Saudi startup joins in national efforts promote green building

Saudi startup joins in national efforts promote green building
Saudis are increasingly becoming aware of using sustainable solutions to conserve energy and preserve the environment in line with the government’s efforts. (GettyImages)
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Updated 25 October 2021

Saudi startup joins in national efforts promote green building

Saudi startup joins in national efforts promote green building
  • Large number of people in the Kingdom are moving toward sustainable solutions

LONDON: As global leaders converge at the Middle East Green Initiative Summit on Oct. 25, the focus will be on new ideas and proposals to replace the wasteful and polluting ways in favor of environmentally-friendly methods. 

Meanwhile, there are set to be profound changes at the grass-roots level, in terms of sustainable living environments. A number of “green” startups have emerged in the Kingdom in recent years, offering products and services that aim to reduce carbon emissions while improving the quality of life for ordinary citizens.

One such company is Riyadh-based EIA Energy. Founded in 2020 with support from Monsha’at, the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises, EIA Energy is a 12-employee firm with a turnover of SR1.2 million and projected growth up to SR7.5 million by Q4 2022.

“EIA Energy was founded as an energy services company (ESCO) and has developed into a provider of end-to-end energy management services and solutions to reduce energy consumption and increase energy efficiency in client facilities,” CEO Abdullah Al-Othman told Arab News. 

As a certified ESCO, EIA Energy provides three kinds of service: First, energy consulting and energy monitoring in order to reduce costs; second is the obtaining of “green certification” for facility owners and managers; and third is guidance regarding green building techniques in terms of architecture, efficient water use, landscaping and eco-friendly transport solutions. 

EIA Energy describes its energy efficiency strategy as the “SMARRT Approach” – an acronym for Surveying, Monitoring, Analyzing, Reducing, Reviewing and Targeting.  

There will be a growing demand for this kind of consultancy in Saudi Arabia as builders and developers conform to new green regulations while satisfying the demand of modern families for a healthier and better way of life. 

“This is a good time for ESCOs right now,” says Al-Othman, “because we’re catching the beginning of the whole transformation that’s taking place, the cultural shift. There are a lot of government initiatives – Vision 2030, SGI, Green Riyadh — which stimulate the entire market and create a lot of opportunities.”

In the 1960s and 70s Riyadh and other cities in the Kingdom became the so-called “supergrids” of intersecting highways, filled in with buildings and concrete surfacing with only a small allowance for green spaces. Concrete absorbs and radiates heat in the summer months, while preventing ground absorption of rainwater during the winter — causing severe and sometimes fatal flooding. 

“We say no to concrete,” says EIA Energy GM Hamza Khan. “We prefer gravel because there has to be porous ground that allows rainwater to go back into the earth and replenish the groundwater sources.”

Builders, developers and facility operators have no choice but to move from words to action. “We are getting a lot of inquiries from apartment and compound owners, supermarkets, retail outlets and restaurants,” says Khan. “They all want to reduce their costs and their emissions – to offer something more sustainable and to stand apart from the competition.” 

Much of EIA Energy’s efforts are dedicated to enabling LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification from the US Green Building Council. This certification promotes a higher quality of life for building occupants in terms of energy and water efficiency and improvement of the living environment. It follows the principle of the triple bottom line of the 3Ps: People, planet and profit. This certification can be applied to any built-up area: residential facilities, office buildings, educational institutions and hospitals.

EIA Energy relies on hardware and software supplied by its UK partner Best Energy. “But it is clear that the technologies we bring to Saudi Arabia should be manufactured or at least assembled here,” says Al-Othman. “And that would solve a major issue that we are facing now with the destruction of the global supply chain due to COVID-19 and other factors.” The company also has ambitions to develop its own proprietary solutions as it grows and expands. 

“Saudi Arabia is going green and is moving towards energy efficiency and reducing its carbon emissions,” says Al-Othman. “Green tech startups and ESCOs have a major part in this. We are benefiting from new government initiatives, and we just want to keep improving and introducing more services — in line with Vision 2030, which says that SMEs should play a key role in the future Saudi economy.”


US, Qatar discuss gas supplies amid Ukraine invasion fears

US, Qatar discuss gas supplies amid Ukraine invasion fears
Updated 22 January 2022

US, Qatar discuss gas supplies amid Ukraine invasion fears

US, Qatar discuss gas supplies amid Ukraine invasion fears
  • As Europe faces record energy prices, concerns especially high over possible supply dip
  • American official: ‘There’s no magic wand. It’s all really hard, really complicated’

LONDON: The US is holding discussions with Qatar and other gas exporters amid fears that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could spark a decline in supply.

