ENGIE boss says Kingdom’s green hydrogen plans are a game changer

Exclusive ENGIE boss says Kingdom’s green hydrogen plans are a game changer
The $500 billion megacity NEOM will be powered by Hydrogen. (Supplied)
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Updated 10 October 2021

ENGIE boss says Kingdom’s green hydrogen plans are a game changer

ENGIE boss says Kingdom’s green hydrogen plans are a game changer
  • ENGIE's Saudi CEO points to NEOM as an example of future of hydrogen economy

RIYADH: The chief executive of French owned power giant ENGIE in Saudi Arabia, Turki Al-Shehri, finds it hard to hide his excitement about green hydrogen. However, he couldn’t hide his worries on the difficulties that conventional energy projects are currently facing.

He told Arab News that financing for plants that are not green has become “much more difficult”. On projects where there is no credit rating, the firm has had to do its corporate financing at times, as well as its own credit analysis.

“This is not the ideal way to be at this stage,” he said.

On the other hand, Al-Shehri firmly believes the future is hydrogen. He said: “I think it’s a global energy changer. Green hydrogen is coming. Even before it was even a buzzword, we’ve been spending roughly €60 million a year on green hydrogen research around the world.”

Hydrogen has been the fuel of the future for decades but investment in the technology has increased in recent years.

The European Union plans to invest $430 billion in green hydrogen by 2030, and, along with Saudi countries such as Chile, Japan and Australia are investing heavily in the technology.

Green hydrogen is produced using renewable energy to split water, a process called electrolysis. It is distinct from grey hydrogen, which is produced from methane and releases carbon into the atmosphere, and blue hydrogen, which captures the emissions and stores or reuses them.

Currently less than 0.1 percent of the hydrogen produced globally is green, but that is changing.

One of the Kingdom’s giga-projects, the $500 billion megacity NEOM, will be powered by green hydrogen. The huge futuristic development by the Red Sea, first announced in 2017, will cover an area 33 times the size of New York City. It will feature the latest cutting-edge technology that will see no cars on the streets while pedestrians access services through machines that can recognize their faces.

The city will be run on 100 percent renewable energy, with green hydrogen playing a big part of that.

Wind and solar energy can generate enough electricity to power homes and electric cars, but green hydrogen has the bigger potential to power large-scale manufacturing plants, as well as transport that is more difficult to electrify, such as planes, shipping and long-distance trucks.

The Kingdom enjoys the world’s cheapest wind and solar power, because of its high sunshine rates during the day and reliable winds at night, and it intends to step up its investment in green hydrogen development.

ENGIE’s Al-Shehri concedes that this type of power is more expensive than fossil fuels, but adds that the low cost of green energy in the Middle East makes it an attractive option that even has export potential.

Last July, NEOM, Saudi energy firm ACWA Power and US company Air Products signed a $5 billion deal to build the world’s largest green hydrogen plant to supply 650 tons per day of carbon-free hydrogen by 2025.

Al-Shehri calls the deal a “fantastic achievement,” adding: “I think we’re going to continue to see similar opportunities with respect to ENGIE."

The energy boss says the key to getting these early-stage green projects off the ground is companies finding government projects that come with guarantees to take the power produced at an agreed price.

“Green financing from good credit rating agencies of government projects is not a problem at all,” he said.

In March, ENGIE in Saudi Arabia signed a $450 million deal to build the first large-scale desalination project in the Kingdom partly powered by solar panels.

ENGIE has a 25-year concession to run the plant, Yanbu-4, based 140 km west of Medina, which is due to come on stream in the final quarter of 2023.

Construction on the project will create 500 jobs, with around 40 percent going to Saudis.

Al-Shehri said at the time: “Our objective will be to create local jobs, support increasing foreign direct investment, diversify the economy, and harness the global expertise of ENGIE into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”


QIA CEO says exploring opportunities in blockchain

QIA CEO says exploring opportunities in blockchain
Updated 11 sec ago

QIA CEO says exploring opportunities in blockchain

QIA CEO says exploring opportunities in blockchain
  • Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund chief says not interested in crypto investment

DUBAI: The chief executive of Qatar Investment Authority said on Tuesday that the sovereign wealth fund is not interested in crypto investments but it is exploring opportunities in blockchain.

