The strategic importance of in-country value TEY_post_Abdulla-Al-Nowais

With the ongoing technological developments in wind power generation, we think that wind may still be a viable renewable energy source here.


Bringing value-adding partners to the UAE

March 17, 2021

Abdulla J. Al Nowais, CEO of Al Nowais Group (ANG), talks to The Energy Year about the company’s role in bringing value-adding foreign partners to the UAE and where it sees opportunities emerging in the local energy industry. ANG supports foreign investors in setting up and growing businesses, with services ranging from networking to prequalification assistance.

What has been ANG’s role in the energy industry?
ANG has been a preferred service provider with ADNOC for many years and we are very proud of our small role in their incredible development into a globally recognised and respected energy company.
Our primary business model for the energy sector has been to identify international companies that can add value to the UAE’s local marketplace via joint-venture and sponsorship partnerships. This has proven very successful for ANG and, as of today, our partners working in the UAE energy sector include companies covering different needs in the industry such as Australia’s GHD Engineering, a company providing the full spectrum of engineering and construction services with vast experience in energy projects worldwide; Blue Horizon Services & Oil Field Maintenance, a reliable partner for inspection services and safety training; Partners in Performance, a global management consulting firm; PM Piping, a global organisation specialising in the supply of steel products to the energy sector; HPL-FM Disinfection Services, a company specialised in sterilisation, disinfection and water treatment; and Zapp-Zimmermann, a company through which we provide fire protection systems.

How did Al Nowais Group respond to the health and safety challenges that arose with the pandemic?
In line with the decisive Covid pandemic protection methodologies implemented by the Abu Dhabi government, ANG’s priority was to provide safeguards for its employees and business partners, starting with encouraging everyone to take advantage of the UAE’s free Covid testing programme.
We had our office and operational units divide into two bubbles so as to avoid cross-contamination and to provide us with flexibility and operational continuity should someone in either bubble become infected.
Moreover, during the first stages of the Covid-19 crisis here in Abu Dhabi, Al Nowais Group donated a number of UV disinfection machines to mosques and churches in the greater Abu Dhabi City area to assist the government in their efforts to contain the pandemic. Giving is not just about making a donation; it is about trying to make a difference.

Where do you foresee opportunities emerging in the local energy industry?
While still heavily involved with fossil fuel extraction and processing, the UAE is up there with world leaders in the development and employment of renewable energies.
Based on the UAE’s Energy Strategy 2050, we will see over the coming decades an incremental swing to increase the contribution of clean energy in the country’s total energy mix from 25% to 50% by 2050. This transition should reduce the carbon footprint of our power generation by 70%. As well as providing a very substantial benefit by lessening global warming and improving our local environment, it is expected to create savings of around AED 700 billion [USD 191 billion] by 2050.
I believe substantial business opportunities are coming in the renewable energy sector. As you know, aligned with the UAE’s geographic location between the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer, the country has welcomed investment in solar and nuclear energy as the plants have been commissioned and are performing up to – if not exceeding – power generation expectations.


Tell us about your upcoming renewables initiatives.
In line with ANG’s business philosophy of “not putting all our eggs in the same basket,” we think that a diverse approach to renewable energy sources is both strategically and economically appropriate. Therefore, ANG has been investigating the feasibility and commercial viability of developing wind-generated energy as a complement to the UAE’s extensive solar initiatives.
To be frank, the UAE has been a driving force in funding wind power projects overseas, but this green energy source has not found too much traction here in the Emirates. This is possibly due to the UAE’s lack of the strong winds that are generally required to drive the older-technology wind farms in Europe and North America.
With the ongoing technological developments in wind power generation, we think that wind may still be a viable renewable energy source here. Of course, that assumption will need to be confirmed by finding suitable locations with sufficient, predictable winds and then being able to minimise construction and maintenance costs and connectivity to the grid.

How do you assess the authorities’ support for companies venturing in such initiatives?
The legislative environment with the Energy Strategy 2050 is conducive to renewables diversification. The UAE’s sustainability initiatives meet or in many cases surpass the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In terms of power production capacity, this includes announced projects and those underway, notably the 5.6 GW of nuclear in Abu Dhabi and the 2.5 GW of renewables in Dubai and Abu Dhabi under their targets.
The other very exciting renewable energy field that ANG is now investigating is hydrogen. Few energy sector pundits will disagree that hydrogen is probably going to be the energy of the 21st century, just like fossil fuels were to the 20th century. At ANG, we are currently searching for reputable international partners to help in our mission to bring best hydrogen industry practices to Abu Dhabi and the UAE. There are some excellent hydrogen R&D initiatives based in renowned universities around the world. If we can, we would like to help them forge relationships with similar institutions here in the UAE.

What importance does the new foreign ownership law have?
The new foreign ownership law was introduced by the government to make the UAE more attractive for foreign investors – which it most likely will do.
At the same time, the law still excludes majority foreign ownership in critical sectors such as oil and gas, security and defence, banking, transport, etc. That is sound, affirmative governance safeguarding the UAE’s essential sectors.
As much as the changes to the foreign ownership law will probably attract more overseas investors and allow them to operate independently in the UAE – it may still be prudent of these companies to engage in some form of business relationship with a local partner.

What is ANG’s contribution to the UAE’s economic diversification programme?
ANG’s role in this is modest but one we try to do well. ANG’s business development staff have a mandate to identify international partners that can significantly add value to the UAE’s economic diversification efforts either by introducing new technology or financially supporting ongoing initiatives. In return, ANG will work diligently with these partners to ensure their substantive efforts here are professionally and financially rewarding for them.

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