Ahmed Al-Essa has been recently appointed as the CEO of SPARK Utilities, a wholly owned subsidiary of King Salman Energy Park and the third utility company in Saudi Arabia granted a license to sell and distribute power to tenants.
Al-Essa will be responsible for ensuring operational excellence and overseeing SPARK’s plug-and-play concept to guarantee a quick and seamless experience for investors through a strong client-centric mindset.
He brings over 20 years of experience and knowledge of the energy sector from Saudi Aramco, where he held a variety of engineering, operational and project leadership roles.
In addition, Al-Essa led the execution of several strategic initiatives and established new organizations within Saudi Aramco and across the Kingdom.
Most recently, he was chief operating officer at Saudi Aramco Power Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Saudi Aramco.
Throughout his tenure, Al-Essa established and led SAPCO’s power services commercialization initiative.
He expanded its portfolio and increased its market share and penetration rate in the Saudi power market as part of Aramco’s transition strategy for power services commercialization.
Prior to joining SAPCO, Al-Essa established the National Power Academy, a joint venture formed between Saudi Aramco and leading power companies.
As the executive director at NPA, he secured several strategic partnership agreements with international companies to equip the Saudi workforce with the necessary resources and skills required to lead the power industry.
Al-Essa holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals in Saudi Arabia and a master’s degree in Sustainable Electrical Energy from the Georgia Institute of Technology in the US.
Saudi king, crown prince offer condolences to Erdogan after Turkiye quake
Prince Mohammed also offered his condolences to the families of victims and wished the injured a speedy recovery
Major earthquake struck Turkey and Syria, killing more than 2,600 people on Monday
Updated 07 February 2023
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman offered their condolences to Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and people after an earthquake rocked the country on Monday.
“We send to you, the families of the victims, and the Turkish people our sincere condolences and sympathy,” King Salman said. “We reiterate our stand with you in this painful event.” He wished the injured a speedy recovery and the missing a safe return.
The major earthquake struck Turkey and Syria, killing more than 2,600 people and flattening thousands of buildings as rescuers dug frantically for survivors.
Prince Mohammed also offered his condolences to the families of victims and wished the injured a speedy recovery.
He added that the Kingdom stands with and supports Turkiye in the face of the natural disaster.
Erdogan thanked the crown prince and said he appreciates the Kingdom’s support in these difficult circumstances.
Multi-storey apartment buildings full of residents were among the 3,400 structures reduced to rubble in Turkey, while Syria announced dozens of collapses, as well as damage to archaeological sites in Aleppo.
How tech solutions are shaping Saudi Arabia’s clean energy transition
Adopting sustainable approaches to energy will be critical to achieving net zero, experts tell Arab News at LEAP23
Kingdom can maintain its energy leadership through development, sustainability and innovation, says Saudi official
Updated 07 February 2023
RIYADH: Technology could provide the sustainable solutions required to combat climate change and drive forward an inclusive clean energy transition, experts said on the sidelines of the LEAP23 Conference in Riyadh on Monday.
Governments and businesses worldwide are responding to rising global temperatures by pledging to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. However, many experts believe these commitments can only be realized through the adoption of new technologies.
At the second edition of LEAP, a four-day annual tech convention, climate scientists rubbed shoulders with industry leaders to explore how technology can help mitigate, or even reverse, the effects of climate change.
Dr. Gasem Fallatah, deputy program director of the Oil Sustainability Program at Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Energy, believes an equitable energy transition can be achieved through inclusiveness with collaborative approaches between governments and industry.
“The key word [for energy transition] is inclusiveness,” Fallatah told Arab News on the sidelines of LEAP23.
“We need to consider that when we are moving towards that transition and allowing every nation, geography, and economy to go for what is best suited for them, yet deliver on what you are supposed to deliver.
