Few areas of the Middle East business scene are as buoyant as the utility sector. And

There are very few international consultants as active as Germany’s Fichtner. This year alone, the Stuttgart-based firm has been brought on board to oversee delivery of more than 4,000 MW and 60 million gallons a day (g/d) of new capacity, and to advise Abu Dhabi Municipality & Town Planning (ADMTP) on a landmark privatisation of the Abu Dhabi solid waste system.

In recent years, Fichtner’s name has become increasingly associated with the rise of the Gulf private power project. Since being taken on board for the landmark Taweelah A2 independent water and power project (IWPP) in 1997, the firm has been involved in four of the five IWPPs in Abu Dhabi and the four captive independent power projects (IPPs) at Ras Tanura, Juaymah, Uthmaniyah and Shedgum for Saudi Aramco.

The firm’s IPP and IWPP reference list is growing all the time. Today, it is acting as technical consultant to Saudi Arabia’s Water & Electricity Company (WEC) on the landmark Shouaiba IWPP and will be involved in the next three IWPPs planned by WEC, the first of which, Shuqaiq, is at the prequalification stage. In Qatar, it is advising Qatar General Electricity & Water Corporation (Kahramaa) on the facility B project at Mesaieed, which will ultimately have capacity of 1,000 MW. In Fujairah, it is working with Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority (ADWEA) on the utility’s sixth IWPP. And across the Gulf in Iran, it is providing engineering services to Belgium’s Unit International on the Rudeshur IPP, which is on track to become the Islamic republic’s next private power scheme.

The widespread adoption of the IPP and IWPP models has not come as a surprise to Fichtner. ‘For an international investor the region is one of the better places to invest in,’ says Mansour Hamza, Fichtner’s managing director for Africa, Middle East and the Far East. ‘These are rich countries, they have the financial means, modern infrastructure and the risks for international investors are limited.’

The growing number of opportunities in the private power sector is enticing new developers into the market. ‘We see newcomers from Asia – from India, Singapore and Malaysia – some of which have been involved in private power projects at home,’ says Hamza. ‘[Bid] evaluations will show whether these investors will be acceptable for clients and consultants in the region, and whether they bring the guarantees and the right constellations in terms of EPC [engineering, procurement and construction] contractors, suppliers and operators, to complete such projects successfully.’

Not everyone is convinced about the merits of private power. Dubai, which is having to confront an annual increase in power demand of about 15 per cent, remains committed to the conventional EPC approach. Its latest project, for which Fichtner was appointed consultant in late September, is the 2,000-MW combined cycle and 60 million-g/d Jebel Ali M station project. Outside the energy-rich Gulf, Fichtner – through its subsidiary Fichtner Solar – is acting as consultant on integrated solar combined-cycle (ISCC) power schemes in Morocco and Egypt, both of which are supported by the World Bank.

But it is not only generation projects that have been keeping Fichtner busy (see Table). Among the largest projects the company is working on is the integrated infrastructure engineering package for the Flower of the East development on Iran’s Kish island. The estimated $1,700 million project aims at transforming Kish into a major tourist destination for Iranian and regional visitors. Waste management projects are also becoming an increasingly important source of business, as privatisation extends into the sector. In the summer, Fichtner was brought on board as technical adviser to ADMTP for the proposed privatisation of the Abu Dhabi solid waste