The talks with the Gulf state and some EU nations have focused on new ways to secure alternative seaborne liquefied natural gas cargoes.

The discussions have become more intense in the last week as security talks between senior American and Russian ministers made little progress.

As Europe is facing record energy prices, concerns are especially high regarding a possible dip in gas supplies.

“We’re looking at what can be done in preparation for an event, especially midwinter with very low (European natural gas) supplies in storage,” a senior US administration official told the Financial Times.

“We discussed what can be moved around the market, what can help … the things we can prepare now for deployment if and when there is an escalated crisis.”

Officials are concerned that Europe could face widespread chaos, with blackouts and industrial disruption, if Russian gas exports fall sharply following an invasion. Gas stocks are at a record low for this time of year.

The US administration official said existing contracts between LNG exporters and Asian buyers risk disrupting any new plans to divert supply to Europe.

“There’s no magic wand,” the official said. “It’s all really hard, really complicated. Looking to do it within the constructs of how markets work, how commercial terms work, how cargoes work.”

An energy industry executive warned that Europe would almost certainly face extremely high energy prices amid an invasion, which could require coordinated government action to secure alternative LNG supplies.

“They will effectively have to compete for all the supply in the market, taking cargoes away from Asia, and the likely end result is the taxpayer will pay,” the executive told the FT.

“It would be like procuring PPE (personal protective equipment) at the start of the pandemic, with governments needing to intervene.”


Lebanon’s 2022 draft budget forecasts 20.8% deficit amid financial crisis

Lebanon’s 2022 draft budget forecasts 20.8% deficit amid financial crisis
Updated 21 January 2022

Lebanon’s 2022 draft budget forecasts 20.8% deficit amid financial crisis

Lebanon’s 2022 draft budget forecasts 20.8% deficit amid financial crisis

Lebanon’s debt-ridden government expects a 20.8 percent deficit for the coming year, according to a draft budget released on Jan 21. 

The plan, seen by Reuters, will see ministers put forward a long-term treasury advance to Electricité du Liban, Lebanon’s electricity company, of 5.25 trillion Lebanese pounds ($3.5 billion).

The advance will be provided to pay for fuel purchases, interest and loan installments, in a country that has been hit by energy shortages.

Last year, Lebanon’s projected budget had a deficit of 31.3 percent, and the plan was not passed by the country’s parliament.

Political dissension and escalating tensions between communities have had a negative impact on economic growth, compounding Lebanon’s woes since its 2019 default on a $90 billion debt.

Nassib Ghobril, head of research at Lebanon’s Byblos bank, warned that the government’s projection of a lower deficit depends on whether it can “improve the investment climate for business.”

Speaking to Arab News, he argued that a 10 percent tax increase on imported goods “won’t be effective if the government keeps on avoiding combatting custom evasion and smuggling.”

Ghobril said the cost of smuggling to other countries, more specifically Syria, runs into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

He added that Lebanon’s 2022 growth, which he estimates contracted by 12 percent in 2021, and 25 percent in 2020, will depend on the Lebanese government’s next policies.

“There are two scenarios: either the government reaches an agreement on economic reforms, with a deal with the IMF (International Monetary Fund), and this will push growth into positive territory after four years of contraction; or it won’t and we will face another year of economic contraction,” he said.


Gulf electricity interconnection project saves members $3bn

Gulf electricity interconnection project saves members $3bn
Updated 21 January 2022

Gulf electricity interconnection project saves members $3bn

Gulf electricity interconnection project saves members $3bn

RIYADH: Gulf countries have saved $3 billion since the establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Council Interconnection Authority in 2019, it said.

Savings have come from a reduced need for new generation plants, thus lower operating and maintenance expenses, and reduced carbon emissions, SPA reported.

The Authority has agreed an action plan for the establishment of a joint electrical interconnection project with the Egyptian Electricity Transmission and Jordan’s National Electric Power Co., it said.

In a two-day meeting, the parties agreed on preparing a business case to explain the benefits of electrical connection and to complete the required procedures, SPA reported.