Mansoor bin Ebrahim Al-Mahmoud was speaking at the Qatar Economic Forum organized by Bloomberg.

The $300 billion sovereign wealth fund owns stakes in Credit Suisse and Volkswagen AG as part of its European portfolio.

Russian exemption

On the other hand, Russian lawmakers approved a draft law that would potentially exempt issuers of digital assets and cryptocurrencies from value-added tax.

Russia has long voiced skepticism of cryptocurrencies and other digital assets, with the central bank citing concerns over financial stability.

But in February the regulator gave blockchain platform Atomyze Russia the first license to exchange digital assets. A license for dominant lender Sberbank soon followed.

Unprecedented Western sanctions have hit the heart of Russia’s financial system over events in Ukraine and lawmakers have scrabbled to bring in new legislation to soften the blow.

The draft law, approved by State Duma members in the second and third readings on Tuesday, envisages exemptions on value-added tax for issuers of digital assets and information systems operators involved in their issue.

It also establishes tax rates on income earned from the sale of digital assets.

The current rate on transactions is 20 percent, the same as for standard assets. Under the new law, the tax would be 13 percent for Russian companies and 15 percent for foreign ones.

The draft must still be reviewed by the upper house and signed by President Vladimir Putin to become law.

Bitcoin miners

Bitcoin miners have been forced to tap into their cryptocurrency stashes as a plunge in prices, rising energy costs and increased competition bite into profitability.

The number of coins miners are sending to crypto exchanges has been steadily climbing since June 7, researchers at MacroHive noted, in a sign that “miners have been increasingly liquidating their coins on exchanges.”

Several publicly listed bitcoin miners collectively sold more than 100 percent of their entire output in May as the value of bitcoin tumbled 45 percent, an analysis by Arcane Research found.

“The plummeting profitability of mining forced these miners to increase their selling rate to more than 100 percent of their output in May. The conditions have worsened in June, meaning they are likely selling even more,” said Arcane analyst Jaran Mellerud.

The crypto mining space rapidly expanded in 2021 as bitcoin more than quadrupled in value, but this growth has further pressured margins as the process is designed to grow more difficult as the number of miners increases.

“Over the past six months, hash rate and mining difficulty have increased while the price of bitcoin has dropped. These are both negatives for existing miners as both work to compress margins,” said Joe Burnett, analyst at bitcoin mining firm Blockware Solutions.

High energy prices are also hitting miners, which by some estimates use more electricity than the Philippines, according to the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index.

“If you’re not at a very low-cost electricity area at this point, you’ve got to shut down,” noted Chris Brendler, senior research analyst at D.A. Davidson.

Daily trading

Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency internationally, traded lower on Tuesday, falling by 1.77 percent to $20,811.95 as of 9:15 a.m. Riyadh time.

Ethereum, the second most traded cryptocurrency, was priced at $1,192.89 falling by 1.73 percent, according to data from CoinDesk.


Tabby’s app achieves a record 26m clicks to retail partners in a year

Tabby’s app achieves a record 26m clicks to retail partners in a year
Updated 28 June 2022

Tabby’s app achieves a record 26m clicks to retail partners in a year

Tabby’s app achieves a record 26m clicks to retail partners in a year
  • The app drives 3.5 million clicks every month to thousands of retailers.

RIYADH: Tabby, the payments and shopping app, attracted 2 million shoppers driving 26 million clicks to retail partners in the last year, according to a statement. 

The app drives 3.5 million clicks every month to thousands of retailers, including brands like Ikea, Shein, Adidas, Level Shoes, H&M, and thousands more.

The app currently ranks among the top-10 shopping apps on the App store in Saudi Arabia and the UAE with 500,000 shoppers installing the app every month to discover new stores and unlock great deals.

