The electric utilities industry in the Middle East is on the brink of a transformative era driven by the integration of artificial intelligence and digitalization. As companies embrace this shift, the potential for long-term earnings growth is becoming evident. The success of this transition hinges on the preparedness of companies and their workforces to harness the full value of AI and automation.

The power industry in the Middle East is poised to evolve toward fully digitized systems, automating processes from power generation and distribution to service management. Ambitious sustainability targets set by governments are also compelling utilities to invest heavily in smart grid technologies. Saudi Arabia, for example, committed more than one billion dollars to deploy 10 million smart meters. Cloud-based solutions, AI, and machine learning are expected to play a key role in creating greener and smarter electricity grids.

Ten Compelling Reasons for Electric Utilities to Invest in AI

Across the utilities landscape in the Middle East, AI is emerging as a transformative solution. With AI, electrical utilities will be able to optimize electricity network performance through capabilities like real-time monitoring, demand forecasting, and automated load balancing. The following ten AI use cases will generate the most value:

  • Maximizing Energy Output in Power Generation: AI-driven control and automation algorithms optimize operations in power plants, reducing waste and maximizing energy output. From fuel management to turbine operation, AI systems continuously analyze data to fine-tune parameters, reduce waste, and maximize energy output.
  • AI-Led Cybersecurity: By strengthening cybersecurity through real-time threat detection, AI safeguards critical infrastructure from cyber-attacks, ensuring the reliability of power generation systems.
  • Integration of Renewables Energy: AI plays a crucial role in managing the variability of renewable energy sources, enhancing the grid's ability to handle fluctuations and ensuring seamless integration. Advanced forecasting models significantly improve the grid's capacity to effectively manage fluctuations and seamlessly integrate renewable energy into the power generation mix.

    AI plays a central role in advancing solar photovoltaic (PV) technology and is ushering in an era of unparalleled efficiency and performance. One crucial application is solar forecasting, where AI algorithms analyze weather patterns, historical data, and real-time conditions to predict solar energy production. Additionally, AI-based predictive maintenance enhances the reliability of solar photovoltaic systems by identifying potential problems before they cause system failures. This proactive approach reduces downtime and maintenance costs while ensuring optimal grid performance.

  • Reliability of Overhead Transmission Lines: AI revolutionizes the management and optimization of power transmission lines, dynamically adjusting power ratings based on real-time conditions and improving reliability.

    AI systems can dynamically adjust the power rating of the line in real time, considering weather conditions and other factors. This maximizes power transmission efficiency while ensuring the integrity of the line infrastructure.

    Furthermore, many utilities are exploring the use of drones and AI to enhance the inspection of transmission and distribution assets. The idea is simple: Unmanned drones equipped with cameras can capture a vast number of images of conductors and equipment, which can then be quickly and thoroughly analyzed by AI. The integration of AI also aids in the detection of and response to errors by identifying anomalies in the transmission system. This improves the reliability of power transmission lines and minimizes the impact of power outages on the grid.
  • Fault Detection in Underground Cables: AI algorithms can analyze sensor data for underground cable fault detection, swiftly identifying fault locations to minimize downtime. They also optimize cable thermal ratings based on real-time conditions, preventing overheating, and reducing cable failure risks while preserving insulation integrity.
  • Electric Towers Inspection: AI-powered drones with image recognition can inspect electric towers, quickly identifying structural issues or abnormalities. When integrated with weather data, this technology predicts adverse conditions, allowing proactive measures to minimize potential damage. Vibration analysis can further detect tower anomalies, allowing AI systems to identify wildlife interference, trigger deterrence measures, and reduce outage risks.
  • Smart Substation Monitoring: AI transforms substation operations, predicting equipment failures through sensor data analysis. For switchgears, AI optimizes energy usage by analyzing historical and current data, ensuring efficient operations. Real-time monitoring enhances transformer conditions, detecting abnormalities for timely intervention, optimizing load based on various factors, reducing losses, and prolonging transformer lifespan.
  • Meters Data Patterns Analysis: In meter data analysis, AI identifies energy consumption anomalies, detecting issues like tampering or faulty equipment. AI-driven load forecasting models predict future energy demand, optimizing distribution and load management for efficient energy use.
  • AI-Enabled Automated Field Workforce: AI automates scheduling and routing for the field workforce, minimizing travel time and improving response times for emergency maintenance.
  • Improving Customer Experience: AI-based utility solutions, including chatbots and virtual assistants, enhance the customer experience by providing quick, personalized responses, streamlining service requests and problem resolution.

The AI Imperative for Utilities AI is already transforming the utilities industry. The utilities that thoughtfully adopt AI are able to significantly optimize operations and reduce costs by analyzing massive amounts of data in real-time. No utility can do this alone. To achieve AI excellence, utilities will need to work with partners to refine data pipelines, build industry-leading AI models, and create scalable computing infrastructure. With the right AI partnerships and strategies in place, utilities will find themselves on a new plateau of efficiency, resilience, and growth.

About the Author

Tanal Younes

Head of Utilities Accounts — Middle East

Tanal has more than 14 years of experience in the utilities industry, consulting, and digital services, with a track record for award-winning, digital-led business transformation projects. He has served in industry leadership roles working with large utilities on technology innovation, digital operations, engineering services, and smart utilities initiatives.