Hot months see the middle east burn through water and power
Hot months see the middle east burn through water and power. fmME checks out the state of resource conservation in the region
A concept in facilities management often discussed is resource conservation; more so during summer months in the Middle East, when water and electricity consumption levels usually elevate.
During the last few years, DEWA has witnessed the highest consumption levels of water and electricity during the summer months’ peak hours. This is why it launched the ‘Peak Load Campaign’ to reduce consumption during the peak load times between 12-5pm.
Saving water is another consideration, especially for the UAE; it consumes more than three times the global average, making it one of the largest water consumers per capita in the world.
Finding that a majority of water consumed in the UAE comes from desalinated water plants which consume a lot of energy, Masdar is exploring water conservation methods which in turn, it hopes, will aid energy consumption too.
Other projects across the Middle East are also encouraging saving resources. For instance, Msheireb Properties has announced a site-wide non-potable water system within Downtown Doha, which will reduce water consumption by up to 6.5 million litres per day.
Ronald Diab, managing director, EEG, says in order to use renewable energy more in general, GCC countries should work towards removing electrical subsidies, introduce feed in tariff or similar schemes, and potentially provide long-term financing for adopters.
Power of the sun
Solar panels, one would think, are an obvious choice of renewable energy in the Middle East region, so why has it not been adopted on a wide scale yet?
Diab says solar panels can be used for electricity generation (PV) and hot water production (solar thermal).
“They can, in principle, assist in the reduction of electricity or fuel used in electrical or thermal energy supplies. However, the main problem in the GCC is that downstream adoption is tightly linked to financial incentives,” he says.
In the absence of feed in tariff and in a mostly subsidised electricity landscape, PV is very difficult to be financially viable at present stage, where most projects are government-funded large-scale ones.
Diab continues: “PV projects in the private sector are mostly driven by forward thinking and ‘green’-oriented people rather than from a commercial perspective. On the other hand, solar thermal has a better financial feasibility, when considered in larger commercial facilities such as hotels where there is a high hot water demand.”
Gary Moss, director of operations, Mace Macro, also weighs in. He says at an individual building level, there are a number of issues which work against the widespread uptake of solar panels in the UAE.
These include the high capital cost and the relatively low cost of energy, which results in long pay-back periods for the initial investment. “Even in Western countries where energy costs are significantly higher, it has been necessary for governments to incentivise building owners with subsidies to encourage a wider uptake of this technology,” he adds.
There’s another caveat that Moss mentions: “The performance of solar panels deteriorates quickly in dusty conditions such as the UAE. However, the UAE is starting to invest heavily in large-scale solar energy plants using advanced ‘solar collector’ technology, and this shows promise for the future.”
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Alain El Tawil, managing partner, Grako says the main challenge faced in the region is resistance, mostly due to low awareness about the benefits associated with energy management.
“We find education and incentive-based initiatives key in overcoming this challenge; beginning with the staff and involving the client as well. Grako understands the criticality of planning now for an uncertain energy future and realises energy management and long-term cost-saving are directly linked,” says El Tawil.
Diab thinks awareness of climate change, green initiatives and energy efficiency is at its peak now. However, when it comes to pure energy management, in order to ensure a proper market evolution, there are three important points to tackle, explains Diab.
“Number one is market regulation. We need to ensure the levels of services provided by Energy Services Companies (ESCOs) and energy saving companies are following good standards, and used products are meeting all certifications. In many countries, poor energy services disrupt the whole market.” He adds the next step is to remove subsidies from electrical tariffs.
“Generally clients will not be keen to invest in energy efficiency if it doesn’t impact significantly on their bottom line and OPEX.
“As a third point, financing mechanisms are key, as in many cases, energy management is linked to new investments in upgrades, controls and retrofits which would require funding.
In these difficult economic times, the lack of budget jeopardises investment in energy efficiency projects. This is where banks and financial institutions can take the lead with specialised financial products tailored for EE and RE projects.”
Moss explains that since energy prices are very low in this region, it acts as a disincentive to energy conservation.
In addition, the fact that the quality of plant installations is often poor in this region and commissioning is often not carried out adequately, means from day one, facilities managers inherit buildings that do not perform as they should, explains Moss.
