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Landing it on the green: Energy management in MENA

Diving deeper into the intricacies of energy management, fmME discovers why the discipline will be instrumental in 2016

Curbing energy consumption is a top priority for property owners.
Curbing energy consumption is a top priority for property owners.

Energy is expensive. That is the universal viewpoint shared by all property owners, who know that over the long-term, utilities make up the highest cost in terms of maintaining an asset. Curbing energy consumption thus becomes a top priority, and typically involves implementing better practices for handling power, as well as energy efficient technologies. Understanding which measures and product designs to introduce into one’s ecosystem however, is a job for an energy management firm.

One such entity is EEG, a Lebanon-based energy services company (ESCO), which undertakes projects ranging from energy auditing, to the implementation of energy efficiency practices, as part of guaranteed savings contracts or energy performance contracting (EPC). Since its inception in 1999, the company has undertaken more than 600 energy audits across 21 countries, and has implemented in excess of 200 energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

“Our clients are not just part of a general auditing or energy efficiency process, but are partners in an ongoing dynamic energy management programme,” explains Ronald Diab, managing director at EEG.

According to the industry veteran, who holds nearly 20 years of experience within the energy services arena, one of the main challenges currently being discussed within the field, lies with regulation.

A key factor for the success of EPCs for example is electricity tariffs, which act as the primary drivers on return on investments. While the financing model has enjoyed some success within the GCC, widespread adoption of EPCs won’t be possible without the right regulations, as well as the removal of what Diab calls, “specially subsidised electricity prices”.

To date, the only truly successful market for energy performance contracts is that of Dubai in the UAE. Driven by numerous projects geared towards the optimisation of publicly-owned facilities, EPCs have seen increased use within the emirate due a variety of factors. These include the gradual increase of electricity tariffs over the last decade, the simultaneous removal of subsidies and creation of regulatory frameworks, as well as the ongoing efforts of Etihad ESCO.

The development of frameworks for project financing is another avenue that could potentially act as an enabler for the energy and renewable energy markets.

“It is clear that when governments invest in these markets, there are no problems; however, if you want to go beyond governmental projects and develop the energy management markets in the private sector, then financing is a central tool for growth and adoption,” explains Diab.

Savings

In terms of the types of practices that are being employed by fellow ESCOs in the region, Diab shares that significant savings can be generated by “optimising current practices or behavioural awareness”.

On one hand, this could imply measures such as fine tuning a structure’s building management system (BMS), which has traditionally been seen as a simple monitoring platform, rather than a potential energy management tool. Alternatively, other measures could comprise the deployment of variable frequency drives (VFDs) on pumps and fans, the retrofitting of larger equipment, and heat recovery technologies.

While such practices could greatly benefit firms in curbing their consumption, currently the most popular measure being adopted across the region in general is LED lighting retrofits.

It is a viewpoint shared by Al Yousuf GreenTech (AGT), a supplier of energy saving technologies. Part of the UAE-based Al Youssuf Group that was founded in 1953, AGT’s range of offerings include a variety of climate control systems, as well as solar power platforms. Its speciality, however, lies with LED lighting and smart technologies.

“We offer our clients energy saving solutions through replacement of old lights to LED lights, which can save between 60% and 80% depending on the type of lights,” comments Mohamed Al Rashed, general manager, Al Yousuf GreenTech.

“Smart solutions, such as sensors for lighting and climate control, reduce wasted energy, as do a variety of solar solutions, such as lighting, energy, irrigation and general purpose power.”

Starting right from the design concept, all the way through to installation, AGT has been involved in numerous projects, which include government departments, private businesses, residential, hospitals, hotels and industrial facilities.

Commenting on the latest market developments and trends, Rashed sees demand in energy efficiency focused primarily on LED lighting platforms, which he views as being the, “quickest and economical approach to start saving energy for indoor”.

He points out that for outdoor areas however, solar lighting is leading demand. This is particularly the case for upcoming developments, as it saves on the initial investments for electrical infrastructure. Coupled with a lengthier life expectancy, solar lighting typically ends up being a cheaper choice in the long-run.

“In addition, the government through the Emirates Standardization and Metrology Authority (ESMA), has started placing standards and regulations for everything. Air conditioners, for example, are now rated on a five-star system depending on how efficient they are, and the same applies for lighting from July with a switch towards LED lighting and energy saving lamps,” explains Rashed.

“With numerous regulations already in place or on the horizon by the UAE government, we will see more demand for energy management solutions, but also the need for smart technologies, in addition to the standard solutions,” he concludes.

