Alternative ways

facilities management Middle East asks the industry: What does the future hold for renewable energy in the Middle East?

ANALYSIS, Facilities Management

IEnergy seems to be one of the region's hot topics at the moment and it's not surprising when the Middle East is one of the largest energy consumers in the world.

Sustainable design and energy efficient products and solutions are attracting attention and as demand for electricity and water supply grows, awareness around alternative ways to generate electricity and water is increasing.

The two most obvious alternatives have to be photovoltaic panels (solar power) and wind turbines (wind power).

According to the Middle East Electricity show that took place last month, renewable sources will provide the UAE with nearly 50% of its required energy by 2050, with solar power providing a large percentage.

Solar energy can be used to power many different things. From heating water to solar thermal air conditioning solutions, with the Middle East benefiting from copious amounts of strong sunlight it seems this form of renewable energy could be one the region might heavily rely upon.

An indication of the region's commitment to alternative energy is the recent announcement from the Abu Dhabi government, embarking on its first solar power plant. Operation is due to begin in 2009 and it aims to cut dependence on hydrocarbon power generation and increase natural energy supply.

On the wind power side, Bahrain World Trade Centre Towers are said to be the first of their kind to use wind power and the turbines will generate around 13% of the tower's electricity.

Obviously, in order for wind power to work there has to be significant wind to turn the blades. To forecast whether or not this alternative energy method is viable, weather predictions could help calculate how much energy could be created.

It has been estimated the region will need an additional 100,000 MW of power over the next 10 years to keep up with demand. The current utility network is not capable of meeting these demands so it makes sense for alternative energy methods to be given serious consideration.

What's important to remember is that reducing energy consumption and looking into alternative energy methods is not just about helping the environment.

Companies actively acting on ways to reduce energy can also look to benefit from cost reduction due to producing their own energy. Initial costing can be expensive but return on investment is sure to avail.

In addition, companies can also benefit from being seen to be socially responsible. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) will be looked at in more detail in the April issue of facilities management Middle East.

Name: Waleed Ali Bin Salman

Job title: Director of Electricity in The Federal Electricity And Water Authority UAE and project manager for Emirates National Grid.

Company: Federal Electricity and Water Authority.

Based in: Dubai

Background: Over 10 years experience in project management and engineering.

When we talk about alternative energy resources besides what we use presently (gas and oil), we immediately think of nuclear and renewable energy (solar, wind, hydro and biomass).

Renewable energy is an environmentally friendly natural resource and has been implemented and used in different parts of the world due to its high efficiency and its less harmful effect on the environment.

The economic feasibility of renewable energy applications depends on a combination of site and non-site specific elements such as resource availability, renewable energy system costs, alternative fuel costs, energy pricing policies, and local economic indicators.

The prosepects of renewable energy are the creation of better environmental conditions, but there are problems facing its development.

The high capital cost of renewable energy and the subsidies given for conventional energy creates market distortions for renewable energy options.

Other factors such as the lack of a proper institutional framework coupled with the absence of local manufacturers and awareness regarding the technologies needed make renewable energy development difficult. So what can be done to make sure that renewable energy comes in sooner rather than later?

Firstly there needs to be the transition of a diversified and environmentally sound energy structure by making new and renewable sources of energy available.

The organising of workshops, seminars and exhibitions to facilitate the exchange of experiences in the design, execution and management of projects on renewable energy would also be beneficial.

And lastly, it is important that we identify the barriers to the use of renewable energy technologies in the Middle East and recommend corrective measures and commercialisation packages.

Name: Zeyad Al Majed

Job title: General Manager

Company: International Energy Group

Based in: Dubai

Background: The International Energy Group (IEG) is a strategic international alliance of independent companies committed to accelerate the development and adoption of clean and renewable energy sources to supplement conventional energy sources worldwide.

Embracing and adopting alternative energy sources is the key to achieve sustainable economic progress in the 21st century. Integrating clean and renewable energy into the mainstream energy market for wide-scale consumer use is the way forward to meet the growing demand on energy in a way that improves quality of life today without sacrificing it for future generations. The benefits to the Middle East region are numerous, let alone taking the region much beyond its cliché image of ‘sitting on the majority of the world�s oil reserves and enjoying cheap energy prices�.

I believe that the region holds great potential for clean and renewable energy, due to its unique geo-economics; the UAE stands to lead in this area, by virtue of its open and competitive economy.

The infrastructure and energy challenges the region is facing due to rapid growth, present an opportunity to grow new energy businesses and economic sub-sectors, and to use our stress conditions to drive innovation. For example, the integration of advanced material technologies in the construction industry reduces peak energy demand or even allows a building to become a net exporter of energy to the power grid.

