Energy security and green transition not mutually exclusive, Dubai forum hears

Energy security and green transition not mutually exclusive, Dubai forum hears
The panel discussed ways in which countries can shift their energy priorities to meet these challenges. (Atlantic Council)
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Updated 31 March 2022

Energy security and green transition not mutually exclusive, Dubai forum hears

Energy security and green transition not mutually exclusive, Dubai forum hears
  • Panelists say path to decarbonization must be realistic, efficient, and complemented by affordable technologies
  • Experts caution that starving oil and gas of investment may actually hinder long-term transition to renewables

DUBAI: Energy security and the green transition must go hand in hand if the world is to address the climate crisis, experts participating in a panel discussion at the World Government Summit in Dubai said on Monday.

As Western governments respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by imposing a raft of stringent sanctions on Moscow’s financial infrastructure and vast hydrocarbon economy, European nations have been left casting around for alternative sources of energy.

At the same time, governments urgently need short-term solutions to meet domestic energy demands until renewables like wind and solar can be scaled up. The result is a dual-crisis of energy security and creeping climate catastrophe.

During a summit session titled “Meeting the 2022 challenge: Will energy security derail the energy transition?” organized as part of the Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum, the panel discussed ways in which countries can shift their energy priorities to meet these challenges.

Claudio Descalzi, CEO of Emirates National Investment, who was on Monday’s panel, said African energy producers could offer European nations the energy security solutions they need as the continent weans itself off Russian oil and gas.

“We don’t have our own energy so we never thought about a strategy on energy security,” said Descalzi. “When you don’t have something like that to think about, (how) can you cope with the future? Africa is a good opportunity because they need development, we need gas, and that is a good combination.”

Indeed, buying from a region of the world in dire need of investment to assist its development has an obvious social value, but arguably does little to further the transition away from fossil fuels.

For his part, Majid Jafar, CEO of Crescent Petroleum, contended that energy security and energy transition do not need to be as mutually exclusive as they are so often depicted.

In fact, there can be no energy transition without energy security and affordability, he told the panel. In that context, the focus has been too much on starving supply and investment in oil and gas in an attempt to solve the climate crisis, while demand keeps soaring.

“It’s as ridiculous as trying to solve obesity by starving funding to sugar and wheat farmers, and not making any changes in diets or policies on how food is consumed,” said Jafar. “Climate change is fundamentally a consumption issue.”

Starving the developing world’s oil and gas industry of investment may actually be hindering the long-term transition to renewables, said Jafar, and “platitudes and prescriptions” from Western governments doled out to Africa and Asia do little to address their actual needs.

Indeed, almost 1 billion people worldwide still do not have access to electricity — a figure made worse over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, some 3 billion people do not have access to clean cooking solutions, forcing them to rely on dangerous and polluting sources of heat.

As an indication of the inequality around responsibility for carbon emission, around 80 percent of the global population is yet to board a plane.

“It’s like saying: ‘You don’t need stable grid power like we have, and you can make do with a solar panel on a battery,’” said Jafar.

In search of cheaper energy solutions, many developing countries have been forced to reach for even more damaging fuel sources.

“What has happened is there has been more burning of coal, so you have more emissions and higher energy prices,” said Jafar. “So this issue of underinvestment has been key and it cannot just be that we need more oil and gas in the short-term.”

The oil and gas industry is a long-term business, which requires hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in order to make production cleaner, said Jafar. He also believes these hydrocarbon products will be used differently in future.

“Gas is a fundamental enabler of renewables because it backs it up and it’s the path to future technologies like hydrogen, and oil is used for solar panels and wind turbines,” he said.

“That message of the ongoing need for oil and gas hasn’t been understood, especially in Western markets.”

Indeed, hydrogen is being widely touted as the missing link in the green energy transition. Speaking on Monday’s panel, Anna Shpitsberg, deputy assistant secretary for energy transformation at the US State Department, described hydrogen as a game-changing technology that speaks to a variety of different sources thanks to its ability to underpin nuclear, gas and renewables.

“That’s why we are putting billions of dollars into hydrogen research and development,” she said.

“It cannot always be about putting new infrastructure. We often talk about energy access and how countries sometimes need to build infrastructure, but they also have underutilized infrastructure, and we don’t want them to have debt when they are not even using what they have.”