Technology and its relevant impact on energy management has long been a focal point for integrated facilities management provider Farnek. Active in the UAE for the last 35 years, the company formed its own sustainability division, one of its cornerstones focused on energy efficiency.

“Technology is playing an increasingly important role and is at the forefront of all new product design. You only have to look at the way technology is revolutionising hotel rooms, or the way smart phones are now remotely controlling lights, A/C and kitchen appliances in homes,” comments Sandrine Le Biavant, director consultancy, Farnek.

“Now imagine that in a commercial context added to the complexities of a modern office tower. Understanding and keeping abreast of the latest solutions available is an absolute must today, to stay ahead of market.”

The IFM provider is the developer of the internet-based Hotel Optimizer, which provides monitoring and benchmarking tools for property owners to measure and compare energy costs with comparable structures. Launched almost a decade ago, the platform has since been adopted across 100 properties in the region, which include hotels, commercial and residential buildings.

Audits

“Energy audits, which should always be carried by CEM/CMVP qualified technicians, are essential to providing relevant data specific to the condition of that particular property, compared with similar buildings, so owners can confidently calculate ROI,” explains Le Biavant.

Already ISO 50001 Lead Auditor certified, as well boasting LEED AP expertise, Farnek recently received a three-year accreditation as an approved energy auditor by Dubai’s Regulatory Supervisory Bureau (RSB).

Part of the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy, which aims to improve energy efficiency by 30% for 30,000 buildings in Dubai, the RSB accreditation scheme was designed to be the foundation of a regulatory framework encouraging the adoption of energy efficient practices. It sets the standard to which energy auditors can match building energy performance and history.

“One of the initial qualification steps was to deliver qualitative energy audits with auditors qualified in the methodology of energy audits as well as measurement and verification with the necessary equipment,” shares Le Biavant.

“Our auditing and operational energy management experience added to a range of commercial recommendations was also key to our successful accreditation.”

Farnek is a close partner with Green Globe, a global certification that assesses the sustainability performance of travel and tourism enterprises. The IFM provider is also closely associated with myclimate, an international carbon management programme.

Le Biavant goes on to explain that carbon management programmes could greatly benefit organisations, by offering a means to offset their negative impact on the environment. This is done through the support of projects utilising renewable energy and deploying energy efficiency measures, such as reducing methane emissions and investing in new forest initiatives.

Farnek also encourages both building owners and managers to implement Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM), as a core part of its energy management plan. The RCM process provides a structured framework to analyse the functions and potential failures of a physical asset. It focuses on more ‘sensitive’ equipment, whose breakdown would lead to major energy loss issues.

Data

Yet while the development and implementation of energy efficient technologies continues to be explored, a critical aspect of the process that is often overlooked is that of data. To form an effective energy management strategy, detailed information on the internal operations of a building, the energy consumption of associated processes, as well as historical data, are essential but often lacking within the GCC market.

The absence of such data is a constant obstacle for many industry specialists including professional services consulting firm WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff.

“The major issue is that the data is not available or not detailed enough in some cases,” shares Malek AbuAlhaj, senior consultant of sustainability & energy, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff.

“This provides limitation on assessing energy consumption. In addition, there are no market-level studies on types of buildings and average energy consumption. Such studies would be essential to understand the current benchmark in UAE.”

To tackle this issue, the firm collates as much technical data as it can, in order to gain an estimation of the project’s current energy consumption and potential savings areas. Factors such as the number of fittings in a building and consumption rating, help to formulate the lighting load. The utilisation of energy simulations also provides a clearer understanding of overall energy consumption.

“For benchmarks, available studies from other markets, which we have internally from our global recourses and regions, can give an understanding of differences in climate and usage patterns,” adds AbuAlhaj.

As one of the world’s largest consulting firms with a global workforce of 34,000 staff across 39 countries, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff has worked on numerous and complex projects across the globe. Here in the Middle East, the firm has been active in assisting Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects (DAEP) in developing an energy management system aligned to the ISO 50001 standard. WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff has also worked closely with Dubai Municipality to develop Dubai Green Codes, a set of standards governing the construction of buildings in the UAE.

Pressed on what he believes to be the key trends in the field, AbuAlhaj highlights cost as being “a driving variable as energy savings are translated into financial benefits and operational cost reduction”. Government initiatives, such as the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030 and UAE Vision 2021, will continue to play a key role in driving both public and private entities towards energy efficiency. The discipline as a whole will certainly be highly prized in 2016 and beyond.

“Energy management will become an essential part of operations for any organisation in the UAE. Instead of viewing it as added value, it will become necessary for quality improvement, cost reduction, and regulations compliance. Therefore, it will be implemented internally similar to quality control,” concludes AbuAlhaj.

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