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A joint workshop hosted by EPFL and Masdar Institute of Technology on smart grids and clean energy in the Middle East


Last month, over thirty academics, policy-makers, city officials, and partners from the industry came together for a workshop focusing on smart grids and clean energy applications in the Middle East. The workshop, held at the Masdar campus in Abu Dhabi, was co-organized by EPFL and Masdar. One of its goals was to plant the seeds for the creation of a diverse network of experts in the field of sustainable energy solutions, ideally positioned to shape the development of an energy policy for the United Arab Emirates and the region at large. 


"We need a high-level strategy for the nation to direct the energy portfolio in a more optimal way," Masdar professor Sgouris Sgouridis told the newspaper The National in an interview published earlier this week. And EPFL professor Matthias Finger told the newspaper that it was vital to have “all the actors on board” to be able to make a change. 


Industrial partners Siemens and IBM presented their respective visions on how smart-grids in cities would help improve the performance of urban energy systems. And members the Abu Dhabi and Dubai city authorities laid out governance and regulatory issues that they had been confronted in deploying smart metering technologies in pilot projects in the region.


By providing consumers with detailed information about their power consumption, smart-grid technology paves the way for smart incentive schemes that have the potential to impact individual behavior. According to Sgouridis, "positive incentive schemes, where smart-grid users are offered a benefit for curtailing their consumption at critical times could work well in the current tariff environment providing benefits for both the government that subsidizes energy consumption and the users.”


In the press release that followed the conference, Matthias Finger said: "It became obvious, at the workshop, that technology and institutions must be considered together. The smart grid and smart energy technologies can only deploy their full potential if all the different actors, including the utilities, the regulators and the policy makers play their appropriate roles and are optimally coordinated. In other words, technological and institutional engineering are complementary and offer a unique potential for energy efficiency gains and reduced consumption."