“In Saudi Arabia, inclusiveness is vital because we cater for all sources of energy: We are not tilted to one form or another. We are very much balanced when it comes to providing energy within the energy mix that we have got, but very much, also, committed to where the transition is and delivering on it.
“And this is why working with an Oil Sustainability Program allows us to find ways and means to continue to utilize our resources in a sustainable way that will enable us to make sure that we are taking advantage of our resources. Yet, we are also meeting our commitments to an energy transition that the world is morphing towards.”
• The Saudi and Middle East Green Initiatives integrate environmental protection, energy transition and innovative sustainability programs to achieve a green future.
• Under the umbrella of the two initiatives, Saudi Arabia aims to leverage its expertise, champion scientific innovation, and share best practices with the world.
The program’s focus on three domains — development, sustainability, and innovation — places the Kingdom in a position to move quickly in its energy transition process.
In terms of innovation, the program has been very active in driving new technologies, either by improving the technology readiness level of these applications or scaling it when it is ready for application.
Fallatah added: “We are very active in understanding trends governing or driving the energy ecosystem as we are adamant about not letting go and finding every opportunity to help sustain oil, but also to keep that leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia when it comes to that transition.
“We have the legacy of a number of years and we would like to maintain that leadership by contributing to that transition. How do we do it? We do it through development, working on sustainability, but also working on innovation.”
Saudi Arabia has pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2060. The country has undertaken $1 billion in climate change initiatives as part of the Saudi Green Initiative, which seeks to establish a regional carbon capture and storage center, an early storm warning center, and cloud-seeding programs as part of its efforts to create a greener future.
The Saudi Green Initiative includes plans to plant 450 million trees and rehabilitate 8 million hectares of degraded lands by 2030, reducing 200 million tons of carbon emissions with additional initiatives to be announced in the years to come.
Saudi Arabia has launched and built several major renewable energy projects, taking advantage of its natural potential in solar and wind. It aims to generate 50 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2030, with the remaining 50 percent coming from natural gas.
The Kingdom also aims to become a world leader in hydrogen power and is investing in nuclear energy.
Although achieving a net-zero economy within 30 to 40 years may sound daunting, dozens of renewable energy breakthroughs are on the horizon, with many now making their way onto the market, as firms make their own net-zero pledges and invest in clean energy technologies.
For the transition to remain technically and economically feasible and beneficial, policy initiatives must steer the global energy transition toward a sustainable energy system.
Sustainable transition strategies typically consist of three significant technological changes: Energy savings on the demand side, generation efficiency at the production level, and fossil fuel substitution by various renewable energy sources and low-carbon nuclear.
Large-scale renewable energy adoption includes measures to improve the efficiency of existing non-renewable sources, which still have a substantial cost-reduction and stabilization role.
Experts warn that failure to act on emissions and the energy transition would be catastrophic.
“There will be no jobs on a dead planet. If we want prosperity for our people, we need to ensure prosperity in a land that thrives,” Dr. Paul Toyne, Grimshaw SD practice leader and expert adviser on environmental and sustainability goals, told Arab News at LEAP23.
“We do know that climate change is one of the largest or biggest threats to our planet and to our livelihoods, but we also know that if we solve climate change, we don’t necessarily solve the other issues that happened. So once we have a climate crisis, we also have a biodiversity crisis.”
Although governments are looking into ways of transitioning from oil and gas to renewables, Toyne stresses that the process will take some time, even with the right planning and investment.
He said: “We need to make our cities resilient to climate change and recognize that it will get worse, and adapt to create resilience.
“If we tackle the climate change solution with technologies and we flip over to renewables very quickly and restore the equilibrium in terms of carbon pollution, how do we restore the other ecosystems that we need?
“All of these economies and sectors need to go through a self-correction, which needs to be driven by the right policies and governance and financing of regenerative sectors.
“This takes us into a space of the unknown, but as a society we have more tools at our disposal, digital tools and breakthroughs in science, to provide solutions.”
