Abu Dhabi has gained a reputation for efficient planning and construction in its utilities sector over the years. It places high value on accurate demand forecasting and has pioneered innovative project structures to meet its needs, which have become the model for the rest of the region to follow.

The emirate has not only kept pace with the rising consumption of its people, businesses and industries, but it also exports increasing amounts of power and water to the other UAE emirates.

Electricity demand growth in Abu Dhabi averaged 9.1 per cent a year between 2005 and 2010 and at the same time its exports also climbed. In 2008, up to 854MW of power was exported at peak times, while in 2010 the figure stood at 1,737MW.

Abu Dhabi Power and Water Demand Forecast 
Year Power (MW) Water (million gallons a day)
2010 8,563 678
2011e 10,235 767
2012f 11,246 827
2013f 14,758 894
2014f 16,420 977
2015f 18,532 1,007
2016f 20,094 1,036
2017f 22,528 1,058
2018f 24,161 1,083
2019f 26,081 1,102
2020f 28,188 1,125
* Power demand figures do not include Emal phase 2 power demand and associated industry. ** Water demand figures include exports. e=Estimate; f=Forecast. Source: Adwec

A similar development has been seen in Abu Dhabi’s water industry. Demand grew at an average of 4.3 per cent a year between  2005 and 2010. The amount of water produced by Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority (Adwea) and used outside the emirate increased by 5 per cent over the same five-year period.

Private participation

To meet the rapid growth in utilities demand, Abu Dhabi committed to using private developers to build new capacity in 1999. Since then, it has successfully procured more than 10,000MW of power using the independent water and power project model.

The trend is set to continue. Along with exports, demand for utilities in Abu Dhabi is forecast to rise sharply over the next decade due to major growth in the industrial sector, particularly because of the expansion of the Emirates Aluminium (Emal) smelter.

Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Company (Adwec) estimates that demand for power in the emirate (including exports) will rise to 18,532MW by 2015, from 10,235MW in 2011. By 2020, this figure is expected to stand at 28,188MW.

If the Emal expansion project is completed according to schedule, power demand in 2020 will reach 29,288MW. If associated industries are established around the plant, consumption could reach 30,530MW.

Abu Dhabi’s water demand currently stands at 725 million gallons a day (g/d ) or 767 million g/d including exports. Adwec expects this figure to rise to about 1 million g/d by 2015.

To meet the rising demand for utilities, Abu Dhabi is continuing to invest in new capacity. Financing for its first power-only independent project closed in May.

The Shuweihat S3 facility is being constructed by a Japanese/South Korean consortium of Sumitomo and Korea Electric Power Company (Kepco). When complete in 2013, the power project will have a capacity of 1,600MW.

Details of the next gas-fired facility have yet to be confirmed. Early plans indicated that it would be located at Taweelah, but sources close to the authority have indicated that the facility is more likely to be built at Mirfa instead, due to gas supply issues.

Gas constraints have forced Abu Dhabi to consider alternative energy resources, which include solar, wind, biomass and geothermal projects. The most significant alternative power project planned for the UAE’s capital is the $20bn nuclear facility. This is scheduled to be built at Baraka in the emirate’s western region.

A South Korean consortium of Kepco, Samsung, Hyundai and Doosan Heavy Industries along with Japan’s Toshiba and the US’ Westinghouse are developing the project, which is the first nuclear scheme in the GCC. Financing for the nuclear project is currently under negotiation and the construction license application is under review.

Once completed in 2020, the 5,600MW power plant will provide a large part of the emirate’s base-load electricity capacity. Gas-fired power stations will be used to meet peak demand as they can be turned on and off in line with changing requirements.

According to some industry sources, the nuclear power project may be joined by a desalination facility on site. The first of the four reactors is due to start up in 2017

Sewerage expansions for Abu Dhabi

Population growth has also meant that Abu Dhabi has had to expand its sewer network. Under the Strategic Tunnel Enhancement Programme (Step) programme, 41 kilometres of tunnels are being constructed from Abu Dhabi Island to Al-Wathba.

Abu Dhabi Sewerage Services Company awarded contracts for the tunnels in three packages. Italy’s Impregilo won two of the contracts, while the third has been awarded to South Korea’s Samsung C&T. The pumping station has still not been awarded.

With the various schemes under way, Abu Dhabi hopes to ensure that its residents will have access to modern and efficient public services for years to come.

As the richest emirate in the UAE, it will also be able to support its neighbours with increasing exports of power and water.