CEO Yousif Al Ali shares how EtihadWE is enabling sustainability
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CEO Yousif Al Ali shares how EtihadWE is enabling sustainability

CEO Yousif Al Ali shares how EtihadWE is enabling sustainability

EtihadWE is building a more resilient water network capable of rising to changing demands, including its recently inaugurated reverse osmosis seawater desalination plant in Umm Al Quwain

Neesha Salian
EtihadWE CEO Yousif Al Ali shares the focus on enabling sustainability in the utilities sector

We recently celebrated Earth Day in April. How has the global environmental protection landscape changed since the first Earth Day in 1970?

Much has changed in the 54 years since the first Earth Day in 1970, and we look at Earth Day in a very different context now, set against the backdrop of the need to reduce and reverse environmental harm.
Growing populations and changing lifestyles have put increasing pressure on energy supply and have shifted how the world uses energy.

Transitioning into the fourth industrial revolution and being poised at the dawn of widespread AI and electric transportation uptake, these advancements will further change patterns of energy usage and put even more emphasis on reliable access for all.

The UAE has always valued sustainability as a fundamental principle, thanks to the legacy of our founder, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who was a global leader in environmental and climate action. It is clear, this steadfast commitment to sustainability practices is stronger than ever.

What role does digitalisation play in the UAE’s move toward greater sustainability in the area of utilities?

Innovation, such as digitalisation, holds the key to unlocking sustainable solutions in utilities: there will always be demand for energy and water, and so supply will always need to be balanced with environmental impact. That is why it is only by developing more efficient and sustainable systems that we can ensure we meet that demand while minimising environmental impacts.

This value is a cornerstone that guides so much of our work at Etihad Water and Electricity (EtihadWE). Our dedication to continuous improvement means we are at the forefront of innovation in water and electricity, continuously exploring new opportunities to leverage technology that advances our systems, making them more efficient and flexible to changing needs, benefiting our customers, our communities, and the planet alike.
For example, smart meters give real time usage information which incentivises conservation and efficiency and helps to manage supply and demand and reduce wastage.

Initiatives and schemes like Ras Al Khaimah Municipality’s Manzily Energy Advice are helping customers embrace these smart technologies and controls, shift consumer behaviour, and help them save on their energy and water bills.

Grid modernisation initiatives – including installation of automated systems – optimise distribution to improve reliability, reduce outages, enhance supply and improve efficiency. This helps to prepare for the inevitable increase in electric vehicle ownership in both private residences and public services, which will put increased pressure on the grid through charging demands.

How is the company using technology  to help the UAE meet water demands?

It is not just electricity; technology is also helping us to meet the UAE’s goals as part of its Water Security Strategy 2036. Water scarcity is a global issue that is felt particularly keenly in the Gulf States, with the arid landscape of our desert countries and minimal freshwater sources.

At EtihadWE, we are building a more resilient water network capable of rising to changing demands, including our recently inaugurated reverse osmosis (RO) seawater desalination plant in Umm Al Quwain, Naqa’a.

The plant – a fully RO-based production facility – is producing 150 MIGD (million imperial gallons per day) and reduces energy consumption through the reverse osmosis process, which is more energy-efficient than traditional thermal desalination.

Smart water management systems throughout our network optimise water distribution, utilising AI and data for maintenance management and further accelerating work on reducing leaks and other ways water is lost in the system. These innovations are vital to bolstering the country’s capacity to address future water sector challenges and are positioning the UAE as a global hub for water technologies.

How is EtihadWE supporting the use of from renewable sources into the existing grid?

In the realm of renewables, the major challenge the world over remains not necessarily how to generate renewable energy, but how to integrate energy from sources like wind and solar back into an existing grid infrastructure. Achieving that integration relies not only on investment at a substantial scale but also technology, to drive adoption of cleaner energy.

EtihadWE is not only reinforcing and investing in infrastructure to allow integration but also developing emerging technologies like energy storage to allow energy to be stored for later use, alleviating concerns about consistency of supply when the sun isn’t shining, or the wind isn’t blowing. Combined with energy management systems and demand-response programmes, this can optimise the use of renewables at peak times and increase grid stability.

These advances make renewably sourced energy a viable alternative for mass energy supply, which not only reduces carbon emissions, but drives economic growth and creates jobs.

As we navigate our changing technological landscape, it brings new pressures on the utilities sector, but it simultaneously presents new opportunities.

As pioneers in the energy sector, we’re not just keeping the lights on – we’re lighting the way to a brighter, more sustainable future for all.

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