MESIA says solar projects worth $2.7 billion could be announced in the Middle East and North Africa this year
A study by the Middle East Solar Industry Association (MESIA), MENA Solar Outlook 2015, indicates that 1,800MW worth of solar projects will be tendered or awarded during the next twelve months. The projected figure of $2.7 billion represents a six-fold increase on 2014, when under 300MW of solar projects were awarded.
MESIA sees three solar trends emerging this year:
- Solar will become more pan-regional. In the past the solar debate has been focused on only one or two countries. This year the industry will see solar projects take off in eleven different countries across MENA, from Morocco to Saudi Arabia.
- Size will be a factor. In 2013, only three projects awarded larger than 10MW were awarded. This year, that number is expected to reach 40. Each of these projects will be worth at least $60 million and several will exceed $100 million.
- Micro-solar markets: As the solar market grows, the region will see niche segments emerging. One example is the rooftop-solar sector. With Dubai having recently launched a landmark solar rooftop program, the MENA region will see for the first time an entire industry emerge focused on building solar PV systems on rooftops.
Even when compared to the lower oil prices, solar makes economic sense. “The cost of large scale solar PV is similar to the cost of generating power with oil at $20/barrel,” said Vahid Fotuhi, President of MESIA and Director of Origination at Access Power MEA. “As long as oil remains above $20/barrel it is more economically attractive to use solar for electricity generation and keep oil for more valuable purposes such as transport fuels,” Fotuhi added.
There are two factors fuelling the sharp rise in solar projects in the MENA region. First, the price of solar systems has dropped dramatically over the past few years; roughly $7.00/watt in 2008 to less than $1.50/watt in 2014. This amounts to more than a 75% cost reduction. It means that for the same budget as a 10 MW solar PV power plant in 2008, a plant five times larger can be built today without having to spend a penny more.
At the same time as solar prices are decreasing, the cost of generating electricity from natural gas is on the rise. Regional governments have historically been able to produce or import natural gas for less than $2.00/MMBtu. Today, however, much of the new domestic natural gas production could cost up to $8.00/MMBtu to deliver to the market. By comparison, the cost of solar today is equivalent to burning natural gas at approximately $4.00/MMBtu. This provides gas-strapped governments with an economically viable option to generate electricity.
The study includes a detailed database with information on each solar project that will be tendered in 2015. This database will be made accessible via the Members Portal section of the MESIA website.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”