Modernizing energy systems requires workers with strong digital skills: IEA

Modernizing energy systems requires workers with strong digital skills: IEA
IEA said the number of digital roles across the energy sector remains broadly insufficient, inhibiting greater investment. Shutterstoc
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Updated 13 June 2024
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Modernizing energy systems requires workers with strong digital skills: IEA

Modernizing energy systems requires workers with strong digital skills: IEA

RIYADH: The pace of deploying digital technologies in the energy sector will depend heavily on the ability to build a workforce with the right skills, according to an analysis. 

In its latest report, the International Energy Agency said that technologies are set to play a key role in the transition to more secure and sustainable energy systems. 

IEA noted that the deployment of advanced technologies could help ensure energy efficiency, reliability, and greater connectivity, along with reducing emissions. 

“New digital tools – such as those that can help match power supply with demand; predict and detect faults in networks; or give greater control to consumers – will enable the faster integration of renewables, improve grid stability and unlock greater energy savings,” said the energy agency. 

It added: “However, the pace of digitalization will depend heavily on the energy sector’s ability to build a workforce with the right skills.” 

Energy sector should concentrate more on digital roles

IEA said the number of digital roles across the energy sector has increased globally. However, there is growing evidence that it remains broadly insufficient, inhibiting greater investment in digitalization. 

The report cited an EY survey and noted that 89 percent of the participants from the energy sector identified skills gaps as the main challenge to accelerating the adoption of digital technologies. 

“With most jobs set to require digital skills in the coming years, energy utilities will increasingly be competing for a limited pool of qualified workers to bridge the sector’s skills gap. This will require stronger and more cohesive digital hiring strategies and training efforts,” said IEA. 

According to the report, countries can be divided into four groups based on interest in hiring workers with digital profiles. 

The first group includes nations such as Singapore, Portugal and the Slovak Republic, where employers are actively hiring workers with digital talents across all sectors, including for roles at power utilities. 

The second group features countries like Australia and New Zealand, where hiring for tech roles by power utilities is even stronger – outpacing digital hiring across all sectors. 

Nations like the US, the UK, and Canada fall into the third group. In these countries, the share of job vacancies that require digital skills posted by power utilities is higher than for the economy as a whole, but overall, digital recruitment remains low. 

In contrast, the fourth group sees low demand for digital roles overall and in the power sector. It includes the majority of EU member states, along with certain Latin American and North African nations. 

“Europe has consistently had a low share of digital jobs, especially between 2022 and 2023, indicating that countries in the region may not be fully leveraging their investments in digital equipment,” said IEA. 

According to the report, power utilities have been slower to create significant numbers of digital jobs than other sectors, such as finance, insurance, and public administration. 

“In recent years, digital job postings approached 16 percent of total listings by finance and insurance companies, whereas the share for power utilities stagnated around 11 percent, with a decline below 9 percent between 2017 and 2021,” the energy think tank noted.  

A shift in demand for skills

According to IEA, expertise in structured query language of SQL  – a programming language used for managing and manipulating data – was among the most sought-after digital skills in the energy sector in 2012.

At that time, the demand for a workforce with expertise in scripting languages or knowledge of cloud solutions was rarely required. 

However, since mid-2021, demand has grown rapidly for workers with skills in data analysis, scripting languages and cloud solutions, in addition to SQL database talents and cybersecurity expertise. 

The report added that demand for employees proficient in machine learning, artificial intelligence, or the Internet of Things is still at very low levels, even though these are extremely powerful tools for power system management. 

The vitality of bridging the skills gap

In its report, the energy agency cautioned that failing to bridge the current skills gaps could create bottlenecks in efforts to build more secure and sustainable energy systems. 

Underscoring the necessity of adopting a skills-focused digital strategy in the energy sector, IEA suggested some steps to improve and expand current initiatives. 

According to the think tank, energy utilities can develop mechanisms to track skills and systematize measurements of digital literacy to ensure they have the talent to manage changing power systems. 

“In parallel, having a clear understanding of the skills needed can improve the effectiveness of the policy actions for supporting the shift toward a more sustainable economy,” said IEA. 

