The UAE has witnessed rapid population growth and economic development, thanks to sharp increases in oil revenues. Such growth coupled with increased urbanization and industrialization, has resulted in a steep rise in energy demand, particularly daytime energy use in the hot summer months, mostly due to the need for air conditioning.
While the country has done well in the past to match national energy supply with the ever rising demand, should electricity consumption continue to rise at the current rate, the county is expected to face a supply-demand deficit by 2030. This has led to critical discussion about improving energy efficiency in the United Arab Emirates. Here we look at the energy efficiency perspectives for UAE.
Business and Government Action
At the corporate level, the government have taken action to ensure that a building insulation program in Dubai has created energy efficiency. Water efficiency and waste management actions have also been undertaken to ensure the green credentials of every building meets international environmental standards.
The Emirates’ Authority for Standardization and Metrology continues to implement its Energy Efficiency Standardization and Labelling (EESL) program, starting with air conditioning in buildings and moving onto household electrical goods.
The perspectives of the UAE’s oil and gas sector are that the energy efficiency agenda is important. Reserves are finite and oil for export produces greater revenue generation than oil for the domestic market. Supporting energy efficiency therefore maximises the sector’s longer term sustainability. The perspectives in oil and gas extraction industries has led to the installation of natural gas engines as an alternative to the flaring of associated gases at onshore and offshore oil rigs, along with the installation of waste heat to power systems at oil refineries. Perspectives within power plants are that interventions can lead to efficiency enhancements, such as enhancing natural gas turbines and the optimization of power plant processes by integrating hardware and software.
Significance of Behavioural Change
Energy efficiency also needed a change in UAE’s public culture. Improving public perception of green issues and encouraging behaviours that support energy efficiency has contributed significantly towards the overall shift in perspectives. Many ordinary UAE citizens are looking for smaller more efficient cars, including hybrids.
Capitalising on these trends makes both environmental and business sense but economic drivers alone cannot change all public behaviour. Simple behavioural measures, such as switching-off computers, lights and air-conditioning at the end of the working day may not appear to be much, but when added to technical measures like wall insulation values, installing energy efficient halogen lighting, compact fluorescent lighting and Light Emitting Diodes (LED), increasing the set point temperature from 22°C to 23/24°C and optimising EESL five-star rated air-conditioners, the energy savings become significant, creating a shift in perspectives and reducing a building’s energy consumption.
Conserving energy is slowly becoming a way of life in the UAE and the rapid changes being seen there are an indicator of future formal energy efficiency programs and voluntary measures combined, to help the UAE maintain its economic strength in the region and the regions adherence to the green agenda.
Energy efficiency enhancement is not only environmentally beneficial, but profitable as well. Electricity end-use shows the highest potential annual savings, particularly from interventions in cooling and lighting with savings from energy efficiency at end-use estimated at around AED 20 billion annually.
Interventions in oil and gas has generated the second largest savings at around AED 3 billion per year, with savings from power generation being the lowest, being anywhere between AED 200 million to AED 600 million annually, depending on the efficiency enhancements applied.
The UAE has a vast potential to make large national wealth savings from energy efficiency measures as they spread and change the public perspectives. Exploring interventions in the end-use of the water sector (i.e. network distribution, irrigation, appliances etc.) can result in reduced electricity and natural gas consumption, and hence generate further national wealth savings.
With the introduction of nuclear power generation in the UAE energy mix, and the demonstrated national motivation to depend on renewable sources of energy, incorporating non-conventional power generation resources, all adds to the potential national wealth savings from energy efficiency enhancement measures across the entire UAE.