Twitter offers NFT profile pics; Bitcoin falls below $40,000: Crypto moves

Twitter offers NFT profile pics; Bitcoin falls below $40,000: Crypto moves
Updated 21 January 2022

Twitter offers NFT profile pics; Bitcoin falls below $40,000: Crypto moves

Twitter offers NFT profile pics; Bitcoin falls below $40,000: Crypto moves

LONDON: Twitter’s premium users can display non-fungible tokens in new hexagonal profile pictures, as the social media giant embraces the growing craze of digital collectibles known as NFTs.

Currently, the feature is only available to Twitter Blue subscribers on Apple’s iOS platform, allowing them to link their accounts with crypto wallets where they keep their NFTs.

To distinguish them from regular profile pictures, NFTs are displayed in hexagons that, when clicked, display details about them including ownership.

Last year, Twitter — founded by Jack Dorsey — began allowing users to send and receive bitcoin. Dorsey quit as Twitter CEO in November to focus on another company he founded, Square, which has since changed its name to Block, a reflection of Dorsey’s desire to further embrace blockchain and Web3 technologies.

Sales of NFTs reached about $25 billion in 2021, according to data from DappRadar, but growth is believed to have slowed toward the end of the year.

The most-traded cryptocurrencies experienced another day of selling on Friday as Bitcoin slumped almost 9 percent to $38,464.90 as of 1:07 p.m. in London. Ethereum declined 11 percent to $2,794 and Solana lost 14 percent to $118.

Bitcoin was trading above $67,000 as recently as November.

“Crypto markets have been sitting on a critical support level for some time,” Stack Funds told CoinDesk. “Macro market weakness is causing a sell-off in risk assets. Further continuation of this sentiment will likely see BTC trade in the mid ‘30s.”

Risk assets are being hurt by expectations of at least three interest-rate hikes by the US Federal Reserve this year as it looks to counter accelerating inflation.

The selloff in cryptocurrencies has not deterred the new mayor of New York City Eric Adams, who said he plans to convert his first paycheck this week into bitcoin and Ethereum.

“New York is the center of the world, and we want it to be the center of cryptocurrency and other financial innovations,” Adams said in a statement. “Being on the forefront of such innovation will help us create jobs, improve our economy, and continue to be a magnet for talent from all over the globe.”


Mobily prepares major announcements for LEAP22 tech conference

Mobily prepares major announcements for LEAP22 tech conference
Updated 21 January 2022

Mobily prepares major announcements for LEAP22 tech conference

Mobily prepares major announcements for LEAP22 tech conference

RIYADH: Etihad Etisalat, known as Mobily, said it will launch a range of innovative and disruptive digital solutions during LEAP22, the technology event scheduled for Riyadh in February.

Mobily’s announcements will be in the area of the Internet of things, artificial intelligence, smart cities, smart health care systems and others, it said in a statement.

“LEAP is a turning point in the Kingdom’s journey toward digital transformation, elevating its position at the forefront of global players who develop and empower the latest technologies that shape the future of our world,” said Mobily CEO Eng. Salman Al Badran. “As the Kingdom moves toward enabling a leading digital economy, Mobily seeks to provide individuals and corporates with the tools they need to unlocking opportunities and pursue their ambitions.”

“At Mobily, we persistently contribute to the realization of Vision 2030 through providing advanced telecommunications services and digital solutions that contribute to transforming the Kingdom’s digitalization ambitions into reality, he said.

Leap will be held in Riyadh from Feb. 1 to Feb. 3, 2022.

Saudi Arabia has been embracing technology as a means to loosen the economy’s dependency on hydrocarbons.

In August, $1 billion of initiatives aimed at improving digital skills in the Kingdom were unveiled under the name Launch. Among the targets is an ambition to train one in every 100 Saudis to be programmers, and the creation of 25,000 jobs in data science and AI by 2030.

Saudi Arabia has also attracted the Middle East’s first Apple Developer Academy, which will initially focus on women coders.

LEAP will host 700 start-ups and will feature a host of keynotes, workshops and assemblies on topics from smart cities to space and satellites, health tech, future energy.

The LEAP Forward stage will tackle issues around the most prominent future technologies, including self-driving vehicles and AI, exosuits, nanorobotics, augmented reality, and bionics.

International speakers include Raghu Raghuram, CEO of cloud-computing giant VMware, Börje Ekholm, president and CEO of Ericsson, and Dr. Saket Kumar, chief data scientist for Global Premium Services at Google. Regional speakers include Manar Al-Moneef, regional CEO of GE Renewable Energy, and Ghinwa Baradhi, HSBC’s chief information officer in the Middle East and North Africa.

Altogether 450 speakers and 40,000 visitors are expected at the event.