Putting the world on a path to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050-60 requires a substantial increase in capital-intensive clean energy assets.
Some believe this could hamper the energy transition process due to cost, but climate finance professionals such as Gerhard Mulder, CEO and co-founder of Climate Risk Services, believe this is not necessarily the case.
“There are upfront costs to a transition to a low-carbon economy, and numbers that are being thrown around in the trillions and, yes, in that sense it is very costly,” he told Arab News.
“However, if you look at electricity, for example, in more than half of the world, solar and wind are already more cost efficient than most fossil fuel-powered forms of generation.”
At a time when many countries face macroeconomic crises, due in part to the disruptions caused by the conflict in Ukraine, Mulder believes innovations will help stabilize energy, even in times of volatility. Indeed, by transitioning to low-carbon economies, “we’ll have more stable societies,” he said.
“The key word is building resilience and that means you are preparing yourself for an unstable future, preparing for unpredictable events, so that you can manage multiple scenarios,” he added.
Although the climate challenge at times feels insurmountable, Mulder claims he has never felt as optimistic about humanity’s response as he does today.
“When I first started working [in the climate field] many denied the science,” he said. “Today, nobody can. Many said that it’s a future problem, but the problem is here already. We have a finite amount of time, which is the bad news, but this is the decade we need to do it.
“There’s plenty of money available and plenty of technology available to invest in disruptive technologies, and we can already do so much with existing technologies by creating new markets so we can scale up the process.”
Logitech survey unveiled at LEAP23 reveals hybrid working creates an uneven playing field
59 percent of those polled agreed their input would be valued more if they were physically attending a meeting
However, 52 percent of respondents said they would prefer a hybrid or fully remote work arrangement
Updated 07 February 2023
RIYADH: Logitech on Monday announced the results of its hybrid meeting survey at LEAP 2023.
The survey, polling more than 500 white-collar workers, examined the state of current working arrangements, the impacts of hybrid work on meetings, and the challenges that business leaders and employees face in this new way of working.
As employees returned to physical office spaces, the report revealed that 52 percent of respondents would prefer to work either in a hybrid or fully remote work arrangement.
“The Kingdom is placing great emphasis on digital transformation in line with Saudi Vision 2030 to unlock its vast economic potential. Furthermore, as companies prepare for the future of work, technology will be the game changer, closing the gap between traditional and hybrid workplaces and creating a smarter, more agile, and creative local workforce,” said Loubna Imenchal, head of enterprise business at Logitech, Africa, Middle East, Turkey and Central Asia.
The hybrid meeting survey revealed that 39 percent of respondents who have joined a hybrid meeting virtually felt that they had fewer opportunities to build rapport with other participants. Additionally, 59 percent agreed that their input would be valued more if they were attending the meeting physically instead of virtually, and 40 percent felt less included as compared to in-person meeting participants.
While 73 percent of respondents agree that hybrid meetings would be more productive if all participants had an equal chance to speak and contribute, 61 percent of those who participate in hybrid meetings in-person shared that they tend to engage more with participants that are in the same room.
Respondents said that technical issues are the most significant challenges with hybrid meetings, with connectivity issues (43 percent) and poor audio quality (40 percent) ranking amongst the top concerns.
In addition, 34 percent of respondents also shared that having to repeat themselves due to participants not being able to hear them clearly also was an issue they experienced during hybrid meetings.
Other common issues such as participants not paying attention (30 percent), poor video quality (29 percent), participants being late (33 percent) and getting talked over by other participants during meetings (29 percent) were also cited as challenges in hybrid meetings.
To improve on these issues, organizations in the Kingdom must ensure that employees have access to critical technology, including network connectivity and video conferencing devices. Video collaboration technology should be a part of organizations’ digitalization plans to be successful in the future of work.
In fact, the survey revealed the critical role of video conferencing technology in solving the meeting equity problem. More than 7 in 10 respondents (62 percent) agreed that hybrid meetings are more engaging when video conferencing systems with high-quality audio and video output are used.