The path to decarbonization needs to be realistic, efficient, and complemented by the development of new technologies to help bring down the cost of renewables, she added.

In the meantime, the world’s biggest oil and gas producers are committed to maintaining energy market stability. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait have all set aside spare capacity worth an estimated $500 billion, according to Fahad Al-Ajlan, president of the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center in Saudi Arabia.

“They had the long-term vision of saying that if there is a disruption in demand or a hiccup in the global oil supply, then there is a way of compensating for that,” Al-Ajlan told the panel. “But if we can talk about energy security, it’s not new.”

Al-Ajlan highlighted the recent missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s hydrocarbon infrastructure by Yemen’s Houthis and the need to pay special attention to energy security. All the while, cutting carbon emissions must remain a top priority.

“We are not achieving our climate goals tomorrow or in the next two years, yet our policy looks like it is,” he said. “We should be very focused on emissions and how to reduce them.”


World's largest asset manager BlackRock appoints chairman, CEO for Saudi unit

World's largest asset manager BlackRock appoints chairman, CEO for Saudi unit
Updated 11 sec ago

World's largest asset manager BlackRock appoints chairman, CEO for Saudi unit

World's largest asset manager BlackRock appoints chairman, CEO for Saudi unit

RIYADH: World's largest asset manager BlackRock appoints Suliman Algwaiz as Chairman of BlackRock #Saudi Arabia, Yazeed Almubarak as CEO and Managing Director.


Saudi Arabia to witness ‘a golden era of hospitality’ in next 10 years

Turab Saleem said Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Qatar are putting the region on the international global tourism map. (AN photo)
Turab Saleem said Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Qatar are putting the region on the international global tourism map. (AN photo)
Updated 25 May 2022

Saudi Arabia to witness ‘a golden era of hospitality’ in next 10 years

Turab Saleem said Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Qatar are putting the region on the international global tourism map. (AN photo)
  • Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Qatar are putting the region on the international global tourism map more strongly and forcefully

RIYADH: The next 10 years will be a golden era for Saudi hospitality as the country has laid down the foundation of transformation in the sector, according to a top official of Knight Frank in the Middle East and North Africa.

“You can call the coming 10 years of Saudi Arabia the golden era of its hospitality. It will not happen again in the coming years and years to come. It will lay the foundation for hospitality in the long term,” Turab Saleem, head of hospitality, tourism and leisure consultancy at Knight Frank in the Middle East and North Africa, told Arab News in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the Future Hospitality Summit in Riyadh.

MENA affirms top spot on global tourism map

Saleem added that the entire Middle East and North Africa region is becoming a tourism hotbed, as each country is flowering its own tourism plan to elevate the industry.

“Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Qatar are putting the region on the international global tourism map more strongly and forcefully. You got half-a-million keys under development within Egypt, UAE and KSA. Where else is this happening?” asked Saleem.

The advent of Saudi cuisine

Saleem predicted that Riyadh would soon become one of the top five food destinations globally and added that the flavors of the Saudi capital would mesmerize the world.

“Riyadh will be among the top five-six destination in the world. It is going to emerge from Riyadh and is happening. Three or four very talented chefs and entities are doing it, and one or two are ahead of others. I can’t share the name, though,” pointed out Saleem.

He further added: “It’s a matter of a few months. Soon, you will see some great Saudi cuisines launched from Riyadh that will reach out to London, New York, and other international destinations.”

Saleem lauded the Kingdom’s lofty ambitions to attract 100 million tourists by the end of this decade as part of its Vision 2030 blueprint.

“It’s a very ambitious target. We will reach it. Even if we reach it partially, it’s still a big success. Let the world know we are at par with them,” said Saleem.

 


Elaf Group to launch new hospitality brand Joudyan next month

Elaf is a leading hospitality player.
Elaf is a leading hospitality player.
Updated 25 May 2022

Elaf Group to launch new hospitality brand Joudyan next month

Elaf is a leading hospitality player.
  • The company currently has nine hotels and plans to double this number in the next three to five years and triple the number in the next 10 years

RIYADH: Elaf Group, one of the leading hospitality players in the region, plans to launch a new hotel brand called Joudyan.
“We will be launching Joudyan, our first outside Makkah and Madinah,” Adel Ezzat, CEO of Elaf Group, told Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Hospitality Forum in Riyadh.

