A Seminar on Electricity and Renewable Resources [Archives:1999/32/Reportage]

August 9 1999

The shortage of electricity is actually one of the most important issues that should be given our full attention. The problems resulted from the frequent shuts off and block outs of electricity are never ending. They have actually become a nightmare haunting on the minds of the people. In an attempt to retrieve the situation ,a seminar was held on August 1-3 1999 at Shaharan Hotel considering these problems and trying to come up with solutions. It is one of the first initiatives for the cooperation between the European Union and Yemen. The main objective of this project is to identifies the issues that should be covered in the future, that is, the screening of the current situation in conjunction with the present economic and political situation of the company because energy is interlinked with the political and economic situation.
The Deputy Minister of Planning and Developing gave a speech in which he thanked the European Commission, its representative in Sanaa and the strategy limited for their excellent work. Then he gave an overall view on the macroeconomics setup of Yemen economy and how the power sector plays a model role in this overall picture. He said that the power sector is one of the legal sectors now in terms of its potential importance, local investment as well as foreign investment. He said that the power sector is going along with other sectors like telecommunications and transportation and others. He stressed the idea of relating the power sector to all components of the economic reform; the stabilization of the economy, restructuring the economy, administrative reform and social syntactic. Any motion without power means that the society is isolated from the world. It is so because the core of the activities and dynamics of society nowadays has a lot to do with the power system and power structure. He expressed the massive concern about the power sector which is mainly for the great needs and great demands for electricity and power energy. He declared that there are shortages in supplying power. Then he made some references to figures and numbers relating to the power section and said: the contribution of the power sector in Yemen is less than 2 percent of our DPP. However, there is a need for electricity in the Yemen community. We realized many challenges, some are: the excess demand of power and a lot of imbalances between supply and demand, the system of the existing facilities and stations, lots of problems regarding the newness and also repairing which really affect the continuity of the supply and result in a frequent shut off and block out from time to time, the technical loss from the consumer respect and finally the shortage skilled men power and the lack of incentive for these employees to work and be productive. From the challenges faced, the government strategy of the power sector is how to remedy the imbalances on supply and demand, how to sustain our services in the power sector to cover not only urban areas but rural areas as well, to have enough power energy to the commercial use and for investments and also to make the sector work with the best effective leader market prices.
Another element in this strategy is the utilization of natural gas. The third element is helping the private sector either local or foreign to be part in the stages of power system. We aim at breaking the circle of monopoly in the three stages: generation, transmission and distribution. We also want to utilize the renewable resources and encourage people to use them. There is also an intention to redefine the role of the institution. And also how they could make their services market-oriented rather than be in the privet sector’s control. The final element of the strategy is to build capacity in the sector, to enable the staff to be more trained, have more incentives to work and to commit themselves to their work in the sector.
Then the representative of EC-Technical Advisory Office in Yemen gave a speech in which he talked about the interesting outcomes of the workshop on oil and gas, he also said: there seems to be an integrated kind of approach that comes to define and estimate energy policy. The EC has played an important role in Yemen both in terms of contribution to GDP and employment not only in the case of oil and gas but also in the considerable need for expansion of the whole generation and transmission capacity as a prerequisite for economic development and delivery of basic services in rural areas.
The reason why we are here today is the fact that Yemen and European Union signed a new cooperation agreement in the later half of 1998 and we seriously focus on areas of future cooperation between the parties of this agreement. This also includes trade, economic and culture cooperation, environment protection and infix sustainable development of natural resources as well as human resources. More specifically and more relevant to the workshop we had last week is that it provides for not only a number of exchanged facilities but also excess facilities and this includes access community; have some knowledge in the field of energy production, transmission and environmental protection. It calls for strengthening of cooperation in fields that are closely related to economic progress and benefiting these parties; Yemen as a producer of oil and gas and the EC member states as providers of energy generation technology of non-polluting energy generation technology. So to implement this energy program the EC has committed just 80,000 Euro for this first round of consultation which is really a reflection of this wider scope of EC-Yemen cooperation options and can obviously lead to a number of interesting follow up activities. During last year I think the commission was more interested in the vocational training, the major part is to qualified professionals required by oil and gas service industries. In the context of the government civil service organization, we are examining the possibility of assisting and reform the general authority for mineral and petroleum explorations. We are just now together with the Ministry of the planning and the environmental protection Council starting on the developing of Socatra which is one of the remotest areas in regard to the main land Yemen, 2000 km off shore. One of the aspects of this master plan is to examine the competitiveness of renewable energies in regard to economic development. Finally the timing of this seminar is very interesting because Yemen’s efforts are really taking form and shape to secure access to loans from EIB and it seems that Yemen’s chances to be included in the EIP are quite good.
Then a word was given by the representative of Ministry of Electricity and water in which he talked about the policy of Yemen on electricity and renewable resources. He highly evaluated the importance of this workshop in bringing constructive ideas and suggestions to the development of sustainable energy planning in the sector and went on to say: the Ministry is responsible for supervision of free main sectors: water and electricity. In the past there was some ambiguity about the objectives of the Ministry as for it is responsible for water and electricity. The policy in the strategy for the future is to relieve the subsidy and to charge actual cost to the customer. If we look for the short term master plan for the coming five years, it means that we need between 300,000 and 400,000 million dollars to meet the increase in demand which is about 7%. OF course, we are not in position to secure all this therefore the strategy adopted intends to involve the private sector in the investment. This is within a global scheme for restructuring the center. It is, of course, a challenge for us that we will go and change the career because we did not expect that investors will come to this country and work on the basis of EIP or any form of organization without ensuring that there is a reasonable berth for the money collected from the consumers. So one of the strategies we have adopted is that we should re-design the structure of the berth because the existing design of the berth is not adequate.
Another important thing is that we are planning to re-engineering of the staff. The sector is lacking a lot of skilled and expertise workers. Another area of concern is the demand side management because we can not concentrate our efforts only on the supply side. We have to work in some sort of policies so that we also control the demand at the consumer side. The strengthening of the management is also an important area of concern because the time we will go for dividing into functioning units: generation, transmission and distribution or geographical areas that means that we will have isolated areas with autonomous working units. This means that we will have to strengthening the management in terms of increasing the efficiency of the accounts working, financial accounts and management information system. This is actually challenging for us but it is a matter of time. Renewable energy is of crucial importance and is necessitated by the geography of the country because it will be very costly and difficult to provide electricity services to rural areas. We have some preliminary studies on the solar energy and on the potentials sources of our country. We are also looking forward for close cooperation with other countries through bilateral and multi-lateral for using the solar energy system in the rural areas and in the urban areas as well.
Ismail Al-Ghabiry
Yemen Times