Digital transformation

Using digital ingenuity to speed up energy transition

Alvaro Pérez
Chief Digital Officer, ACWA Power

ACWA Power is using new digital technologies imaginatively to speed up our energy transition and meet our ambitious targets. It is a continuous process. We are improving our systems and ways of working to benefit our stakeholders and realise the Saudi Vision 2030 and of course, meet the 2050 net zero emissions target. Each year we make progress on our journey and last year was no exception, in reaching milestones. What helps us is our open mind, willingness to take calculated risks, and adapting innovative technologies to help ACWA Power grow. We see the benefits of this daily. Our team has a better workday.

Our business lines can use better tools to improve their productivity.

Our EPC partners can plug into our value chain better.

Our operations are becoming more efficient.

Our recruits and trainees progress faster.

Our investors get better, faster data and insights. And, perhaps most important of all, our customers in Saudi Arabia, Middle East, Africa, Central Asia and Southeast Asia, get more reliable, affordable and sustainable power and water, the essence of life.

Review of 2022

In 2022 we spread a digital hybrid business and technology culture across our business lines and locations, setting up software factories and digital chapters, and implementing capabilities to meet our objectives.

The capabilities we are using include cloud, edge and IoT, data platforms, AI and machine learning ops factories, cyber security, EPC construction collaboration frameworks, bidding tools, asset performance capacities, mobile workforce management and workplace ecosystems. We are evolving at a rapid pace, using an agile approach to give our team and partners the tools they need to improve daily tasks and meet our strategic goals. Every day we are solving problems and creating business value by using these technologies. We are transforming our interactions with stakeholder groups (employees, customers, suppliers, partners, startups, gig freelancers and surrounding communities). It allows us to share capacity and closer relationships within and between our teams.

In April 2022, the Board approved our digital strategic plan for 2022–2026. This sets out our “platform model”, which leads to direct monetisation. Our digital dashboard shows our progress to date.

Our platform operating model represents a new framework that incorporates an array of software and systems that represents a unique and powerful suite of connected capabilities. It allows us to interact with business partners and stakeholders in a timely and efficient manner.

of ACWA Power digital budget focus is on innovation; this is 13% more than the industry average (Forrester CIO innovation spending 2022)
of our organisation perceives that our digital strategy and the tech platforms that support the transformation are the right ones (Internal McKinsey survey)

ACWA Power
KPI Description Increase
Data assets
Number of KPIs, dashboards and reports implemented
x 2.6
Data streaming assets
Number of implemented specialised software in processing data (models, simulations, etc.)
x 10.6
Net Promoter Score (NPS)
Metric to measure quality and satisfaction through surveys and questions, measured using eSupport service ticketing tool
4.7 out of 5
Digital people involved
% of people involved in digital transformation
x 1.08
Number of digital tribes activated
Communities of knowledge that facilitate applying the principles of digital transformation (agile, design thinking, UX) to different business domains like construction management, field operations, logistics, etc.
Over 30

ACWA Power has evolved to our platform operating model

  • Heterogenous systems
  • Local factories & infrastructure
  • Customisations
  • Dispersed know-how
  • Limited economy of scale
  • Simplification
  • Scalability
  • Standard settings
  • Focus on identifying capabilities
  • Use case analysis
  • Technical landscape
  • API and data platforms
  • Global solutions: “big rocks”
  • New digital factories
  • Focus on re-use
  • Modular approach (microservices)
  • Soft development governance
  • 100% adoption

ACWAverse is ACWA Power’s virtual world, designed to facilitate close collaboration between people within the Company. It encourages users to contribute and benefit from the anonymity of their avatars, so it is particularly valuable for younger staff who have a new opportunity to influence decisions. It is also a useful platform for those who are physically away from corporate premises. We are developing ACWAverse continuously so that it will increase in use and value.

The ingenuity

Digital is driving efficiencies across our business units

We are adopting and applying digital technologies across all our operations. We move fast to evolve from simply deploying IT products and services to creating our own bespoke platform which is tailored for the energy transition challenge and empower the whole team. Our comprehensive adoption of agile technologies will enable us to design, build and manage power, water and green hydrogen plants more efficiently, save time and get our vital services to our customers more quickly and economically.

