Installation of smart meters to take 8 years at a cost of SR7bn

Updated 18 March 2014
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Installation of smart meters to take 8 years at a cost of SR7bn

The Electricity and Co-generation Regulatory Authority (ECRA) said the estimated cost of installing smart meters will amount to SR7 billion, and the time for the implementation process will take up to 8 years.
Abdullah Al-Shahri, governor of ECRA, was quoted saying to a local newspaper that a national supervisory committee has been formed with the participation of the Ministry of Electricity and Water and a number of relevant bodies to implement the trial phase of the meters’ installation, and to discuss possible solutions to technical and administrative problems that may emerge following their installation.
He said the Electricity Company has carried out a number of trial projects to be familiar with the performance of the meters, the extent of their resistance to heat and various communication means. He added that 6,000 digital meters will be installed for all industrial subscribers.
“Work is currently underway to install 40 thousand meters for major commercial subscribers to begin with,” explained Al-Shahri, adding, “The whole integrated plan needs high funding and much more time.”
The study estimated the initial cost of the installation of smart meters to stand at SR7 billion, he said noting, “But they will yield much more than that to the company and our national economy given the savings in the fuel to operate and manage the electricity loads.”
Commenting on the news recently circulated on the chairmanship of the Ministry of Electricity to the board of directors of the ECRA, and its governor as a deputy, he asserted that there is no conflict of interests in this regard.
He said that that the ECRA board includes 12 members besides the chairman. “The members include the governor, 6 members representing relevant government bodies, and 5 independent members appointed through a decision by the Council of Ministers,” he explained.
He explained that the decisions of the ECRA require the approval of the majority for their endorsement. “This is the case with the other authorities in the Kingdom such as the Communications & Information Technology Commission which is chaired by the Minister of Communication and Information Technology and has the governor of ECRA as his deputy, the Industrial Cities and Technology Zones (Modon) with the Minister of Commerce and Industry as the chairman of board of directors,” he said.
He said that supervising the financial and administrative independence of ECRA is under the control of the Council of Ministers, much like the rest of the independent bodies of the ministries. Its accounts also, he explained are included in the monitoring process of the General Auditing Bureau. “This involves, of course, monitoring its performance, assuming its responsibilities and the handling of its accounts by outside auditors,” he added.
It is worth mentioning that ECRA assumes the tasks of issuing the executive lists of the technical, environmental, procedural and operational rules as well as the necessary licensing concerning any electrical activity. It also sets out the performance standards for licensees to meet before issuing the required licenses.


How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

Dr. Fatima Alakeel, cybersecurity expert. (AN photo)
Updated 20 March 2019
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How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

  • ‘Securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,’ says Dr. Fatema Alakeel of King Saud University in Riyadh
  • ‘Saudi women are ambitious,’ says one graduate. ‘We are acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers’

DUBAI: More and more girls in Saudi Arabia are opting for an education in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and now the challenge is finding them employment, said Dr. Fatima Alakeel, a cybersecurity expert and faculty member at King Saud University (KSU) in Riyadh.
“In the Kingdom, STEM-related jobs are limited at the moment, as the economy is primarily oil-based and there are few technical jobs available,” said Alakeel, who is also the founder and CEO of the non-profit Confidentiality, Integrity & Availability Group (CIAG), which focuses on information security training and research in Riyadh.
According to a government report on the labor market situation in the third quarter of 2018, more than 30 percent of Saudi women aged between 15 and 65 are unemployed.
Among them, the highest rate of unemployment is among 20-24-year-olds (more than 70 percent) and among 25-29-year-olds (55 percent).
According to the report, there are 923,504 Saudi jobseekers, of whom 765,378 are women (82.2 percent).
“We have more girls in STEM education compared to Western countries,” said Alakeel, who completed her doctoral degree in computer science in the UK at the University of Southampton in 2017.
According to a report prepared by the Saudi Education Ministry, girls accounted for 57 percent of undergraduates for the year 2015-2016 in the Kingdom.
That same year, women outnumbered men in graduating with a bachelor’s in biology, information technology (IT), mathematics and statistics, and physics.
According to a survey Alakeel recently conducted on social media, “almost 80 percent of (Saudi) girls were keen to study STEM, but securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,” she said.
Maha Al-Taleb, 22, graduated earlier this year with a degree in technology from KSU, specializing in IT networks and security.
“It’s common for girls in the Kingdom to opt for STEM education,” said Al-Taleb, who now works in a public sector company in Riyadh as a junior information security analyst.
“Saudi women are ambitious. We’re acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers. I don’t know why the world assumes that Saudi women are a backward tribal species who have no say in these matters. This entire perception is flawed.”
Al-Taleb got a job offer immediately after university, but realizes that not all her peers are as fortunate. Women “are facing problems in securing jobs, not because companies don’t want to hire us, but because employment for Saudi youths is a major challenge,” she said.
“In today’s Saudi Arabia, parents are encouraging their daughters to get a degree not just in the Kingdom; they also want them to go to Western universities. It has become a common phenomenon. Things have changed. Women are a crucial part of the nation’s development process.”
Not all women graduating in the Kingdom are as lucky, among them Razan Al-Qahtani. “It has been several months since I graduated, yet I haven’t been able to find a job. It has been a struggle so far,” said the 25-year-old IT graduate. “We have more talented and qualified girls, especially in the field of technology, but there are few jobs available. It’s a difficult situation, but we’re hopeful things will change very soon.”
Al-Qahtani expressed confidence that the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan will bring opportunities for qualified Saudis.
As part of Vision 2030, the government has committed to raise employment among Saudi women.
Alakeel said the government is working hard to find a solution, and it is only a matter of time until more such jobs are on offer.
“As per Vision 2030, there will be more jobs, including technical jobs, available in the country. Once we have more jobs, women will eventually get their due share,” she added. According to Alakeel, female empowerment and promotion to leading roles have made huge progress in Saudi Arabia, and this may affect existing STEM job opportunities.
“We’re glad to see Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud becoming the first female ambassador of the country. It only suggests change is on the way,” Alakeel said.
Al-Taleb expressed pride in the way her parents have supported her, saying: “My father isn’t educated and my mother has basic literacy, but both provided me with the education I desired. They want their daughters to be as successful as their sons.”
Like women in any country, the transition from university to the workplace is not always easy, even for young Saudi women with technology degrees. Yet they are not losing hope.
“We realize these are difficult times in terms of employment, especially in technology-related fields, but things will change,” Al-Taleb said. “Saudi women will soon be ruling the fields of STEM all over the country.”