It’s The Right Time To Be In The Middle East As It Is Growing From Oil and Gas Energy-Rich To A Hydrogen Manufacturing Industry, Says, Shaikh Shahid Hossain, Vice-President, ETAP
When you mix innovation, digitization, and renewable energy, you get a Shahid Hossain in the making. Hossain, the Vice President of ETAP is not one to get easily bogged down by the excesses of the day or his routine. His busy mind is instead invested in new & innovative product development and practical solutions for customers to overcome challenges related to power.
A product of Preston University and IIMA, Hossain currently serves on the board of ETAP as Sr. Vice President & Global Director for Product and Strategy, having served in prominent organisations like L&T earlier.
In this detailed interview with Thirty to Net Zero, Hossain begins by introducing us to his company ETAP which has been working on different applications and processes for the last 35 years. His optimism is striking as he carefully delineates how the Middle East’s ambition of going net-zero is well within reach and how he is of the firm conviction that the Middle East is comfortably perched at the top of its Sustainability targets.
Hossain also talks to us about how the swift energy transition from fossil fuels to green hydrogen, and why hydrogen is the need of the hour. Hossain’s optimism and ambition are both infectious and this interview is soon to leave you deeply inspired.
Q: What are the major projects that ETAP is currently working on in terms of solar and wind power? And how fast do you believe ETAP will also be a part of the hydrogen revolution as a leader?
A: We have been in the industry for the last thirty-five years and are headquartered in California, USA. We have presence in more than a hundred plus countries globally. We have been talking about and implementing renewable application for the last 10 to 15 years. We are always ahead of the curve and anticipate the need versus wait in the solar market today, at least in the Middle East.
In MEA, ETAP is a very dominant and strong technology provider and plays right from the complete lifecycle of the project from designing to operations covering the engineering feasibilities to the automation, operation, control, and optimization of various End-user companies right now, we are doing the most ambitious projects in the region, as per the 2030-2050 goals of various countries, including Saudi, UAE, Qatar, etc.
With respect to solar and net-zero, we are in the phase of deploying the world's single largest solar plant, which is a mighty gigawatt facility. And at the same time, we are also deploying the world's first net-zero city, which is on a sustainable marine tourism concept. And that is where we are also working on complete Net Zero applications with a Digital-Twin concept. This showcases our strength and capability in the renewable space.
From solar to wind to energy storage systems we have emphasized our commitment in terms of both our investment and technological portfolio.
Q: What are your comments about the hydrogen revolution on this part of the entire renewable energy setup?
A: It is not new to us, because traditionally, we come from heavy oil and gas industries and petrochemicals where hydrogen ammonia processes are something that we must deal with. The only difference today is the transition of the hydrogen processes which is coming from natural power sources including solar and wind to make it green hydrogen.
We have not come as a new entrant technology developer but have our platform available for the longest period. In fact, we are already ahead in the game for hydrogen in the Gulf region. We started the development of the applications almost few years ago. And today ETAP is geared to provide an end-to-end digital solution for hydrogen from feasibility design to operation and power management using ETAP’S Unified Digital Twin Model.
We are in discussions with a lot of stakeholders to deploy the systems as we go; we have a few pilot projects, which have already been undertaken. We are talking about and gearing up for multi-gigahertz of hydrogen generation.
Q: Hydrogen is known as an expensive alternative, compared to solar power and wind energy. For a lot of investors in the Middle East, solar power is a worthwhile primary investment. What would be your advice to investors so that they would be inclined to also look at green hydrogen as an option?
A: It's the need of the hour. Due to the uncertainty and vulnerability of energy efficiency of solar and wind, as well as other sources of energy storage, green hydrogen becomes very, very important, and it's something that we must have an alignment to put together now.
Right now, there are several alignments being put in place for different technology provider developers in different economies to work in harmony to achieve the ambitious green hydrogen growth. And the way we see the large petrochemical facilities as well as the heavy lift to intensive metal and mining industries, moving towards utilizing green hydrogen as the primary source of their energy for running the processes.
