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UAE - Energy & Mining

Luc Koechlin

MD & CEO for the Middle East, EDF Group

Bio

Luc Koechlin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and Business Administration from ESSEC Business school, one of the leading French Business School. After five years as a consultant in Corporate Recovery and Turnaround Management for Arthur Andersen he joined EDF in 2005. From 2005 to 2017, he has occupied various positions within EDF Group from advisor and auditor at EDF Presidency, to Regional Commercial Director managing the transformation of EDF to face the opening of the French electricity market to competition.
He joined EDF International Division in 2017, as Vice President for Southern and Eastern Africa, based in Johannesburg, in charge of the development of the Group in the region. During this period he has been developing projects, especially in Hydropower and Energy Efficiency to support the energy crisis and the energy transition from coal to clean energy.
In September 2022, he has been appointed as Managing Director and CEO, EDF Middle East, based in Abu Dhabi. Present in the UAE, KSA, Qatar, Bahrein, Oman and Lebanon with 250 employees locally implemented, EDF bring its well-recognized expertise to the Middle East region who has started its energy transition. Through a range of diverse solutions involving energy efficiency programs and the use of hydroelectric, wind, solar, biomass, thermal and nuclear power, EDF Group favors the most appropriate and low-carbon solutions answering the energy transition expectations.

"EDF was recognized as a major international player and strengthened its position by securing state of the art projects considerably contributing to the region’s decarbonization."
TBY talks to Luc Koechlin, MD & CEO for the Middle East for EDF Group, about recent achievements, lowering carbon output, and goals for 2023.
What have been the main achievements of the EDF Group in the Middle East in the last few years?

First off, allow me to present EDF globally. EDF is unique because we are a 360-utility company working along the entire energy value chain: from low-carbon generation, through transmission and distribution, to energy services, smart solutions and storage including hydrogen. Our large portfolio of projects and expertise aims to drive well-being and economic development in the ultimate goal to fight against climate change and to support the local economies in their energy transition. EDF is present in the UAE for more than 25 years and I am extremely proud of our company’s success in the Middle East. In the 90s, we started with engineering & consulting services for building the transmission network in the country, aiming to interconnect the seven Emirates in 2003. Since then, we anchored our leading position in terms of engineering and consultancy in the energy sector and in the UAE. Relying on our French and local expertise, we decided five years ago to move forward by investing in the region. Therefore, we strengthened our presence by investing and developing low-carbon generation plants, such as solar, wind and hydro projects. Our first renewable project in the region is the iconic 800MW Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park – “DEWA III” in Dubai, jointly developed with our local partners Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) and Masdar. By 2030, the full plant capacity is due to reach 5,000 MW which will save over 6.5 million tons of carbon emissions annually. Since the commissioning of DEWA III in 2020, the solar plant successfully powers with clean electricity over 160,000 homes in Dubai. Moreover, EDF was recognized as a major international player and strengthened its position by securing state of the art projects considerably contributing to the region’s decarbonization. I would like to mention the 3.8 billion US dollars strategic project we won as a consortium with our South Korean and Japanese partners following a tender launched by ADNOC in 2021. The innovative project will see the development and operation of a first-of-its-kind 150km high-voltage, direct current (HVDC-VSC) subsea transmission system in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. It will power ADNOC’s offshore production operations with cleaner and more efficient energy, delivered through the Abu Dhabi onshore power grid. The project will reduce ADNOC’s offshore carbon footprint by more than 30%, supporting the UAE goals to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 (Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative). This project is a game changer for the country’s energy transition and will pave the way towards a more sustainable and decarbonized future for other oil and gas-based economies in the region.
Another major achievement for EDF in the region is the strategic partnership with Masdar, whereas we created a Joint-venture company called Emerge to develop turnkey energy services solutions at no up-front cost for our clients. Through distributed solar rooftop plants, energy efficiency solutions, and lighting services, Emerge aims to provide the C&I sector, such as industries, shopping malls and leisure centers, with the opportunity to become a “prossumer”, e.g. to produce THE clean electricity they consume. Last, but not least, the 50/50 Joint Venture between EDF and Engie, called Nojoom (meaning “stars” in Arabic) has been recently awarded by the Abu Dhabi’s Department of Municipalities and Transport to renew the capital’s roads lighting. The project is part of the wider Abu Dhabi Road Lighting Programme, and includes the finance, supply, installation, operation and maintenance of 133,473 LED energy-efficient luminaires in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. It will result in significant electricity savings of almost 2,400 million kWh, equivalent to a reduction of approximately 74 % in power consumption, over the 12-year concession period. The combination of large utility-scale renewable projects, coped with smaller clean and sustainable projects, inks a major step for the country and its trajectory to the carbon neutrality.

What gaps does EDF Group aim to tackle in the field of the energy transition?