The report also highlighted that the energy sector should increase the attractiveness of digital roles by creating an environment of innovation and growth, offering appealing career paths and opportunities for professionals seeking dynamic positions.

The energy agency further pointed out that workforces in the digital sector should be empowered through internal training programs. 

“Utilities can implement training and upskilling programs to equip current employees with essential digital skills, fostering a culture of continuous learning, a sense of ownership and allowing for adaptation to technological advancements,” said IEA. 

It added: “By designing training programs to be more inclusive – for example, making them targeted to increase gender parity – governments and industry can respond to labor demand while capitalizing on opportunities to build a more diverse workforce of the future.” 

IEA concluded by saying that energy utilities can engage with governments and other stakeholders to develop training initiatives and curricula tailored to address current and future market demand for digital skills, creating a solid pipeline of well-trained talent.


Riyadh Air signs 5-year deal to use GE Aerospace’s software

Riyadh Air signs 5-year deal to use GE Aerospace’s software
Updated 22 July 2024
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Riyadh Air signs 5-year deal to use GE Aerospace’s software

Riyadh Air signs 5-year deal to use GE Aerospace’s software
  • Partnership will equip airline with data-driven analytics

LONDON: Riyadh Air signed a five-year agreement on Monday to use GE Aerospace’s flight operations software, the airline has announced.

The partnership will equip the new Saudi Arabian airline with data-driven analytics to optimize fuel consumption, enhance safety measures, and fortify its sustainability initiatives, a statement said.

It added that the Fuel Insight software will help Riyadh Air position itself as a leader in sustainable aviation.

The airline will also use real-time Flight Data Monitoring and Flight Operations Quality Assurance to ensure high standards of safety and quality across its advanced fleet.

Riyadh Air’s use of FlightPulse technology will allow pilots to identify opportunities for improvement and help maintain best practices in safety and efficiency across the airline’s flight operations.

Peter Bellew, chief operating officer at Riyadh Air, said: “Sustainability and efficiency sit at the core of our operations.

“Our collaboration with GE Aerospace represents a significant advancement in adopting state-of-the-art technology to enhance safety protocols, streamline fuel usage, and uphold our dedication to operational excellence, as we are currently preparing for flight trials and working towards obtaining AOC certification, starting (in) September 2024.”

Andrew Coleman, general manager of software at GE Aerospace, said: “With an incredible partner like Riyadh Air, we are thrilled to see our decades of research, development, and innovation empower their transformative digital journey to help them set new benchmarks for operational excellence, safety standards, and more sustainability in the skies.”


Saudi GACA, Germany’s Lilium sign MoU to boost air mobility roadmap   

Saudi GACA, Germany’s Lilium sign MoU to boost air mobility roadmap   
Updated 22 July 2024
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Saudi GACA, Germany’s Lilium sign MoU to boost air mobility roadmap   

Saudi GACA, Germany’s Lilium sign MoU to boost air mobility roadmap   

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation has inked a deal with German electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle manufacturer Lilium, propelling the Kingdom’s advanced air mobility roadmap.

The memorandum of understanding, signed between the authority and the aerospace firm at the Farnborough International Airshow, supports GACA’s development of AAM solutions in the Kingdom, according to a statement. 

This comes as the authority collaborates with stakeholders and companies globally to create a thorough national plan for AAM. 

This strategy encompasses the essential elements and regulatory framework needed to ensure AAM technologies’ secure and effective integration. During the implementation phase, the focus will be on incorporating eVTOL operations with existing aviation systems and other transportation modes.

The newly signed MoU falls in line with the authority’s engagement with global companies to bring new aviation mobility solutions to Saudi Arabia.

It also aligns well with GACA’s continuous efforts across the industry to ensure the Kingdom has regulations that encourage growth, ensure the highest levels of safety, and put passengers first.

“This agreement reflects GACA’s commitment to advancing innovative and sustainable air mobility solutions for Saudi Arabia in support of Vision 2030,” GACA President Abdulaziz Al-Duailej said. 