As we march towards net-zero expectations at every level, from individual to corporate to technology providers we must be encouraged to adapt to this. Hence the investment is also pretty much important. The Middle East has targeted net zero by 2050. The industrial sectors are looking very strongly at hydrogen as an alternative and many pacts have been implemented. So, it is the right time to be in the Middle East as it is growing from oil and gas to a renewable energy-rich industry. So, there is a strong potential for growth in hydrogen. I think, more than me advising, people are taking that step forward and moving in the right direction
Q: When we talk about renewable energy, it requires both individuals, and corporations, distinct entities to work in sync. How do you expect this cooperation to come about eventually?
A: For any infrastructure today, it is not possible for everyone to achieve net zero by themselves. So, you must work in a Complete harmony and maintain synergy between the corporates, and various technology providers, right from the policymakers to the stakeholders, to local technology providers and global manufacturing giants.
At the same time, what is important is that we must have the right mindset to achieve the same. We all must work and commit, from an individual level to the corporate level to agree to the global climate challenges that we have in front of us and prepare ourselves to adapt to net zero, right from our own house buildings to the city to the country to the group-wise orientations. Every single step starts with us. If we are sensible and responsible to achieve certain needs, in our own orientation, every action will be integrated. It is a kind of chain of involvement, which comes together, and naturally, we will all be bound.
And that is where, as a part of Schneider Electric, we are committed to the Paris Agreement as a corporate and we continue to pledge to Net Zero targets for our internal operations, as well as the external partners and stakeholders. And we continue to see growth in the future to have more heterogeneous integrations to create homogeneous applications for a net-zero. That is how I put it together.
Q: Given the current backdrop of global events, with so much happening across the globe, how soon do you believe that the countries in the Middle East would come together, and work together to make green hydrogen like the ‘in thing’?
A: The first green hydrogen commercial rollout will be happening in the Middle East which is under construction, which is good news. And that creates a benchmark for the green hydrogen rollout. The only limitations towards it are on a short-term to long-term basis and on creating a reference project, a live orientation for all the global stakeholders to understand and take the right messages for deploying the same on a global scale. The Middle East has always been at the forefront of adopting modern technology, deploying recent technology, and taking the right courageous decisions, thanks to all the senior leadership bureaucrats as well as the government policymakers.
In the Middle East, 70% of the total generation that we have is used in the cooling processes. That is where we see a lot of change, which is happening towards the uses of hydrogen. And it is one of the most prominent places in the entire world to look at the growth of green hydrogen and set a standard in storage for everybody to follow. And I see the Middle East becoming the thought leader in green hydrogen and given their experience working in harmony with many other countries and providing given earning lessons.
Q: Do you think 2050 is an over-ambitious target? Or do you think that this is something that the Middle East would comfortably deliver?
A: It is very important to put an over-ambitious target and at least pioneer, achieve and deploy it. We have all seen that Amidst the pandemic, the country has evolved and handled the EXPO 2020 and how it has emerged as one of the strong contenders in managing the COVID crisis. So, they have always set up the target and the bar exceedingly high.
The vision and the leadership along with the right amount of engagement of technologies, the processes, to the foundations of the various resources, also need a big vehicle to achieve the final goal. And I do strongly believe in the machine and its mechanics. I am sure the way we all have been working and contributing to achieve net-zero by 2050 is not just an ambitious target, but rather, a very realistic target.
At the same time, we all must be responsible in our daily life, to support at every level of the ecosystem to help in achieving the kind of targets that we have been setting forward for ourselves. As we are discussing with many technology providers and energy companies, they all have been talking about energy emission reductions, going forward, to achieve net zero. We have seen buildings that have been built already on 100% net zero compliances. So, I see this as a target one that could be achieved.
Q: Why don't you take us through your journey into the entire world of renewable energy? And tell us about your favorite book, or your favorite quote, either one.
A: I am digitally innovative and have a curious mindset. I do not sleep many nights, if I must do certain things, to innovate. So, I'm very, very, impacted with respect to the new innovations, and technologies to change whatever we do. And that is my passion. The journey has been exceptional, right from studying the base involvement and looking at energy transitions, and then working with great like-minds globally, to create a rightful solution for the humanity and community. And that is a roller coaster journey, which I take on every single day. I learn every single day. When I do not cross a particular hurdle, that's massive learning for me. It does not lead me to stay back and not try. But the next day, I wake up and try new ways of doing things, and innovation in digitalization is something that is very, very key to me.
There are many quotes that I can tell you from my books, and journals that I have been reading and following. But to keep it in the essence of the interview I can mention ETAP’s, Powering Success for Sustainability.’