Adel Ezzat, CEO of Elaf Group

He added that the new brand would be launched in Riyadh, Dammam and other tourism hotspots such as Jeddah and AlUla.

FASTFACTS

• The company currently has nine hotels and plans to double this number in the next three to five years and triple the number in the next 10 years.

• Elaf hotels are a mix of five- and four-star hotels that offer a unique experience of the local feel of the Kingdom to the visitors.

The company currently has nine hotels and plans to double this number in the next three to five years and triple the number in the next 10 years.
Elaf hotels are a mix of five- and four-star hotels that offer a unique experience of the local feel of the Kingdom to the visitors.
“We are a local brand, yet we have maintained international standards with local concepts, which is bringing to the visitors the real meaning of Saudi hospitality,” said Ezzat.
The company is also planning to expand across the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Middle East regions while setting its eyes on the European market.


Aleph Hospitality eyes travel, tourism opportunities in KSA

Bani Haddad. (Supplied)
Bani Haddad. (Supplied)
Updated 25 May 2022

Aleph Hospitality eyes travel, tourism opportunities in KSA

Bani Haddad. (Supplied)
  • Haddad said that the internal market is quite strong from a demand standpoint

RIYADH: Aleph Hospitality, a leading Dubai-based independent hotel management company, is planning to open offices in Jeddah,
Makkah and Madinah to tap Saudi Arabia’s growing travel and tourism industry.
“Saudi Arabia represents about 30 million domestic travelers.
Our expectations from the Kingdom are quite high,” Bani Haddad, the founder and managing director of Aleph Hospitality, told Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Hospitality Summit in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia represents about 30 million domestic travelers. Our expectations from the Kingdom are quite high.

Bani Haddad

Haddad said that the internal market is quite strong from a demand standpoint. The situation is highly encouraging if one includes religious tourism, open visa policies, development in the region’s secondary cities, and expansion of the airlines and airlifts.
“So, the fundamentals are becoming more and more solid for the hospitality sector to flourish,” he added.
Because Aleph Hospitality is an independent operator, Haddad said the company services properties ranging from two- to five-stars in city centers and small to large resorts.
He explained that the company’s flexibility allows them to service investors in that sector.

 


Hospitality business trained to deal with pandemics: Azadea official

Mert Askin
Mert Askin
Updated 25 May 2022

Hospitality business trained to deal with pandemics: Azadea official

Mert Askin
  • Lebanon-based retail chain Azadea Group sells fashion, sports, home furnishings and food and drink

RIYADH: The hospitality industry has steeled itself for another pandemic after suffering the effects of the last health crisis, said Mert Askin, Azadea Group’s president of food and beverage.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Hospitality Summit in Riyadh, Askin said that the industry is yet to recover from the pandemic because certain restrictions remain in place, such as some regulated air travel.
Askin added: “We are recovering. We are growing. And I’m optimistic about the future because this pandemic taught us a lot of things. This is not going to be the last pandemic, there may be more to come. But we are now trained to manage this kind of difficult situation.”
Lebanon-based retail chain Azadea Group sells fashion, sports, home furnishings and food and drink. Its food brands include Paul, Columbus Cafe & Co. and Eataly. The group, founded in 1978, employs over 10,000 staff across more than 550 stores in 13 countries including Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar and the UAE.

I’m optimistic about the future because this pandemic taught us a lot of things.

Mert Askin

The group’s food and drinks head pointed out that the firm’s core business had not changed despite the pandemic.
Askin said: “Our core is people — our team. As well as the customer, and how we operate together. That core will not change. But we definitely have a lot more technology tools at our disposal.”
He added that the group’s revenues are climbing and are close to pre-pandemic levels.
Saudi Arabia is Azadea Group’s second-largest market, and Askin added that the business wants to change with the Kingdom as it opens up and transforms its hospitality sector.
Askin said: “Saudi (Arabia) is changing, and we want to change with Saudi (Arabia). We believe in Vision 2030. We are committed to it, and we want to be a part of the program by growing with the country as it opens up. There is a lot of investment flooding into the industry. And we want to benefit from that tailwind and grow our business.”
Saudi nationals currently make up around a quarter of the staff the group employs.
Askin added: “Today, approximately 20 to 25 percent of our team members are Saudis. And one thing that we use to attract more Saudis is recognizing and sharing their success stories, as well as providing growth opportunities.”