Skip Navigation Links5--Interview-with-Saif-Nasser-Harhara Interview


​​​​​​ Harhara; Abu Dhabi was destined to be my living place and my identity for the rest of my life

The lifetime story of love between Saif Nasser Harhara and electricity industry in Abu Dhabi started since he joined State Electricity Department Abu Dhabi (SED) as a young engineer in 1967 until his retirement in the mature age of 60 as division manager of power network division at Abu Dhabi Distribution Company (ADDC) in 2006. "I have seen history in making, transformation of Abu Dhabi from its primitive state into the modern city it is today. I am privileged to have served Abu Dhabi in the field of power distribution for 38 years and here is a glimpse of my long pleasant journey", Harhara said.

Arrival in Abu Dhabi

6 June 1967 is a memorable day in my life, when I arrived at Abu Dhabi Airport, taking Gulf aviation, now Gulf Air, flight from Bahrain to join SED, he added. "I had applied for a job and the response was positive. I was offered a job with good salary for those days with all facilities and allowances. My travelling arrangements were made by SED. Here I was. Abu Dhabi was destined to be my living place and my identity for the rest of my life. I thank my God"

Since late H.H. Sheikh Zayed's accession as Ruler in August 1966, Abu Dhabi was a booming place, work had already commenced on a number of housing and infrastructure projects. However, their completion was not due for some time. Abu Dhabi-Al Ain high way was in initial stage. Maqta'a Bridge did not exist. Vehicles entering in or going out of island had to pass through police check and cross only at time of low tides. The airport was just an open field, with few rooms. (Situated where the present Abu Dhabi radio station is) It was an isolated place. Power supply was from a small generator operated by SED only on flight days. There was acute shortage of housing. The only hotel was Beach hotel (existed at the location of Corniche hospital) was the only hotel and required booking months in advance. I was accommodated in a government guest house, which was home for many new employees. I had to live there for several months, till the housing situation improved, after completion of new housing projects.

Abu Dhabi Distribution Network in 1967-68


In 1967, the diesel power station (in sector E18 at the location of present ADWEA office) comprised of 3 x 1100 KW Generators, a capacity that would hardly suffice to meet the power demand of three or four medium sized 18 floor buildings today. Work was in progress to commission 2 x 2000 KW units and expand the distribution network for this additional capacity.

Hawker-Siddley UK were the contractor to install, commission, operate and maintain the power station as well as the associated distribution network which was very simple. There were only five 11 KV feeders, all of them radial. Only one feeder (underground cable size 95 sqmm) carried almost the entire system load. It stretched up to ADCO (formerly ADPC) offices in Khaledeya and further.

A fault in its first section in September 1967 left the whole city without power for two days. There were no equipment to locate the fault, and no jointer to repair the cable. It might sound very strange, but it’s a fact that in 1967 there was only one British jointer with BICC company (a UK based company specialized for cable work) for 11 KV jointing works, shuttling between Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Ultimately this work had to be done by a local SED jointer.

By mid 1968, Hawker-dley had commissioned the two additional units, increasing the total installed capacity to 7.5 megawatt. More distribution substations were added, mainly to feed the buildings on sea front in sectors E7, E5 and E2. This was the most prominent part of the city. All the banks, custom department, shipping companies, electricity department, department of development and public works, ADMA Oil Company and old souk were all located here. There was no road; a sabkha track separated the buildings from the beach.

The power station capacity was no match to the demand. There were restrictions on new connections. All big companies, contractors and important customers had their own generators taking power from SED only for a short period during planned shut down of their plant. Some individuals used to generate and sell electricity illegally.

Development of Power distribution:


In 1968, DDPW appointed Ewbank & partners, a UK based consultants, now Mott McDonald, to develop water and electricity sector (generation, transmission and distribution) to meet the growing demand. Many fast track contracts were awarded. Work commenced immediately to establish a modern gas turbine power station (GTPS) at Mina road. While work was in progress, a new diesel power station called diesel B with installed capacity of 6 megawatt was added next to the existing power station to meet the interim load demand. DDPW also appointed BICC (a UK based company now BK gulf) to execute all distribution works on turn-key basis.

