The 7th annual World Future Energy Summit (WFES), to be held Jan. 20-22 in Abu Dhabi, promises to be a key opportunity for governments, businesses and policy makers to debate the necessary measures needed to motivate Middle East consumers to make more efficient energy choices.
One of the main topics at this year's event will be the adoption of smart metering technology, which enables real-time monitoring of electricity consumption and two-way communications between the utility and the consumer.
"Smart metering not only allows utility companies to identify consumption patterns which inform their demand management strategies, it also enables engagement with consumers to inform them about ways to use electricity more wisely," said Ramiz Alaileh of the Abu Dhabi-based Regulation and Supervision Bureau.
Implementation costs, antiquated communications infrastructure and inadequate policy frameworks, particularly in countries reliant on energy subsidies, are among the barriers to smart metering adoption in the MENA region.
To date, only one utility in the United Arab Emirates, the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority (ADWEA), has fully completed the phase-one roll-out of smart meters for electricity and water. Having a regulatory mandate in place was a key factor in ADWEA's decision to deploy the technology, according to WFES organizers.
The scale of projected energy demand growth and the need to accommodate an expansion in renewable energy supply is expected to pave the way for more sustainable technologies, however.
Smart metering "will become more important as energy sources diversify," said Wasim Taqqali, utilities industry manager at Accenture Middle East. "The deployment of solar energy in the Gulf is gathering pace but the reliability and quality of power generated by renewable sources can vary. That has been the experience overseas in countries with a relatively high penetration of renewable energies.
"Smart metering may therefore become extremely important in ensuring the smooth adoption of clean energies in the Middle East, helping to maintain security of supply and the satisfaction of the end-user," Taqqali added.
The latest generation of the digital revenue meter, made by Saudi Arabia's Advanced Electronic Company, will be one of more than 100 new products to launch at the summit trade show.
WFES will also deliver global insights on the policy and business frameworks required to keep pace with such rapid technical innovation, says WFES Show Director Naji El Haddad.
"At WFES 2014, we're enabling a broad cross section of stakeholders to discuss how policy and technology can work together to change behavior, increase energy efficiency and achieve renewable energy targets," El Haddad added. "The depth of expertise across our conference program dedicated to Energy Efficiency will shed new light on the possibilities to defer the huge capital investments required to supply the power and water needs of our cities and infrastructure."
Summit organizers are expecting some 30,000 attendees this year. The WFES is hosted by Abu Dhabi renewable energy company Masdar and will take place at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.
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