Commenting on the achievement, Hosam Arab, co-founder and CEO at Tabby, said: “We’re seeing Tabby’s place in people’s shopping journey go far beyond payments, with millions relying on Tabby to support their entire shopping experience. Tabby’s app helps customers discover where to shop and make the most out of their money, driving high-intent traffic to thousands of our retail partners.”

Retail partners work with Tabby’s in-house marketing team to gain traffic and visibility through prominent placement in the app which delivers curated content, promotions and deals. 

The past two years have seen exponential growth for Tabby, with 8 of the 10 largest retail groups in the Middle East and North Africa choosing Tabby as their preferred partner and closing their series B funding round at $154 million in equity and debt this year. 


Eclipse Foods raises $40m in Series B as it seeks to change dairy industry

Eclipse Foods raises $40m in Series B as it seeks to change dairy industry
Updated 28 June 2022

Eclipse Foods raises $40m in Series B as it seeks to change dairy industry

Eclipse Foods raises $40m in Series B as it seeks to change dairy industry

RIYADH: Oakland-based Eclipse Foods has raised over $40 million in its Series B funding round led by Sozo Ventures with participation from Forerunner Ventures, Initialized Capital, Gaingels, and KBW Ventures.

To date, the plant-based dairy products firm has raised over $60 million so far, with investors including Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed, the green tech venture capitalist and Seth Goldman, chairman of Beyond Meat, according to a statement.

The newly acquired fund will fuel the business’s growth in retail and food service and will accelerate R&D on its proprietary plant-based dairy platform.

“The No. 1 reason consumers avoid plant-based dairy is taste,” said Bob Roe, vice president of Narrative Development at Sozo Ventures. 

To date, the plant-based dairy products firm has raised over $60 million so far, with investors including Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed, pictured, the green tech venture capitalist. 

“Seventy percent of the world’s population is lactose intolerant and with the alternative protein space projected to grow to $1.4 trillion by 2050, Eclipse is positioned to completely transform the dairy industry with its proprietary plant-based dairy platform,” he added. 

Founded in 2019, the US firm seeks to create a more sustainable and healthy food system with its plant-based dairy platform. 

“With 10 billion people to feed by 2050, we recognized that global diets must change,” said Aylon Steinhart, co-founder and CEO of Eclipse Foods. 

“Consumers want more than just a dairy alternative like almond milk — they want a true replacement. Our plant-based dairy platform uses micelles (the microscopic magic of milk) to create the replacement products that consumers have been craving, and our growth over the last three years is a testament to that,” he added. 


Dubai Blockchain Center to create metaverse for digital economy taskforce

Dubai Blockchain Center to create metaverse for digital economy taskforce
Updated 28 June 2022

Dubai Blockchain Center to create metaverse for digital economy taskforce

Dubai Blockchain Center to create metaverse for digital economy taskforce

DUBAI: Dubai Blockchain Center, a leading blockchain advocate and strategic partner to government agency Dubai Future Foundation, is planning to create a metaverse for the government task force impaneled to develop and oversee the digital economy policies in the region.

Speaking on the sidelines of the DIFC Fintech Week in Dubai, DBCC CEO Marwan Al-Zarouni told Arab News that it plans to create a virtual platform that will host all upcoming events of the task force related to supervising technological developments in the digital economy.

“Dubai is creating a task force for the digital economy, and one of its priorities is to create a metaverse for that task force,” said Al-Zarouni.

DBCC CEO Marwan Al-Zarouni

The company has also set off an educational drive to inform and acquaint potential investors about the opportunities around the blockchain ecosystem in the region.

“We are offering freemium content to schools and universities. The advance classes will, however, have to be paid for,” said Al-Zarouni.

He added: “We also educate government departments that want to invest in this space. The basic advice for government departments is free.”

Al-Zarouni also signed up as an adviser with the Rare Antiquities Project, a platform that aims to bring cryptocurrency into the museum, galleries, and heritage sector.