Commissioning of GTPS with associated 33 KV primary distributions and 11 KV distributions improved the power situation considerably. However, occasional power cuts due to generation shortage and system limitation especially in summer remained till mid seventies. Initially, four 33/11 KV substations (at port, E9, Khaledya and E18) each with 2 x 15 MVA transformers were commissioned, all radially controlled from GTPS. Later, one transformer each at E9 and Khaledeya, and two transformers at E18 were added.

Further expansion of 33 KV system was stopped, introducing 132/11 KV primary substations. Change of primary distribution voltage in early stage of development was a wise decision and first in the region. It greatly helped in meeting the high load density of Abu Dhabi city in the years to come. Market (W2) was the first 132/11 KV primary to go in the system followed by W24 (immigration), W13 (Hospital), W16 (en) and E15 (tourist club area) and many more. What followed thereafter is a history of success. At the time of my retirement, there were 18 primary substations in Abu Dhabi city with total installed capacity of 2940 MVA. The power demand had crossed 1500 mw. Abu Dhabi power station ,after numerous expansions and being in active service for more than 30 years was about to be retired. Abu Dhabi was connected to TRANSCO grid by 400 & 220Kv lines, circumventing possibility of total outage at any time. Work was in advance stage to replace the 220Kv line with 400Kv.

History of the Management

At the time of my joining SED, Sheikh Khalifa bin Mohammed Al Nahyan was the chairman and Mr. Shabeeb Ahmed Al Dhaheri was the vice chairman. Electricity department was a separate entity from Water Department. The responsibilities were limited, mainly billing and rendering customer services. Department of development and public works (DDPW) under the chairmanship of Late Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Nahyan was responsible for all development works, including power.

Following restructuring of government departments in 1970, water and electricity departments merged together as WED, with full authority to implement all its projects (generation, transmission and distribution). In 1973, Sheikh Suroor bin Mohammed Al Nahyan became the Chairman. This was a period of fast development. The demand growth was very high. The system had to be expanded fast to meet the growing demand. It was a race against time; the staff had to work over time most of the time and be ON CALL. And that is when; WED undertook mass recruitment from outside the UAE for power distribution. A team of experts from CEGB (Central Electricity Generating Board UK) was hired for a short period as Management Advisor. (Mr. Derrick William, who was one of the members, joined ADWEA as the first Managing Director of TRANSCO decades later)

Sheikh Suroor remained in this position till formation of Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority (ADWEA) in 1998, under the chairmanship of His Highness Sheikh Diab bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Following unbundling Abu Dhabi distribution company ADDC and Al Ain distribution company AADC were formed as fully owned companies of ADWEA to distribute water and electricity in their respective boundaries. This was a big leap forward towards modernization of distribution system.

It is worth mentioning that in pre ADWEA period WED was successful in maintaining reasonable good power system and achieved satisfactory performance results. However, it lacked modern management tools essential to effectively manage a high load density network like that of Abu Dhabi. Formation of ADWEA and subsequent creation of ADDC completely changed this situation. From its inception ADWEA embarked on a massive program to modernize distribution network and its management system, targeting first the IT system which was non-existent. Till the time of my retirement in 2006, ADWEA had already implemented MAXIMO (for cost control, maintenance and material management), CC&B (customer care and billing system), HRMS (human resources management) and GIS (geographical information system) in all its companies. Exhaustive training was provided to staff, most of whom were not computer literate to use these systems effectively in day to day application. Distribution management system (DMS) was in final stage of commissioning. Systems were in place to monitor and record KPI (key performance indicators). In addition, many schemes were in progress all aimed at providing best quality service to its customers. ADWEA chairman His Highness Sheikh Diab bin Zayed Al Nahyan and its senior management team deserve full praise for this achievement.

I always get asked why I remained at one organization for such a long period. Was it because of the salary or the position? No, not really.

In 1978, I was about to join ADMA/APCO in their main office in Abu Dhabi, for a better salary and position than what I was getting in WED in those days and I had even signed a contract. However, late Mr. Sheiba Khamees AlShiryani, who was then undersecretary of WED, did not accept my resignation: "You will miss the love and respect you enjoy from your colleagues, subordinates and superiors." He said. And he was true.

Harhara concluded proudly: "My service in WED/ADDC is my unforgettable past. I enjoyed every bit of it".


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