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EDF Renewables Is Providing Innovative Solutions And Services To Help Save The Planet And Drive Well Being And Economic Development: Romain Riche, Head of Asset Management, Operations and Maintenance, EDF Renewables

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Romain Riche, Head of Asset Management, Operations, and Maintenance, EDF Renewables

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Key Highlights:

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-One of the main goals of effective Operations and Maintenance is to maximize generation output in a cost-efficient manner.

-To reduce downtime, efficient scheduling is necessary to fix before it fails, shifting from a regular preventative to a predictive strategy.

-Despite the price increases in the supply chain, renewable energy is still the most competitive and fastest growing of all electricity sources.

Tell us about your journey and contribution to the Middle East solar market.

I’m a renewable energy professional with more than a decade of experience across Europe and the Middle East. I’m responsible for leading all aspects of operations, maintenance, and asset management at EDF Renewables, a global leader in renewable electricity production without CO2 emissions. As part of its CAP 2030 strategy, EDF Renewables supports the EDF Group’s ambitions in renewable energy and play a leading role in the construction of a net zero energy future. The company is also expanding into other promising sectors such as electricity storage and electric mobility.

Along with this strategy, I’ve been driving O&M organizations for the EDF renewables energies business for over a decade. First, this includes 7 years in France. Then, in 2017, I moved to the UAE for the construction, operations, and maintenance of the world’s largest PV Project at that time, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park Phase 3.

I’m now leading O&M for flagship utility-scale plants in the region, the MBR Solar Park and Al Dhafra Solar Park in the UAE, the Dumat Al Jandal Wind farm, and the Jeddah South PV plant in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as well as the Benban Solar Complex in Egypt.

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In addition to my current responsibilities, I’m a member of the Board of the Middle East Solar Industry Association, the leading non-profit organization whose core mission is to promote the growth of the solar industry in the Middle East Region.

How important is the role of technology in the day-to-day operations and maintenance of solar projects?

One of the main goals of effective Operations and Maintenance is to maximize generation output in a cost-efficient manner. In order to do so, automation and digitalization are the main drivers.

Over the last decade, we have seen the emergence of smart monitoring solutions through the use of AI/big data analytics that helps identify losses of generation, forecast behaviors, and develop predictive maintenance in order to be proactive and fix before it fails.

Effective utilization of Data analytics shall be at the core of all operator strategies and the use of technologies such as drones for thermal imagery, robot cleaning solutions also helps Operators to optimize generation and reduce the time spent by personnel on the plant, hence increasing the profitability of the projects.

How do you ensure optimum performance of the assets? What are some necessary steps taken for the same?

First, from a contractual standpoint, the O&M Agreement shall be focusing on getting the maximum energy from the plant. This means not only having a performance guarantee from the Operator but as well to have an incentive scheme between assets owners and the Operator to create a win-win scenario.

From a technical aspect, the Operator needs to know in detail how much the plant should be generating based on the environmental conditions and shall use the right data provided by its monitoring system and data analytics to identify current losses at every level. it is then required to implement a strong action plan to limit the impact of the main sources of losses such as soiling, temperature, tracking angles, unavailability of equipment, etc.

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To reduce downtime, efficient scheduling is necessary to fix before it fails, shifting from a regular preventative to a predictive strategy. Availability of spares is as well key and its importance has been highlighted by the logistic constraints during this pandemic period.

Finally, the skills of the staff working on a solar plant are not to be underestimated as well. Qualifications of suppliers and knowledge management/training are very impactful for asset integrity.

What is your opinion on the current situation of the renewable sector in the Middle East region?

Globally, the current global energy crisis has added new urgency to accelerate clean energy transitions and, once again, highlighted the key role of renewable energy.

In the renewables industry, over the last decade, we have been used to see a sharp and continuous decline in LCOE but lately, this trend has stopped.

Despite the price increases in the supply chain, renewable energy is still the most competitive and the fastest growing of all electricity sources.

In the Middle East, the region is offering great opportunities for the development of renewables.

Lands are largely available, solar irradiance levels are some of the highest in the world, and renewable projects in the region are extremely competitive, continuously breaking world records.

The potential for Green hydrogen is as well very promising considering the competitive price of renewables.

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With this favorable environment, the potential for growth is huge and shall be supported by strong regulations to ease its development.

What is your outlook on the renewable sector growth in the next few years? Is there anything that you are looking forward to?

Solar energy in the Middle East region is expected to witness significant growth in the market as solar energy’s prices shall continue to fall during the next 5 years and I’m thrilled to be part of such exciting projects.

Being an intermittent energy source, in order to maintain constant power distribution, storage of electricity is likely to be more largely integrated into the plants.

Hence, I’m looking forward to seeing the emergence of the coupling of solar with storage (batteries, hydrogen) that is expected to evolve positively with R&D progress and the scaling effect.

In line with his commitment to building a net zero energy future, EDF Renewables is providing such innovative solutions and services, to help save the planet and drive wellbeing and economic development.

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