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How can the UAE move towards a more sustainable future?

by CW Guest Columnist on Mar 6, 2018

George Berbari is the CEO of DC Pro Engineering and the author of The Energy Budget.
George Berbari is the CEO of DC Pro Engineering and the author of The Energy Budget.

Sustainability might well be the buzzword of the moment in business and in politics around the world with everybody talking about embarking on the best practices for a sustainable future. In the UAE however, sustainable and responsible practices are already at the core of business and infrastructure development across public and private sectors.

The UAE has already made significant strides towards achieving its goal of becoming the global benchmark for a green economy, according to the State of Green Economy Report 2018 launched by the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy (DSCE) in conjunction with the Union Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Dubai Carbon Centre of Excellence, last month.

The emirates, specifically Dubai, is a pioneer in the region for sustainable development, Green Buildings and environmentally-friendly initiatives. Under the guidance of our visionary leader HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 has already started to show green shoots of success in achieving the goal to put Dubai on track to become a global hub for clean energy and green economy, and to reduce energy and water consumption by 30% by 2030. The goal is a challenging one, but it is achievable.

With the UAE on track to meet its sustainability goals and this month being UAE Innovation Month, let’s honour some of the innovations already in place to keep the UAE on its green course:

The Green Economy multiplier is real and shows optimism for the goal in achieving a 30% reduction in energy consumption. The recent study shows the Green Economy potential has a multiplier of 11 times the investment value. This means, for every dollar spent on renewables, there is potential to grow the economy by $11.

Mohamed Bin Rashid Solar Park is already in operation and is targeting 1,000MW+ by 2020 and 5,000MW by 2030 through solar PV and concentrated solar PV with thermal storage.

Dubai Green Buildings Regulations have been implemented, and challenges the construction industry to build an environment that is resource-efficient in terms of energy, water, and materials whilst reducing building-related impacts on human health and the environment throughout the building’s lifecycle.

Dubai Lamp was an initiative launched by the government last year to mandate that all new buildings across Dubai adopt energy-efficient lighting, while there are concerted efforts across Dubai for high penetration in district cooling. Penetration currently stands at 20% across the emirate with plans to increase that to 40%.

Recently announced plans for a Waste to Energy plant are targeting the generation of more than 185MW of power from all 8,000 tonnes of municipal waste per day in Dubai.

These innovations, along with other measures and increasing awareness and desire of Dubai residents to be mindful of energy consumption are making a difference.

However, as with every target, more can be done. As sustainable advocates at DC Pro Engineering and MEP Consultants we believe adoption of the following techniques and approaches would significantly reduce energy consumption.

All-glass buildings waste 11 times more energy than buildings with insulated walls. Glass facades should be limited to 40% of façade areas for commercial buildings and 20% for residential buildings.

The current electricity slab rate tariff encourages the use of inefficient individual air conditioning systems and penalises all central A/C systems, including district cooling.

In my book ‘The Energy Budget’, I outline a better tariff system that encourages efficiency within buildings and penalises inefficiency. In addition, a self-financing budget can accelerate the retrofit of existing building stock and make them more efficient. The current retrofit programme set by Dubai should be accelerated with a carrot and stick approach to encourage efficiency.

In addition, district cooling plants need to shift from all-electric powered to tri-generation powered by natural gas as well as chilled water thermal storage to be fully implemented. This will allow for better harvesting of the electric solar PV generated energy during the day, storage and efficient discharge at night. Furthermore, the district cooling network needs to be developed and integrated to deploy more than 50% spare and unutilised capacity, which can be used to cool future buildings subject to retrofit.