Like all other countries, the UAE is now facing the challenge of the renewable energy intermittency. In other words, if you only build solar power plants, you will only have power during the day, while the sun is shining. To ensure the electricity availability on the grid, day and night, 365 days per year, we must build a new energy mix. And this mix cannot be only one technology, e.g., solar. This mix has to be a combination of low-carbon generation solutions and sustainable & scalable storage capacities to offer a buffer for the extra-solar generation during the day. The UAE’s visionary authority early realized the importance of this balanced and secured energy mix, and built the Barakah nuclear power plant, invested in solar farms, accompanied the C&I business to become the actors of their energy needs, and last but not least developed innovative storage solutions. As EDF, we are delighted to be the owner’s engineer to supervise on behalf of DEWA the execution of the first hydropower storage project in the Middle east – Hatta Power pumping storage power plant (HPSPP), near Dubai. The Hatta HPSPP is another iconic project illustrating the UAE’s ambition towards a more sustainable future, using our expertise. EDF is a renowned, worldwide leader in implementing and operating the technology used for this innovative hydro storage project. It consists in the creation of two lakes (reservoirs). One at a lower level and one higher in Hatta Mountain. Both lakes relate to a tunnel and 250MW of turbines. The turbines are using the exceeding solar power while pumping the water during the day and are generating clean electricity while releasing the water from the upper to the lower reservoir at night, when we need electricity, and the solar energy is no longer available. We are working on many similar potential projects in the Middle East, especially in the UAE, but also in KSA and Oman. That’s one of the added values EDF’s bringing to the region. Another challenge in most of the countries is the evolution of the electrical grid. This one hadn’t been designed initially to absorb the diversified and significantly increasing large utility scale projects (IPPs) decentralized energy plants, small solar projects, distributed energy farms, and solar rooftops everywhere. This clean energy generated during the day, due to the sun irradiation, must be integrated into the energy system/grid, which hadn’t been designed for the increasing and intermittent electrical load. At EDF we are delighted to actively support this technical challenge in the regional transmission networks, and to accompany the authorities to develop clear energy regulations and amendments for supporting technical initiatives that will help balancing the intermittence of the renewable energy generation.

In 2020, EDF invested EUR660 million in R&D globally. What initiatives and activities does the group invest in?

Indeed, EDF has a huge in-house R&D department. What makes us different from the other international players, is the fact that we develop our own systems, technologies, and innovative solutions. Since 1946, we have continuously been investing in the R&D because we believe the world’s energy system is always evolving. We lead the energy sector with our innovation, part of our DNA and our company’s mindset. We are a company with a strong technical and engineering knowledge, benefiting from many R&D centers in France, in USA, in Singapore, and why not soon in the Middle East. Despite our flexible organization and collaborative mindset, EDF realized few years ago, that the “Innovation” cannot always come from inside the company. Moreover, we realized that we had also to make a network of partnerships, to support start-ups and entrepreneurs in order to lead the sector through the innovations. Furthermore, for example, we are working on the next generation of nuclear fleet, because we are more driven by the long than the short-term developments. Our research and investments go to different technologies of solutions, batteries, software for customers to develop services and promote energy efficiency. All our efforts go to fight against climate change, to reduce the impact we have on our planet, to identify developments in different regions, while studying the climate, being aware that the energy transition is the vehicle to stop the climate change.

What solutions does the group provide to fulfill lower carbon generation, and where do you aim to see EDF Group in 2023?

We believe the future must be net zero—that is a commitment of EDF. And this future will be made up of a large mix of technologies. For example, solar is a big part of this mix, however it won’t be the only component. The UAE has been progressing in the nuclear field, which our company supports and promotes. We try to find the right mix for each country using its resources, creating local content while working on wide range of low carbon technologies. For example, 90% of the electricity in South Africa is produced by coal, and it is impossible to change that overnight. Similarly, it is not possible today to fully move away from oil and gas, and we must support this transition to a cleaner future. Therefore, we are working on a wide range of solutions and are trying to adapt and support the countries with their own mix and sources. What differentiates us from the other players, is the fact that as a national utility company, we are also looking for the right and most efficient solution to implement in our own country. Our added value is that we share our 20 years French energy transition experience with our local partners, we create local job opportunities and contribute to the constitution of a local expertise and human capital. We are committed to the energy transition and are pleased to support and to be involved in the UAE, as this fully aligns with our goals. Moreover, we are happy to be an inspiration for the next generation, to sensibilize it regarding the net-zero future and the importance of the common goal to fight against climate change. At the forefront of the COP28 taking place in UAE this year, the development of all these low-carbon projects is the proof that the country is committed, so we are, to fight against climate change, to pave the way and to leave a better planet to take care of, for the generations to come.

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