Service authority

While Dubai Electricity and Water Authority has announced planned projects worth over $13.6 billion, it stresses the need for conservation. MD and ceo Saeed Mohammad Al Tayer explains to Alison Luke what is expected of the MEP sector.

INTERVIEWS, MEP

It is well recognised that the surge in construction of new developments in the Middle East is putting a huge strain on the resources throughout the region. Whether it is materials, products or labour, all components needed to create the large-scale projects that are under development are being pushed to the limit. And in Dubai, where the growth is greatest, the pressures are being felt even more.

The backbone to these projects is the MEP services; without well designed and executed installations for the supply of services, the buildings cannot be effectively used. And this means that a reliable supply of power and water is needed.

Throughout the region the mains electrical and water grids are undergoing massive changes. As the number of buildings under construction rises, so too does the demand on the mains supplies. Utilities firms and local authorities are implementing strategic plans to keep pace with the change. But how are they doing?

"We are meeting the requirements of projects," assures Saeed Mohammad Al Tayer, md and ceo of the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA). "We plan ahead; the network is available in Dubai, and once a building is complete we are ready to lay the cables and install the transformers. There is good co-ordination between developers and DEWA and we've had discussions about [future] power requirements," he adds.

But with so many buildings due to complete over the next few years, what is the best way to ensure that your project will receive the utilities it needs at the right moment to enable programmes to be met? "[Developers] have to give us a guarantee that they will finish on time," stresses Al Tayer.

"We are always ahead of plan, but sometimes we face contractor delays on projects. We are coping and we have presently around 5,000MW under construction," he adds.

DEWA has recently committed to investing US $13.6 billion (AED50 billion) by 2012 to increase the available services. "Over the next five years our capital expenditure will be more than 50 billion Dirhams," confirms Al Tayer. "This will be mainly for power production, desalination plants and transmission distribution networks for water and electricity." DEWA is expecting an average growth rate of 15% over this period and is planning to increase its power capacity by 11,000MW.

But it's not simply a case of ploughing money into the system and raising the output, DEWA expects its resources to be used wisely and is ready to set guidelines to enforce this.

"[Contractors] have to adapt to the latest technologies; there is a lot of equipment available to conserve water and electricity," states Al Tayer.

A two-stage process is planned to ensure the necessary change to more efficient equipment is made. "Efficiency, for us, is very important. Initially it's by education, but the second stage will be regulation," states Al Tayer. "In the future I think we will have to reinforce use of the most efficient equipment such as pumps, because DEWA will not tolerate [the use of] non-efficient equipment. But before that I think we have to promote and educate the industry," states Al Tayer.

A timescale on the introduction of such legislation is not yet set, nor are the guidelines, but Al Tayer assures that it is coming. "I think the market is [currently] open, but once there are guidelines, regulations and specifications for electro-mechanical equipment, everybody must abide by the rules and regulations. It will be enforced," he stresses.

Al Tayer notes that energy efficient products are being used to some extent, but warns: "There is also inefficient equipment in the market and this has to change." He cites changes in air conditioning units as an example of positive moves to improve the efficiency of products used. "In the past we had in the market any equipment for air conditioning; we changed the specification to say air conditioning units must have an inbuilt capacitor bank in order to improve the power factor, now these are the only type used," states Al Tayer.

Other ways of reducing the demands on mains utilities is by using more efficient methods to supply the buildings. Air conditioning accounts for an estimated 60% of the power use in buildings, so by providing this cooling in more efficient ways, the overall demand can be dramatically reduced. One means of doing this that is proving popular is district cooling - a method that DEWA supports and sees as a long-term solution to the energy problem.

"TECOM is our strategic partner in creating the [district cooling] company called Empower," explains Al Tayer. "[District cooling] will save in power consumption by about 40%. Instead of having a small chiller in each building, we are producing cold water centrally - you have one big chiller, which is more efficient," he adds.

Finding incentives to even the spread of the demand are also possible solutions. This would reduce the maximum peak load, hence the overall power station capacity needed. Some contractors and consultants have suggested a dual tariff electrical system as one immediate way to reduce the peak load demand on the existing power stations. The idea is to charge two prices for electricity, a lower rate at times that traditionally show lower usage, such as during the night; and a higher rate during those times of the day where the highest demand is usually found ie during office hours. This system has been proven to work in Europe.

A second benefit of a dual-tariff system is that it would increase the cost-effectiveness and reduce the payback period of some alternative energy sources. Ice thermal storage systems, for example, can produce daytime cooling from an ice store that is built during the night-time when demands are low. If the tariff at night is reduced, this technology instantly becomes more usable.

"This is a subject under study. We have already advised that a plant should be designed in such a way in order to shift the peak load, such as by using ice storage, and this has already been conveyed to many chilled water companies," reports Al Tayer. "So far I have received two positive responses and they are doing this according to the DEWA guidelines. They will also make savings themselves because there are also operating cost savings...if they change to ice storage, they will definitely benefit. There is a reduction in operator costs when you shift to ice storage," he adds.

DEWA's involvement in the recent Water, Energy Technology and Environment Exhibition (WETEX 2007), reinforced the Authority's commitment to the use of more efficient technologies and the determination to force change. "The objective of WETEX is to introduce modern technology with the highest level of efficiency and reliability...and to import the latest technologies in the fields of energy and the environment," explains Al Tayer. "It's related to enhancing the awareness of society in what's going on in the provision of power and preservation of water resources and the environment."

WETEX is proving that there is a demand for energy efficiency in the region and the technologies to save power and water exist. Over 600 exhibitors took part in 2007, up from 450 in 2006. The aim is to further increase the exhibitors to 1,000 in two years.

And if you are unsure of what steps to take to reduce energy and water consumption in your installations, DEWA offers assistance. "There is a lot of software and hardware available; DEWA will always act like a consultant and advise any customer in order to select the right package for their building - this is very important," Al Tayer concludes.

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