He also mentions education: “There is much still to be done locally to educate both clients and building users about energy and environmental issues. Attitudes are changing and initiatives such as Abu Dhabi’s Estidama Pearl Rating System for new buildings are having a positive impact.”
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CSR and conservation
Is conservation an important part of facilities management firms, or do they need to have directives to make them practice it?
Cleaning firms like Grako do practice resource conservation in daily activities.
“There are many ways to conserve energy and resources when providing cleaning services. For example, we make strategic investment in latest machineries that give optimum results while consuming minimal energy. We also advise our clients to use rope access technique wherever possible, as it is the most effective with least footprint in terms of water and electricity consumption.
“In some cases we also rely on buckets, instead of hoses, which can supply a potential limitless source of water. With the buckets, the cleaners have to be efficient and maximise the use of water available to them,” explains El Tawil.
The chemicals Grako uses eliminates the need for multiple applications. The firm also considers the time of day to conduct cleaning, when water evaporation is at its minimum.
“We recognise the significance of climate change and are committed to minimising our contribution by optimising energy and water consumption while utilising latest equipment and biodegradable material that is easy on the environment,” El Tawil adds.
He thinks, however, not enough is being done overall and policies need to be made mandatory.
“Many companies promote policies but in reality these are not being rolled out. Energy conservation methods are usually linked to high investments, so there is a cost implication.
“Consequently businesses tend to ignore energy conservation policies to keep their operational costs and prices low.” El Tawil explains that while these firms offer cheaper services, the client will incur hidden costs due to the absence of energy saving policies on site.
Moss speaks about the energy efficiency measures Mace Macro has implemented in its projects.
“Examples include: increased maintenance regimes for chiller units, resulting in higher efficiency and reduced energy consumption; re-commissioning of plant to ensure it is operating at optimum efficiency; installation of enhanced controls to MEP systems, including smarter use of BMS systems to ensure optimum zoning of controls; installation of improved lighting controls, including motion detectors and photocells to ensure lighting is only switched on when needed; and, retrofitting of energy efficient light fittings, which can deliver energy savings in excess of 25%.”
He explains that many leading companies in the region have achieved ISO 14000 environmental management accreditation as part of their overall CSR strategy. This requires them to measure their environmental footprint and to take actions to reduce it.
“However, it is true to say the region still lags some way behind Europe on energy awareness and conservation, and I believe governments should introduce more stringent regulatory requirements to raise the bar,” adds Moss.
He says: “It is encouraging to see some excellent initiatives being implemented, such as the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy, which is targeting a 30% reduction in energy demand in Dubai by 2030.”
Large organisations are in general focused on improving their sustainable practices including their energy efficiency, according to Diab.
“However, the market of established companies, operated buildings, large facilities and various other energy end users is enormous and far beyond those abiding by CSR policies.
There are few steps that can be made mandatory, mostly in the import and marketing of equipment and appliances whereby all poor efficiency ones should be banned from the market, such as home appliances and lighting,” says Diab.
Another trend he has witnessed is what he terms “green washing”, which he explains as widespread use of green initiatives and energy efficiency ads, but without market regulation to ensure that advertised actions and/or products are effectively correct.
“If energy conservation policies become mandatory then all service providers will be obliged to follow the same standards, and their prices will reflect their investment in energy conservation practices,” concludes El Tawil.
Tips to conserve energy during the summer
In this area of the world, the summer electricity bills are largely from cooling systems. Accordingly, the focus should be on how to optimise cooling energy usage. EEG’s main suggestions are:
1. Perform adequate comprehensive preventive maintenance prior to the extreme usage. This should include cleaning all filters, checking insulation, refrigerant levels etc.
2. In case the compressors are outdated (>10 years of operation), it is worth investigating the appropriate retrofit using latest inverter driven split units or higher efficiency alternatives.
3. Ensure thermostats are set to correct levels (ideally 22°C/23°C).
4. Weatherstrip all doors and windows and ensure minimum air infiltration occurs.
5. Use curtains and blinds on all windows and glazed doors where there is a direct solar radiation.