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Frosty facilities

Jeff Roberts sits down with GeenWave Capital's managing director of sales, Saahil Mehta.

GreenWave Capital LLC, INTERVIEWS, Facilities Management

GreenWave Capital LLC is a worldwide investor in environmentally responsible technology. With more than 5000 worldwide installations, GreenWave is bringing PermaFrost to HVAC units throughout the Middle East. Jeff Roberts sits down with MD Sales Saahil Mehta.

Why PermaFrost? Why the Middle East?

The Middle East has the world's highest average temperatures and because of that, 60-70% of energy consumption goes toward A/C. This market makes the most sense for something like PermaFrost because from its first installation, it reduces A/C costs by 40%.

It's a one-time installation that lasts the life of the system; it's a simple solution. Twelve months to two years is the typical ROI, but it all depends on the type of the system. Systems in the mid-range bracket are looking at savings of 1-2 million kilowatt hours of energy per year.

What energy trends are you seeing in UAE? What trends throughout the region?

If you look at the phenomenal growth that has taken place in this region over the last few years, whether commercial, residential or infrastructure, it is unable to keep up with the influx of people and growth of businesses.

Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman and, to some extent, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are already restricting people's energy consumption because they simply don't have the supply to meet the growing demand of users. Jumeirah Lake Towers, for example, has several buildings running on generators because the infrastructure isn't ready to support these completed buildings.

If we look at it from a very macro level, A/C and lighting are the two biggest draws of electricity within facilities. Just by focusing on these two sectors we can reducing the amount of electricity consumed and we're helping the UAE government meet the demand. If suddenly the electricity consumption of Dubai is reduced by 20%, we're talking a savings of billions of kilowatt hours.

Would you say, then, that Dubai's vision was a bit too ambitious given the lack of infrastructure in place?

I think Dubai's vision was fantastic. In theory, it's a good problem to have; it was too successful. The amount of growth that the city experienced far exceeded the projections of all the analysts. Dubai has responded relatively well. Compared to other countries, just getting approval for a new highway is years in the making, but here, it's an instant decision.

In terms of permafrost Who are you currently working with in the region?

We've signed contracts for major installations with Al Qasbah (Sharjah) and Al Safeer Group (UAE-wide) and we've installed PermaFrost in Dubai's Shangri-La Hotel and Al Salam Centre.

All these years of subsidised electricity in Dubai has caught up to people here. People got used to paying 20 fils per kilowatt hour and if you own a house, the recent increase isn't very much. But if you're a large corporation, a shopping mall or even a large office building, you're immediately in the highest category, which means, you're electricity costs just increased 65%-from 20 fils to 33 fils.

For someone consuming 10 million kilowatt hours per year, which many buildings in Dubai are doing, what used to be AED 2 million has now increased to AED 3.3 million.

Is this a technology that's reserved for massive facilities or single-family homes?

We can put it in single-family villas all the way up to large shopping malls, big factories and hotels.

The technology isn't limited by the size of the installation.

Is GreenWave continuing to look in the building industry for other green technologies?

It makes the best business sense to leverage on the relationships we've made and, ultimately, introduce other solutions to reduce their energy consumption.

But, looking at the bigger picture, we're helping to reduce Dubai's carbon footprint on the world. Not only are we helping the government with the electricity demand, we're helping improve the image of Dubai.

Although Dubai's had several high-profile projects, environmentalists have pointed to the ecological effects of these projects as massive environmental failures.

Are you finding a different mentality toward green technologies in local clients versus Western clients?

By targeting building owners, culture doesn't matter. If they're writing a big check every month and this technology can reduce that by 20%, they're interested. It's not a culture thing, it's an economic thing.

Can PermaFrost help FMs looking for fast solutions to go green?

It helps FMs in a couple of ways: First, they're able to provide an immediate solution to save electricity and reduce DEWA bills. Second, as the FM market is becoming more and more competitive, it gives them a bit of an edge and allows them to hold on to their clients. It also shows that the FM is being innovative with energy solutions.

It can't be that easy...

Without getting too technical, the oil that builds up on the coils of the HVAC unit is like cholesterol in an artery-the more that builds up, the less efficient the pipes are. Basically, like a clogged heart, more energy is required to get the same output. Simply put, PermaFrost removes the oil and puts it back into the system where it belongs.

In a new HVAC system, you'll see less of a benefit simply because it hasn't had the opportunity to lose efficiency. In a new system, you're not going to see the 20-40% gain you would with an older system. Our sweet spot is probably systems that are 3-5 years old.

Can it be used in existing buildings?

It's actually a lot more effective on facilities that are at least two years old. It takes that long for an HVAC system to start losing efficiency. But, yes, it's a retrofit solution....For new buildings, it can be used, but it's mostly a preventative measure.

Realistically, what is the predicted ROI?

Other green technologies including wind, solar, geothermal, etc., usually enjoy an ROI of between 3-7 years. We've done more than 5000 installations worldwide and every one of them has seen an ROI of 12-24 months.

Because a larger portion of electricity bills in the Middle East go to HVAC units and because of the rise in the cost of electricity, we're actually seeing ROIs in Dubai and Sharjah hovering between 9-18 months.

Any last thoughts?

When technologies exist that have such a dramatic effect on energy consumption, it's a tragedy that no direct channels to government authorities exist. It just makes sense with Sheikh Mohammed's decree and the new regulations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

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