“By working with global advanced air mobility companies, we aim to establish a robust regulatory framework that ensures the safe and efficient operation of eVTOL aircraft,” Al-Duailej added. 

From Lilium’s side, CEO Klaus Roewe said: “Our goal is to jointly advance regulatory and practical steps for suitable framework conditions for electric aviation and our customers in Saudi Arabia.”

He added: “Today’s agreement delivers on one of the main ingredients required to successfully launch eVTOL operations — a definitive path to all relevant regulatory cornerstones.”

The announcement builds on the momentum of recent successful air taxi trials in support of GACA’s AAM roadmap development, the statement added. 

Last week, Lilium confirmed that it is making its debut in Saudi Arabia with a groundbreaking agreement to supply up to 100 eVTOL vehicles to Saudia, the Kingdom’s first national carrier.

The formalization of this agreement came after a framework deal was initially arranged in late 2022, making Saudia the first airline in the region to invest in sustainable air mobility. 


Saudi logistics platform OTO secures $8m funding for UAE and Turkiye expansion

Saudi logistics platform OTO secures $8m funding for UAE and Turkiye expansion
Updated 22 July 2024
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Saudi logistics platform OTO secures $8m funding for UAE and Turkiye expansion

Saudi logistics platform OTO secures $8m funding for UAE and Turkiye expansion

RIYADH: Saudi logistics platform OTO is set to expand into the UAE and Turkiye, following a successful SR30 million ($8 million) series A funding round. 

The company announced that the financing was led by Sanabil Investments, a wholly-owned entity of the Public Investment Fund, with additional contributions from Sadu Capital, and Iliad Partners. Propeller and Soma Capital also participated in the deal, according to a press release. 

This follows a previous raise of SR12.3 million from venture capital funds and angel investors including Middle East Venture Partners, Derayah Ventures, and 500 Global.  

This investment supports Saudi Arabia's National Logistics Strategy, which seeks to rank the Kingdom among the top 10 countries globally in performance in the sector by the end of the decade, in line with Vision 2030 objectives. 

Mohammad Al-Razaz, co-founder and CEO of OTO, said: “Securing this funding round is a testament to our team’s dedication and our commitment to transforming the shipping and logistics sector in line with Saudi Vision 2030.”   

The company claims its platform integrates with over 250 local and international shipping companies and e-commerce platforms, enabling merchants to manage, ship, track, and analyze their logistics activities.   

The platform also offers merchants the option to connect their own shipping contracts or purchase shipping labels at pre-negotiated rates. 

He added: “We are focused on delivering innovative solutions that enable merchants to streamline their operations and manage logistics with unmatched efficiency.”

Investor confidence in OTO’s platform is bolstered by projections showing Saudi Arabia’s e-commerce revenue is expected to grow at 13.5 percent annually through 2027, outpacing the global average growth rate of 11.2 percent, according to Agility Logistics. 

The platform plans to use this funding to expand its presence in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Turkiye by adding new features and enhancing its platform, focusing on small and medium-sized businesses and e-commerce merchants. 

The release stated that the Turkish e-commerce market is projected to grow at an annual rate of 11.58 percent from 2024 to 2029, reaching $49.5 billion by 2029.   

“The last few years have put a significant spotlight on the shipping industry and increased the need for smart shipping solutions. OTO has built a platform with a fully integrated set of functionalities to help companies of all shapes and sizes meet their logistics requirements,” a spokesperson from Sanabil Investments stated.  

OTO serves over 10,000 local and international brands and has seen its revenue double along with a notable increase in orders processed year-over-year. 

Furkan Uzar, chief technology officer and co-founder of OTO, said that this funding propels the company toward its vision of becoming the shipping gateway of the internet.   

“By bridging the tech gap between sales channels and shipping providers, we can accelerate our growth and offer customers streamlined, automated shipping solutions,” he added. 


Closing Bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,174

Closing Bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,174
Updated 22 July 2024
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Closing Bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,174

Closing Bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,174

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index slipped on Monday, losing 28.17 points, or 0.23 percent, to close at 12,174.76. 

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR8.34 billion ($2.22 billion) as 127 of the stocks advanced, while 96 retreated.  

The Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu rose 277.53 points, or 1.08 percent, to close at 26,040.47. This comes as 35 of the listed stocks advanced, while 30 fell. 

The MSCI Tadawul Index lost 6.03 points, or 0.39 percent, to close at 1,523.43.

The best-performing stock of the day was Dr. Soliman Abdel Kader Fakeeh Hospital Co. The company’s share price surged 7.02 percent to SR64.

Other top performers were Sadr Logistics Co. as well as United Cooperative Assurance Co.

The worst performer was Al Sagr Cooperative Insurance Co., whose share price dropped by 4.78 percent to SR21.90. 

Other stocks to fall were Miahona Co. and ACWA Power Co.

On the announcements front, Aldrees Petroleum and Transport Services Co. has announced its interim financial results for the period ending on June 30. 

According to a Tadawul statement, the firm’s net profit stood at SR159.8 million at the end of the first six months of 2024, up 13.4 percent from the corresponding period in 2023. 

The increase in net profit is due to the rise in petrol and transport division sales, deposit income, and sukuk, as well as the revenue from the joint venture project investment. 

There was a decrease in the other income and increase marketing, selling, and general costs as well as administrative, financing, and zakat expenses.

Saudi Exchange also announced the listing and trading units of SEDCO Capital Multi Asset Traded Fund as a closed ended investment traded fund on the main market on July 24 with the symbol 4703 and ISIN Code SA162G529FL8, and with +/- 30 percent daily price fluctuation limits and +/- 10 percent static price fluctuation limits.

A bourse filing revealed that these fluctuation limits will be applied during the first three days of listing, and from the fourth trading day onwards, the daily price fluctuation limits will revert to +/- 10 percent and the static price fluctuation limits will no longer apply.


Saudi Arabia awards 4 salt exploration licenses in Eastern Province

Saudi Arabia awards 4 salt exploration licenses in Eastern Province
Updated 22 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia awards 4 salt exploration licenses in Eastern Province

Saudi Arabia awards 4 salt exploration licenses in Eastern Province

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has granted exploration licenses for salt deposits in Eastern Province’s Sabkha Ras Al-Qaryah to four companies following a competitive tendering process.     

The winning firms are Khalid Al-Zahid and Sons Co., Ibrahim Al-Issa and Partner Salt Co., Riyadh Salt Industry Co., and Rastan Limited, as announced by Jarrah bin Muhammad Al-Jarrah, spokesperson for the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources.    

Al-Jarrah noted that the ministry received six applications for the exploration licenses, announced in March through a mining platform. Five applications passed the qualification stage, while one did not meet the requirements.  

This aligns with the government’s goal of maximizing the Kingdom’s mineral resources, valued at SR9.3 trillion ($2.4 trillion), in line with Saudi Vision 2030. The initiative aims to enhance licensing transparency, promote national industries, and contribute to local content development and job creation.    

In its earlier release, the ministry revealed that the total area of the four sites offered for competition is 5 sq. km. The Ras Al-Qaryah complex, a coastal sabkha located approximately 4 km from the sea, has naturally exposed salt deposits in some locations on its surface.   

It added that the salt ore in the area is deposited in a stratified form and is suitable for various industrial applications. It supports the manufacturing and petrochemical industries, as well as the production of high-purity table salt and food-grade salt. This ore is refined into high-quality industrial salt with a purity of approximately 99 percent sodium chloride. 

Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia unveiled its largest mineralized belts to date, covering 4,788 sq. km and granting five new exploration licenses. 

Three of these licenses are allocated to the Jabal Sayid site in Madinah, spanning 2,892 sq. km and containing minerals such as gold, silver, copper, zinc, and lead. 

The remaining two licenses are for the Al-Hajjar site in the Asir region, which covers 1,896 sq. km and also includes gold, silver, copper, zinc, and lead, according to a statement from the ministry.

According to a MineHutte and Mining Journal report, Saudi Arabia has experienced the fastest global growth in mining sector investments. Over the past five years, the Kingdom has enhanced its regulatory and infrastructural environment, achieving the second-best global ranking for mining licensing.