Its currency, also known as Rare Antiquities Token, allows its holder to purchase antiques using non-fungible tokens.

Dubai is creating a task force for the digital economy.

DBCC CEO Marwan Al-Zarouni

RAT holders can enter museums, and their admission cost will be automatically restored to their RAT wallet, making the admission free.

The company has been investing outside the UAE in multiple crypto funds through token allocations.

“We have worked with the Future Blockchain Summit and conducted several virtual summits. In addition to Dubai, we have worked with other countries such as Italy, Australia and Gibraltar,” added Al-Zarouni.

The UAE has been the destination of choice for cryptocurrency, with several top companies based in Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Turkey relocating their businesses to Dubai.

According to Al-Zarouni, some of the emerging sectors in the region include game development, 3D building and e-sports.

“Dubai is becoming a melting pot for these crypto and blockchain projects and a haven for investors who want to invest in this space.”

In addition to locating their businesses in Dubai, the DBCC offers investors the opportunity to partner with like-minded individuals globally, he said.

One of the companies that DBCC provided services for was Biconomy, which is now listed on many exchanges, including Binance, he said.

Speaking on the market and its downfall, Al-Zarouni said that the market downturn is healthy because it is cyclical. However, it is hard to raise funds during such a period. “But it is okay to build,” he added.

 


Buy now, pay later — the most preferred payment in the region: Fintech panel

Buy now, pay later — the most preferred payment in the region: Fintech panel
Updated 28 June 2022

Buy now, pay later — the most preferred payment in the region: Fintech panel

Buy now, pay later — the most preferred payment in the region: Fintech panel

DUBAI: Buy now, pay later, a financing option that allows customers to pay flexibly, has become the preferred mode of payment in the region, said top fintech players.

Speaking at a panel discussion on the BNPL evolution at the DIFC Fintech Week from June 28 to 29, the industry leaders pointed out how the finance option revolutionized the fintech industry.

The leaders present during the panel discussion were CEO Tamara Abdulmajeed Al-Sukhan, CEO Tabby Hosam Arab, Srinath Hariharan, head of product management, Amazon Payment Services; and Melissa Guzy, co-founder, Arbor Ventures.

During the discussion, Al-Sukhan said that Tamara is not just a BNPL product or a silent banking solution; instead, it always stands for its customers and serves them when they need help.

For his part, Arab said that there is a lot of work to be done beyond just building a tech solution on checkout. Arab added that mass adoption is a success factor as there is apparent adoption on both the consumer and provider’s sides.

“We make our money from the merchants that we work with. However, getting a business that sustains itself and can build real value for investors and stakeholders is the hard part,” Arab further noted.

Hariharan explained that BNPL is not a one-size fit for all products.

Guzy said that BNPL is a category that is quite different worldwide and cautioned that start-ups that think they will raise money in the next few months would be disappointed.

Seeking talent

Guzy revealed that hiring the right talent in the fintech sector is a pretty tricky task, and entrepreneurs should be creative and strategic during the hiring process due to the shortage of professional skills.

Tabby’s Arab, however, noted that the company is looking for fresh graduates to enhance local fintech.

During the discussion, Al-Sukhan noted that Tamara had hired people from worldwide.

Hariharan said that in terms of talent acquisition and retention, people relate growth with vertical growth. “One aspect is how do you ensure there is sustainable career growth?” he asked, adding that “another aspect is balance and work-life harmony.”

Risk factor

Talking about the risks, Al-Sukhan said that Tamara has a full risk assessment team other than the data team.

“With the data we have, we reroute ourselves, and we make sure that we are not underwriting like six months ago,” added Sukhan.

Arab commented that Tabby took a different approach by not chasing growth to avoid risks.

“Our customers are largely debit card consumers,” he added.

The way ahead

With regard to future plans, Hariharan said that Amazon Payment Services is engaging in multiple sectors and curating multiple experiences for merchants and customers.

Tabby, on the other hand, is investing quite deeply in virtual cards that customers can use offline to purchase at stores.