Growing Awareness of Sustainability in the UAE
Home to some of the world’s highest per capita carbon emitters (we’re looking at you, Kuwait and Qatar) and per capita energy consumers, our hydrocarbon-rich friends of the GCC have seldom been seen as the beacon of sustainable living. 61% of energy produced in the region is consumed by the residential sector, and electricity demand has been increasing at an average of 3.14% annually — although to be fair, oppressive heat of up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months might compel even the greenest of countries to crank up the ACs.
Despite the energy-intensive way of life in the Gulf, efforts are being made to go green. Renewable energy targets are being set across the region for 2020 and 2030, and “sustainability” is the hottest buzzword when discussing future development in the region. The UAE has been particularly active on this front. The Emirates have undoubtedly propelled itself to the fore of the Green Revolution. Though their energy targets are still set quite low, at 7% by 2020 in Abu Dhabi and 5% by 2030 in Dubai, the leaderships of Dubai and Abu Dhabi are broadening their scope for greening the nation, and looking at ways to engage consumers through awareness campaigns and demand side management (DSM) programs.
Consumer Engagement - Smart Grid and DSM
Between high temperatures and low electricity prices, conservation has never been a priority in the UAE. In an effort to combat this energy and environmental aloofness, the Dubai Water and Electricity Authority (DEWA), the government entity responsible for management of power and water in the emirate of Dubai is laying our strategies to educate consumers on conservationism. In support of Earth Hour, one of the largest environmental-awareness movements, DEWA planned multiple activities to encourage residents to participate in the March 29th event.
And what better way to show commitment to conservations than by switching off power to the world’s tallest building? The Burj Khalifa and the Grand Mosque were both powered down in an effort to show the UAE’s commitment to sustainable living. The Emirates Wildlife Society-World Wide Fund for Nature, the organization that brought the event to the UAE, marketed the Earth to millions of residents to promote efficient light usage. Hotels across the city hosted out-door yoga sessions and music performances to further engage residents and raise awareness.
In addition to direct mass marketing schemes, and further in line with the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030, which aims to reduce energy demand by 30% in 2030 and promote renewable energy, technical approaches to efficient energy consumption are also being explored.
Under the directive of the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, HH Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum has outlined various plans to develop Dubai into “the smartest city in the world.” Through a three-step initiative, DEWA has created a plan to integrate “smart” applications into the emirate.
The initiatives, which include solar grid integration, smart meters, and electric vehicle charging stations, all work towards large-scale application of smart power technologies. Having the ability to gather information on customer consumption patterns, these advanced technologies and infrastructure developments, will allow the Emirate governments to manage demand and implement power generation from renewables. DEWA recently finished the first 13MW phase of the Sheik al Makhtom Solar Park, which was connected to the grid and currently operating at full capacity.
In the capital of Abu Dhabi, the Supervision and Regulation Bureau, an independent body that regulates the water, wastewater and power in the emirate, launched an initiative in 2013 called Powerwise. The idea was to promote the “wise use of power” as a tangible effort to tackle the challenge of double-digit annual growth during peak demand in Abu Dhabi. The two mandates of Powerwise include pilot projects and consumer education.
The most recent demand-side-management pilot, the Powerwise Smart Metering Trial, aimed to demonstrate just how effective smart metering can be in the UAE. The goal was to observe the potential for energy savings potential in order to understand whether or not there is a business case to scale DSM programs in the UAE.
The trial involved 600 customers, 400 in the test group and 200 in the control, consisting of a representative cross section of multiple nationalities. The trial introduced a price signal through an incentive to motivate customers to move load from peak to off peak. The two-rate scheme priced off-peak rates at 40% cheaper than standards rates, and peak rates at double the standard rates. For nationals, pricing ranged from 3 fils/kWh during the off-peak period, and up to 10 fils/kWh for peak period. Pricing for expatriates ranged from 9 fils/kWh to 30 fils/kWh during the same period.
Through the use of an iPad-sized wireless customized Customer Display Unit (CDU), costumers had access to real-time demand, consumption, costs, CO2 emissions, and graphs indicating usage. The CDU also had the ability to receive SMS messages from the trial administrators, sounding an alarm when the peak period was about to start. Messages were also sent to inform customers about Earth Hour. The CDU, along with an online usage statement, gave the test group comprehensive information about their consumption and cost patterns.
The nifty CDU itself seemed to be more of an incentive to change consumption patterns, because results of the trial indicated a 17.25% reduction in peak demand — not because of pricing, but instead due to education and information. Furthermore, the CDU seemed to trigger competition amongst neighbors to see who conserved the moved electricity, according to Mark Preece, the Director of Electricity Networks for the Regulation and Supervision Bureau, which conducted the trial.
Moving forward, the trial will test the drop-off rates once the time of day pricing is phased out. Although load redistribution was not significantly impacted, Mr. Preece remains optimistic about the results of the initial testing: “Early indications are promising, but there is still a lot more to do.”
Tanya is a CSR professional based in California. Just before heading back to the States, Tanya spent a year iiving in Dubai, working as a consultant and market researcher in the solar sector. Her research interests include Renewable Energy, Sustainability, and International Public/Private Partnerships. Tanya's TEC research focuses on integration of renewables into the grid around the world ...
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