We have been reducing energy consumption in our water plants by the use of AI, enhancing our RO membrane performance and improving pump design. Through 6D-BIM and geospatial analytics we are piloting the construction of the next clean energy technologies and reducing the need for site visits through continuous follow up and taking the first steps in future construction digital twin simulation. We have conducted proofs of concept with remote inspections, using drones or smart helmets. We are implementing digital inventories that optimises the use of materials and reduces product waste and we are using 3D additive manufacturing to build just in time spare parts locally or avoid associated transport emissions. Furthermore, our AI and prediction techniques have helped forecast production and apply predictive dispatching analytics to manage flexibly the grid systems where we operate in; or reduce fuel usage (for example, in CCGT plants and cleaning PV facilities). We have also been enlarging our AI libraries, piloting new models and simulators for membrane optimisation, PV bifacial pilots, pump energy efficiencies, drone-based PV fields design improvement, batteries or electrolyzer optimisation and applying AI imagery to health and safety, RO membranes and construction management.

We are working on improving our EPC information exchange on construction activities and we have designed a model to monitor our supply chain continuously.

We have been supporting our customers’ initiatives to reduce CO2 emissions, monitoring GHG more accurately, designing new optimised low-carbon plants and energy systems using business travel management to reduce emissions, and through the CO2 rights platform, taking an active part in the CO2 market.

Digital has been contributing equally to our team’s work practices with the introduction of self-serving processes, a monetised vendor portal, just-in-time procurement, plant data automation, the provision of cloud, IoT, AI libraries, twin assets, and our collaboration framework for business modelling. During the year we continued our development of modular and adaptable platforms to accelerate business changes on the renewable energy journey.

Data management is providing us with key insights

We have taken further steps during 2022 to become a data driven organisation, helping our people manage data, giving them insights to increase performance and monetisation. We are now gathering large amounts of sensor data from plants through the IoT platform and processing this, using AI to define the next best actions to be performed in our field operative processes.

Using IoT, edge computing and deep learning we have implemented visual interpretation of membranes, construction progress measurement or the inspection of protective equipment, brought smart health and safety (H&S) analytics, and so improving our plant safety.

AI modelling is saving us time and cutting our costs

We have deployed more than 20 new MVP AI models that allow us to test our ideas rapidly in low-cost environments, optimise, enhance plant design, as well as improve operations and reduce costs.

Through a partnership with our innovation ecosystem, leveraging on virtual modelling capabilities and the use of fast genetic algorithms, we are accelerating plant design optimisation of new hybrid power systems whereby H2 is powered by green energy.

Our AI driven modelling is also accelerating the redesign of the water desalination process, by driving advanced scientific R&D models based on data insights. AI simulations give us a different business perspective in terms of energy consumption, chemical use optimisation, membrane performance and water quality improvement. We can now predict solar and wind power generation more accurately and continuously, and have improved the way we control and optimise our resources. We use fluid physics models for wind turbine turbulence and improve the design of wind farms, understand their potential energy yield and optimise ACWA Power investments.

We have been working with low-code and no-code apps so that business lines can create their own software easily. For example, our finance team automated budgeting, our innovation team created the first water desalination simulation pack, and our portfolio management team worked on creating a tool to exchange GHG emissions collaboratively.

Our new venture digital innovation lab worked on AI RO chemical optimisation, AI CSP production forecasting, AI PV cleaning and health and safety AI advanced analytics. Our extended community of digital related stakeholders includes MoE, MCIT, KAUST, SDAIA, AICE, HIWPT and more than 12 tech startups. Our strategic partnerships cover data, cyber and next generation technologies.

Speeding up career progression

We have also been advancing in learning management and career progression, involving more than 150 people in projects such as new predictive AI models and mobile working; creating a learning environment with free access to training resources; bringing open and flexible workplaces to make life better for our employees; and providing apps for finance automation, people onboarding, and continuous performance improvement.

2023 and beyond

Our ACWA Power digital hub is playing a key role in accelerating energy transition, and we are focusing on user experience for our employees, customers, communities, and shareholders. We are leading our industry through IoT, AI, robotisation, automation, decentralisation and self-correction to realise the Saudi Vision 2030 and achieve the net zero emissions target.

We remain receptive to new ideas and will be mobilising fresh digital tools, platforms, and systems to speed our journey. Our digital hub will continue to apply ingenuity to meet our objectives, as we have done in the past, and just as our friends and colleagues across ACWA Power do, every day.