Using compressed natural gas (CNG) as an alternative fuel has great economic and environmental benefits for the region. Compared to traditional fuel it reduces cost by 40% and reduces air pollution dramatically.

Moreover, using CNG alleviates the burden of fuel subsidies on the regional economies.

One of the key benefits that embracing alternative energy sources will bring to the region is the creation of a new industry paradigm that relies heavily on scientific and technological innovation. This will promote world class research and development (R&D) practices and improve on the human capital potential leading to a true knowledge economy.

Name: Rob Dickie

Job title: Associate director

Responsible for: MEP Department

Company: Whitby & Bird

Based in: Dubai

Background: Design of low energy and sustainable building environments.

There are two clear advantages for a switch to cleaner alternative energy sources: A contribution to a global sustainability agenda and a reduction in demand on an already over stretched utility network.

It is only in the last 10 years that it has been commonly recognised that burning fossil fuels in the quantities we are, is changing our climate and only very recently have politicians felt the pinch of climate change on their doorstep and outwardly begun to admit the socio-economic effects of burning such quantities of oil and coil.

Under current trends, by 2050 there will half of the sea ice there was 100 years previously. This equates roughly to a rise in sea level of six meters 'Dubai would be two meters underwater. This seems reason enough to bring global sustainability to the fore of any agenda.

Surely the debate is not about how much energy you can generate from an alternative source but more about how much energy can you conserve? A contribution to a green agenda has to start with minimising the energy consumption by using passive design techniques or lean engineering. This is where the client sees the immediate capital cost benefit and the likelihood of implementation is considerably higher.

An alternative energy source such as a wind turbine or an array of photovoltaic panels may serve as 'building jewelry' for a client who is aiming to make an eco-friendly statement, but in terms of performance you can't beat a self shading structure, an improved u-value or a well sealed building.

There is no denying energy reduction as well as the use of Renewable Energy Systems (RES’s) are essential in a long term sustainability agenda.Designers are pushing clients to consider building integrated RES’s as this stimulates markets, increases production and decreases capital cost, bringing down long payback periods.

IIn addition and probably more importantly for Dubai and other Middle Eastern cities following the a rapid expansion plan, using passive design techniques and local RES’s reduces a building’s demand on already overstretched utility networks.

Name: Orlaith Durcan

Job title: Senior mechanical engineer

Responsible for: Mechanical Services Design

Company: Waterman Emirates

Based in:
Dubai

Background: Over 15 years experience working in consulting engineering firms in the field of energy efficient and sustainable design of mechanical services.

The harsh environment in the Middle East means energy usage is high due to two facts: the universal use of air conditioning and energy guzzling desalination plants that cope with the shortage of natural water supplies.

However, the region does have sustainable energy sources - there is an abundance of solar, wind and wave power in the region,

The amount of new builds in the region means there is scope for integration of alternative energy sources.

The challenge is for designers to convince developers of the advantages of such systems.

Solar technology advancements have led to commercial production of higher efficiency photovoltaic (PV) cell materials, which can be integrated into building facade materials. Wind turbines are also commercially available for integration onto building facades and roofs.

Both these innovations when incorporated into buildings have been proven to meet most or all landlord energy needs. Increased use and demand for these materials means costs have fallen and availability has increased.

Larger scale solar power generation systems could easily be installed in desert regions. These systems comprise multiple solar PV cells in an adjustable dish formation to concentrate the sunlight and generate power at efficiencies three times that of conventional PV installations.

Reducing energy usage is the ultimate key to reducing CO2 emissions regardless of whether the energy source is finite or renewable. There is little that FMs can do existing buildings, however, a building's ecological footprint can be significantly reduced by relatively simple utility conservation techniques.

The challenge for FMs in the region is to effect the following change in mentality - that reduction in energy usage is not only a bottom line financial consideration, but also a worthy and necessary cause within itself for reasons of planet sustainability.

Solar power

Pros

  •  Renewable resource.
  •  Releases no pollution.
  •  Can be used in remote locations.
  •  Photovoltaic (PV) plates can be positioned anywhere, from electric parking metres to water heating to lighting.
  •  PV plates require little maintenance and have a long life-cycle.
  • Little expense once installed.
  •   More plates can be added easily.

Cons

  •  They have to be clean and dust free to work.
  •  Sun light is limited and during the winter months, there's a chance the sun won't power through the clouds.
  •  A full photovoltaic power station can be costly but the cost is only in the initial set up.

Wind power

Pros

  •  Release no pollution.
  • Renewable resource.
  •  Can be used in remote locations.
  •  Farming can still take place on land.

Cons

  •  If there's no wind, there's no power.
  •  If used for commercial reasons, a wind farm will need to be formed and therefore impacting on scenery.
  •  The blades should be taken into consideration as can be harmful or even fatal to passing wildlife.

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