Organizations should implement enterprise-grade tools and solutions to bridge the gap in hybrid meetings such as meeting room devices, personal collaboration devices such as headsets and webcams to ensure overall quality and experience of video meetings.
In today’s increasingly hybrid-based work environment, there are several key aspects companies must consider to enable seamless collaboration, foster engagement, and place virtual meeting participants on equal footing with their counterparts in the conference room:
Equip: Provide teams with enterprise-level equipment such as in-room video conferencing systems, webcams, microphones, and earbuds. This enables organizations to build a consistent, reliable experience that is natively integrated with its ecosystem of choice. Video conferencing systems also provide remote participants with a full view of everyone in the office meeting room through multiple cameras with different perspectives, placing them in the best seat in the room and help them feel more included, leading to more engaging, collaborative meetings.
Simplify: With employees constantly switching between in-office and home work environments, creating an easy employee experience by ensuring that the home office closely resembles their office set-up will emerge as a top priority for organizations. Companies will have to identify pain points for both in-office and virtual meeting participants when setting up internal hybrid meeting systems, considering factors such as usability and complexity of equipment and meeting set-ups.
Empower: Fostering meeting equity requires facilitators and organizers to take an active approach to empower and encourage engagement from virtual participants. They have to practice active facilitation, minimize visual and audio clutter, and minimize side conversations.
The mix of remote and in-person participants, especially in hybrid work arrangements, create unique challenges for companies wanting to run inclusive and participative meetings. Nevertheless, modern video conference technologies such as those from Logitech allow meeting organizers to make the world of work more equitable and productive.
Creative economy’s increasing importance evident in LEAP 2023 agenda
Second edition of tech conference is home to science and technology as much as it is to the arts and entertainment
First day’s sessions examined the crucial role creativity plays in expanding technology, AI and the economy
Updated 07 February 2023
Rebecca Anne Proctor
RIYADH: What is a creative economy? The term has become a buzzword in today’s world — one that places culture and imagination at the crux of economic and technological expansion.
British author John Howkins first coined the term in 2001 to describe the economic systems where value is reflective of imaginative qualities rather than the traditional resources of labor, land, and capital.
Howkins applied the term to cultural goods, arts, research and development, toys, and games. Observers such as Howkins believe that creativity is an intrinsic characteristic of 21st century economies — similar to how manufacturing defined economies of the 19th and 20th centuries.
The rising importance of the creative economy can be witnessed at this year’s LEAP conference, where a dedicated segment has been devised focusing on the intersection between creativity, the economy and technology.
The conference is home to science and technology as much as it is to arts and entertainment — demonstrating how technological advances in immersive and digital entertainment are influencing the sectors of art, fashion, architecture, and design influencing the ways human beings live and work.
Panel sessions regarding the “Arts at the Intersection of Culture and Digital,” “Preserving Arts and Culture with AI,” “Building Engaged Communities in the Age of Metaverse,” and “Content Creation and Creation Economy,” among others, look at the crucial role that creativity plays in expanding technology, AI, and the economy.
“As an artist, I find AI to be a tool that enables me to think more about the future and expand my artistic practice,” MaryLiz Bender, artist, technologist and creative director and co-founder of Cosmic Perspective, said during a panel on “The Future of Art — the Evolution of Humanity.”
She added: “I want to think about the future and where we will be in 10, 20, 30, 50, and even one hundred years from now, and that is where AI has helped me.
“We are at a point now where our interaction and collaboration with AI models is enhancing our creative output as artists,” said Bender.
Creative economy is also a term pivotal to Saudi Vision 2030 — one of the defining pillars of the country’s reform plan and social transformation agenda, launched by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in 2016 to wean the Gulf nation off a reliance on oil and gas and develop a future-focused economy — one that is forward-thinking, creative and among the most advanced technologically in the world.
