Dubai commits to sustainability

10 September 2014

As one of the only renewable energy programmes to have made any real progress in the Middle East, Dubai is taking great strides with its integrated strategy

While many governments in the Middle East are only now beginning to look at implementing renewable energy programmes, Dubai has already developed an integrated energy strategy. The main aims of the emirate’s plans are to improve the efficiency of power generation and transmission infrastructure, while reducing the stresses on its economy and the environment.

Dubai is encouraging sustainable and efficient practices at all stages of the energy cycle through two main methods. The first is by implementing renewable energy projects, the largest being the Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum Solar Park, while the second is through reducing commercial and residential electricity wastage.

The latter element is being carried out through initiatives to improve the efficiency of new and existing buildings, in addition to raising awareness among residents and commercial entities of their responsibilities to reducing power consumption.

Energy mix

A key priority for utility provider Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (Dewa) and the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy is to diversify the emirate’s energy mix and reduce its reliance on gas for power generation, which is in tight supply.

At present, more than 90 per cent of Dubai’s electricity is currently produced using gas, and the plan is to reduce this figure to 71 per cent by 2030. By that date, it is hoped 5 per cent of electricity will be generated from solar power.

Dewa commissioned the first phase of its Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum Solar Park in October 2013. The 13MW first phase, which uses photovoltaic technology, was procured and built in 12 months.

While small in comparison to conventional gas-fired power plants, its successful execution demonstrates Dubai’s commitment to meeting its 2030 renewable energy targets. This has since been followed by the launch of the tender for the much larger 100MW second phase.

Solar interest

Dubai has not struggled to attract interest in its solar energy programme, as it is the first to make real progress in the GCC. Of the 49 companies that submitted prequalification entries for the second phase of the scheme, Dewa prequalified 24.

“Dubai’s solar programme is attractive,” says a project finance lawyer interested in the project. “While it is relatively small compared with Saudi Arabia, at least it is getting things done.”

With the total capacity of the solar programme planned to reach 1,000MW, the emirate is set to remain a focal point for renewable energy companies, while other markets in the region are struggling to live up to the promise.

Domestic projects

Although the solar park remains the immediate priority, Dewa is also hoping to encourage small-scale domestic projects such as those developed in Germany, where homeowners produce their own electricity from solar panels then sell surplus power back to the national grid.

While implementing consumer grid-connected schemes represents a challenge due to the infrastructure requirements and tariff structures required, Dewa believes it is capable of achieving this.

 “We are [working on a] law to encourage the use of solar in houses, and the regulations to connect them to the grid,” said Saeed Mohammed al-Tayer, managing director and CEO of Dewa and vice-chairman of the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, speaking at the launch of the Emirates Energy Award on 7 September.

“The connection of solar and the consumer has a lot of technical issues, but we have specifications and designs, steps and procedures that we will need to follow in the next few months,” he added.

Efficiency drive

While generating power from renewable sources is essential to improve sustainability and reduce carbon emissions in the energy sector, Dubai is aware that the benefits are reduced if the power is wasted.

As a result, the emirate is pushing ahead with a number of initiatives to improve the efficiency of new and existing buildings to reduce the high per-capita power consumption, and is aiming to cut energy consumption by 30 per cent by 2030.

In 2014, further progress has been made with the implementation of the Dubai Green Buildings Regulations and Specifications.

Efforts have also been made to increase the role and activities of the Regulatory & Supervisory Bureau (RSB), the federal body created to regulate and pressure the country’s energy services companies and utility providers to adhere to sustainable standards and practices.

Integral to Dewa’s plans to reduce the emirate’s energy consumption is the retrofitting of up to 30,000 existing buildings by 2030. The recently established Etihad Energy Services Company) will spearhead efforts to boost the efficiency of the buildings, and it is hoped the initiative will be rolled out to 100,000 buildings in the first phase.

Raising awareness

There is also a move to change people’s attitudes towards electricity consumption and raise awareness of the importance of energy conservation.

“We are training at 200 schools, raising awareness of sustainable energy,” said Al-Tayer.

While other countries in the Middle East are slowly beginning to wake up to the potential benefits of sustainable energy, Dubai is forging ahead with a multipronged strategy. If it is able to convert its plans and ideas into results, then the emirate will be able to set the blueprint for the rest of the region to follow.

Dubai Clean Energy Forum

Examining the opportunities in Dubai’s solar and sustainable energy market before, during and after the World Expo in 2020

22-24 September The Address Hotel Dubai Mall, Dubai, UAE

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