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Regulators need to be educated, says IDEA chief

Official says local cooling sector can learn from US experience

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IDEA president Rob Thornton believes that legislative conditions coming online in the US can be replicated in the Gulf.
IDEA president Rob Thornton believes that legislative conditions coming online in the US can be replicated in the Gulf.

A senior official from the International District Energy Association (IDEA) has told attendees at an event held in Dubai that governments and regulators need to be educated as to the cost benefits and efficiencies provided by district cooling.

Under the strapline ‘Optimising Assets: Efficiency, Reliability & Maximising Returns’, the IDEA’s Fourth International District Cooling Conference was held during October in Dubai. It’s been a difficult year for the district cooling industry, which has suffered from the double-whammy of the economic downturn and, more specifically, the collapse of the property business here in Dubai.

But the IDEA event was keen to accentuate the positives. As IDEA president Robert Thornton pointed out in his opening address to attendees, the interactive nature of the conference was designed to assist local companies to weather the economic storms.

“Our largest challenge is adapting and managing through the economic downturn,” Thornton explained. “This conference is focused on helping companies deal with the issues at hand and how to optimise operations. We need to be educating our regulators and government agencies as to what district energy is and what it can offer.”

Thornton likened the Dubai situation generally to the challenge of changing a tyre on a moving car. “Dubai has been moving at a very fast pace for some time. Due to the crisis, now seems like a great time to look at the car we have, pop the hood, and look at ways we can get more efficiency and more value out of that product.”

In a wide-ranging address that touched on IDEA’s achievements in getting the role of district energy recognised by the US political establishment, Thornton explained that the legislation that is now being considered by Congress has definite resonance in the Middle East. “I hope that we can achieve some favourable precedents that that you can use in your countries,” he stated. “If rules are to be set by your nations as well, you can look to the IDEA experience in the US and point to the favourable conditions for the industry in our part of the world. The question should then be asked: why can’t we replicate those conditions over here?”

Juan Ontiveros, IDEA’s chair, also spoke about the positive benefits in district cooling, citing two case studies in particular: the efficiencies gained by the system implemented by the University of Texas at Austin and the success of the downtown district cooling project in Phoenix, Arizona.

Among the panelists speaking in the first discussion on reliability and profitability in the local industry were Fayad Al Khatib, general manager of Qatar Cool, Saudi Tabreed chief operating officer Colin Goulding, Palm District Cooling MD Shafiq El Khoori, Energy Central Company’s Khalil Issa and Emicool’s Martyn Calvert.

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