How innovations in the region’s cabling sector are supporting a more resilient, safer society
Electricity is something that most of us are fortunate enough to have access to in the developed world, and often at times is taken for granted. Nonetheless, since last year the distribution of electric power to different grids and at different peak times has changed dramatically, in no small part because of COVID-19. The rise in home-office setups and distance learning has drawn significantly more energy resources to the home during the day, as just one example. New power sources coming online in the region—such as the Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park and Barakah nuclear power plant in the UAE—have also influenced the transmission and distribution of electricity across local grids.
Working in the background, power cabling is something that the majority of businesses and consumers rarely think about. Yet, it is a critical component of our city infrastructure. On an economic front, the impact of businesses going offline even for a few minutes, or having a power shortage in a factory, can be incredibly damaging. The use of faulty and illegitimate cabling in an industrial environment is particularly detrimental as it can lead to fires and further loss of property or even life. Unfortunately, the same has been seen on a community level. Many of us have read the tragic stories of residential building fires from around the world due to faulty cabling or an overload on an electrical outlet.
The development and innovation that goes into power cabling thus plays an important role in both business continuity and protecting local communities. From the smallest cables for use in household consumer appliances through to ultra-high voltage cables used in the power plants, cables are increasingly manufactured-on-demand for very specific end-use applications. As an individual or a business, you often have some degree of choice in selecting products specific to your needs, even if you didn’t realise it before.
Take the example of a residential building fire. Often when this happens, insulation materials within a building’s cables burn and release toxic smoke, which also impacts air quality and visibility, impeding evacuation. A lot of investment has thus gone into the development and testing of fire performance cables that are designed to withstand exposure to fire for the longest possible time to facilitate evacuations. Gulf developers can now explore such options—and get them sourced locally—when designing high-rise apartments or commercial towers in dense urban environments. Consulting engineers and regulatory authorities the world over are busy raising awareness against the use of spurious and counterfeit cables that wrongly claim to be produced and tested as per international standards, thus working with the industry in keeping our environments safe.
Another clear example is in the energy sector. Cabling powers heavy industrial equipment, and this electricity often needs to be run underground in trenches, in buildings, under the sea, or even submerged into potentially hazardous substances (as in the oil and gas industry), demanding cables that are uniquely shielded from these harsh environments and hydrocarbon contaminations. A similar case is seen in the nuclear industry. Because of the complexities and cost of replacing cables in nuclear sites, an entirely new cable type has been deployed in projects like the Barakah nuclear energy plant, which can hold megavoltage but are also qualified for 60+ years of continuous operations.
The reality is that cable manufacturing is a dynamic sector, with R&D being put behind new applications and safer products all the time. As more of us continue to live in urbanised environments and have our lives connected 24/7 through a plethora of always-on devices, our purchasing decisions for power cables—both as businesses and individuals—will influence the design and safety of our society as a whole.
By Ashish Chaturvedy, Head of Marketing at Ducab