world; Masdar City.

"Masdar City has a huge potential to become a benchmark of a clean city and we are extremely interested in working together with Masdar. As we have a strong portfolio there are a number of different elements which could be of interest to Siemens," reveals Christian.

"We have excellent contacts with Masdar and we have already been in touch with them. There has been a lot of analysis of their requirements and we are confident we can become one of their important partners in the future for different elements of what is required in Masdar City," he adds.

Wolfgang Braun is the general manager of Siemens power transmission and distribution in the Middle East. He explains nothing is concrete yet in the Masdar City projects, although Siemens would like that to change.

"Some projects now are in the tendering phase. And we are very eager to participate in them, but they are not awarded yet and consequently we can't go into any details," states Braun.

"Basically we are eager to participate in the projects which have been tendered," he adds.

With the recent World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, renewable energy has once again come into the spotlight, with one of the major discussion points focusing on how this technology can be incorporated into power distribution systems.

"The easy energy of the past has come to an end so we have to remodel the complete energy infrastructure globally and incorporate the renewable technology," explains Christian.

"With most of these renewable energies, we cannot just switch them on and off whenever we like it, like with wind power and solar power. So this requires a different type of management for the system. In the past it was easy, whenever you had more consumption you increased generation.""In the clean future we need to have a balance and manage both consumption and generation. That requires a different set up of the grid, a lot of intelligence and communication technologies," Christian adds.

Away from renewable energy the firm, like any other, has been focusing on riding out the economic troubles which have had an impact even in the most needed of sectors.

"There were many lessons learnt in 2009. I think unfortunately there is a linkage between the financial system and what we call the real economy. Even though the basic need for power worldwide is huge with the population growing, because of the crisis a lot of future investments have been put on hold for some time," Christian says.

"If you look at this from a regional perspective, you can see that customers today are more selective. There was previously an abundance of available power and there was an abundance of available money, so whatever somebody could dream up, he could finance," affirms Braun.

 "It seems right now customers are looking from a priority point of view of what they really need and when they need it on the timeline."

In order to stay competitive in a market with such potential for change in the near future, it is important for a company to have a focus on new technologies and be at the forefront of breakthroughs.

"In the energy field we have been reaching on the gas turbine side a very high level of efficiency with new technology. This is going beyond the 60% benchmark in a combined cycle, which is a world record. There is technology currently being built which is a 1500km distance of power transmission. Siemens is building this in China," states Christian.

"I believe one of the next leading technologies will be electro mobility where we are developing a lot of technology today," he explains.

The high voltage cable is a basic product with huge benefits; two wires, a plus and a minus go 1500km from point to point, with no interruption. The power of 5000-6000MW is the equivalent of five or six large power houses being moved, with a minimum amount of power lost along the way.

Christian explains the potential benefits of this technology: "In this region you have a lot of solar power available, but the major consumption is further north. So if you think about the distance you could easily imagine in the Middle East having a lot of solar power generation sites and then you have a few lines moving north. With technology today you can sell it in Germany or Greece or Italy. The loss is only 6-7% so it is hugely efficient."

With new technology and new ideas Siemens appears to be right at the front of the energy evolution.

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