Creativity in all industries, states Vision 2030, is vital to the establishment of the agenda’s three primary objectives: “To build a vibrant society, a thriving economy and an ambitious nation.”
Technology, as several sessions demonstrated on the first day of LEAP, is becoming a fundamental part of preserving culture and heritage and advancing artistic processes.
In a session on “Preserving Arts & Culture,” Rami Jawhar, program manager for Google Arts & Culture, explored the importance of cultural preservation using technologies like AI.
In places burdened by conflict, destitution and where languages and traditional cultures are threatened with extinction, Jawhar showed how through technology Google is striving to preserve cultural heritage — even if it is through the intangible realm of the metaverse.
Through diverse technologies, the memory of past cultures and traditions can be maintained and preserved — a practice vital as the human race powers into the so-called fourth industrial revolution.
Saudi Digital Cooperation Organization unveils 2030 road map
‘We can unlock the full potential of the global digital economy,’ says DCO secretary-general
Updated 06 February 2023
RIYADH: The Digital Cooperation Organization called for global collaboration to bridge the technological divide as it announced its 2030 road map at its second annual general assembly in Riyadh.
The plan aims at an ambitious future in which the digital economy contributes 30 percent to the global gross domestic product, and creates 30 million jobs worldwide.
It is designed to promote common interest, advocate for advanced cooperation, build regulatory framework and business environments, and ensure the inclusive and trustworthy nature of the digital economy at local, regional, and global levels.
DCO Secretary-General Deemah Al-Yahya told Arab News: “The beauty of this road map is it’s very agile and very nimble.
“It looks at all the challenges that we are facing now in our member countries. It goes in depth into what the needs are, and what reforms we should change, and what initiatives we should run to achieve these targets.
The plan aims at an ambitious future in which the digital economy contributes 30 percent to the global gross domestic product, and creates 30 million jobs worldwide.
“We really believe that with the right cooperation between the governments, in the private sector and civil society, we will actually overachieve by 2030.”
The call to action mirrors the goals of the organization to create a space that promotes underrepresented groups, such as women and youth, and helps to affirm their value within the digital infrastructure.
In its first in-person meeting, the DCO brought together member nations from across the globe to discuss the current condition of digital economies and the roadblocks faced by countries in an effort to achieve growth.
Al-Yahya added: “By fostering and facilitating cooperation and expanding transformation across all sectors, we can unlock the full potential of the global digital economy.”
As governmental and industrial digital transformation accelerates as a result of the pandemic, a key challenge is to recognize the essential role of technologies in fostering sustainable growth across formal and informal economies.
Al-Yahya said:“[The pandemic] tested the resilience to digitally transform very quickly, which is a huge agenda. No country alone can transform quickly and harness this opportunity of digital economy without putting hands in hands together and sharing best practices.”
In other strategic announcements, the DCO established new organizational bylaws, including the approval of the Stride Association, which will work to empower micro, small, and medium enterprises between member states.
Al-Yahya explained that empowering MSMEs, which make up 90 percent of all businesses, is crucial for success and growth in a dynamic digital economy.
The organization also established a new observer committee, as well as a new executive committee with representatives from member countries including Bahrain, Jordan, Nigeria, and Oman, and with a representative from the Kingdom as the chairperson until 2030.
Recalling an anecdote to reveal the power of digital economies, Al-Yahya told Arab News: “I met a woman before in Taif, and she used to create goods from Taif flowers. She was a widow with six children and she didn’t have any sources of revenue but the products that she created from the roses.”
After coming up with an e-commerce solution, the woman started selling to 100 locations across the globe, and recruited 60 other women to work for her business.
Al-Yahya said that the digital economy would grow by enabling the underrepresented communities that make up the majority of our populations.
The DCO council also formally welcomed two new member states: Gambia and Ghana. The organization now represents 13 nations and serves around 600 million people, with a collective gross domestic product of more than $2 trillion.