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Towards a Brighter Future

Exclusive interview with Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, MD and CEO of DEWA.

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His Excellency Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, managing director and CEO of DEWA.
His Excellency Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, managing director and CEO of DEWA.

DEWA recently announced plans to accelerate the amount of solar power in its energy mix to 15% by 2030 from the previous target of 5%. What was behind that decision and might DEWA be in a position to raise the target again in the coming years?

Our decision to increase the share of renewable energy in Dubai’s energy mix from 1% to 7% by 2020 and from 5% to 15% by 2030 is part of DEWA’s commitment to achieving the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030 and is based on DEWA’s commitment to a brighter, sustainable future for Dubai and the UAE.

The decision was made to ensure that we support Dubai’s ongoing development by using the latest technologies and adopting the latest innovations in the energy sector, as well as strengthening our operations to increase energy generation efficiency. DEWA derives its vision from Dubai and is inspired by the strategy of its leadership, and took the decision to enhance the share of renewable energy, thus accelerating sustainable development.

In addition, this is an integral part of DEWA’s efforts to support the long-term national Green Economy for Sustainable Development initiative, launched by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to establish the UAE as a world leader in green economy and a centre for the export and re-export of green products and technologies.

In which quarter next year will DEWA launch the tender for the 700MW phase of the solar project?

DEWA will open up the bid for contractors to send their proposals for the 700MW photovoltaic phase in the fourth quarter of 2015, using the Independent Power Producer model. It is important to concentrate on the completion of the second phase in the meanwhile and ensure that our strategy remains robust, is well-informed and is based on the objectives of the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030. Given the highly-competitive rates we have seen from the bidders and the very low bid for the 200MW plant by the ACWA Power-led consortium, this new tender will show that solar energy is becoming increasingly cost-effective and a shining opportunity for us all.

How much rooftop solar power capacity does DEWA expect to be installed in Dubai this year and in 2016?

This is at an early stage and I should point out that Dubai is the first city in the region to implement a Distributed Renewable Resources Generation programme to develop the installation of solar panels on buildings. This will be determined based on the response we receive from the community.

We have received a positive response already, and we are finalising the details of the initiative. One example of this is the project by Dubai Airports to install solar panels on its staff accommodation building at Dubai World Central Al Maktoum International airport. Dubai Airports intends that the solar array will offset the power used by DWC’s Employee Gate Facility. The array, which is located on the roof of the building, has a capacity of 30kW and generates about 48.8 MWh of electricity per year, equal to about two-thirds of the power used by the building. In addition to this, there are a further 10 requests for projects that will generate approximately 8.5MW in total in the near future.

Are electricity tariffs encouraging private individuals and companies to invest in rooftop solar systems?

The shift to investing in rooftop solar systems is not driven by electricity tariffs but by a commitment from all stakeholders to promote renewable energy, benefiting everyone. What attracts individuals and companies is the opportunity to generate solar power to offset their consumption, so that their consumption will not reach higher slab tariff rates. The electricity generated will allow customers to reduce electricity bills over the expected lifetime of the system. In addition, should the customer decide to sell or rent his property, the solar systems are likely to improve its market value, as residents will have lower electricity bills than adjacent properties without them. Also, by using solar energy, our customers will significantly contribute to the city’s effort in preserving the environment, achieving low electricity consumption levels, and reducing its carbon footprint, as solar systems produce no air or water pollution and no greenhouse gas emissions.

What measures is DEWA taking to tackle high levels of water consumption in the UAE and promote more efficient use of water resources?

DEWA is committed to promoting the Demand-Side Management Strategy set by the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy. The strategy includes implementation of eight different programmes including: specifications and regulations for green construction, retrofitting existing buildings, district cooling, wastewater reuse, regulations to raise the standards and efficiency of devices and lighting, and working with private companies to retrofit 30,000 buildings in Dubai.

DEWA has an active community-outreach programme to encourage best practices in electricity and water use and encourages the use of household appliances that efficiently use electricity and water, such as washing machines and dishwashers. DEWA has been working actively to encourage the residents and citizens of Dubai to moderate water consumption sensibly. One of the ways it does so is through its outreach to the education sector with its annual Conservation Award, held in conjunction with the Knowledge and Human Development Authority. The Conservation Award honours the best practices that reduce electricity and water use and reduce waste. The award targets government and private educational institutions in Dubai, including nurseries, kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, universities and colleges, adult-education centres, and centres for people with special needs, to raise environmental awareness and support DEWA’s efforts to support the sustainable development of Dubai.

DEWA has also been working to ensure that its water production and distribution is one of the most efficient and reliable in the world. DEWA has recorded water-loss rates of 9% compared to 15% in North America. In addition to this, a new directive has been issued by HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, to monitor electricity and water usage at government establishments. This initiative will enhance Dubai’s efforts to implement programmes to increase the efficiency of electricity and water consumption in the Emirate, which will help achieve sustainable development and preserve the environment.

A recent report by a UAE university said groundwater in the UAE could run out by 2030. What is being done to address this problem and can water reserves be replenished?

Back in the 1970s, ground water was the sole source of water supply for Dubai. By 2007, DEWA had reduced Dubai’s dependence on groundwater to 5%. Today, Dubai’s supply of water is 99.5% sourced from desalination and DEWA produces and distributes water solely from desalination to maintain water security for Dubai. We now are considering replenishing these groundwater reserves and aquifers with desalinated water as an additional source in case of emergencies. This is part of our policy to sustainably manage groundwater supplies.

Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation is building a huge nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi. How much of the power it produces does DEWA expect to use in the coming years?

We are in discussions with the proper authorities regarding importing electricity generated from nuclear power. The Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030 has targets for the inclusion of nuclear energy to generate 7% of Dubai’s total power output by 2030. However, I should note that our increased targets for solar energy have meant that we have downgraded our planned targets for nuclear energy from 12% previously to 7% by 2030. This has also been applied to Dubai’s target for clean coal to 7% as well, with the increased target for 15% from solar power by 2030. The reason for this move is the global costs for solar energy having decreased significantly, which we noted in the second phase bid. Solar energy is proving far more attractive economically, as well as environmentally.

When will we see a wide scale roll out of smart meters and smart grids in Dubai?

To complement the Smart Dubai initiative announced by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, we launched three smart initiatives to make Dubai the smartest city in the world. DEWA’s first smart initiative, to connect photovoltaic panels to buildings, we have already discussed. The second includes the provision of smart applications through smart meters and grids that will provide many benefits and advantages to DEWA’s customers. This will speed up service connection, improve response times, provide instant reconnection of electricity, and promote the rational use of energy. Smart meters provide detailed and accurate readings, which enable customers to follow-up on how much they use. This in turn helps to save the environment. Smart meters will help identify solutions related to energy efficiency as they automatically send information, keep historic data of customer’s consumption and processes, and enable comparisons to be made with average norms. The project will be implemented in phases. In the first phase, DEWA plans to install at least 200,000 state-of-the-art meters in the next two years.

It’s important to note that DEWA has already made considerable progress in implementing smart grids. DEWA first used smart technologies in 2009, and was the first Dubai Government organisation to fully transform its services into smart services, providing smart apps on a range of operating systems to aid and assist our customers in managing their needs. Eventually, smart meters and apps will enable users to monitor their consumption more closely to help reduce their bills in the long run.

DEWA’s services are available through its app, which supports iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows, and Windows Phone platforms. It also supports Samsung home entertainment systems, smart watches, and Etisalat’s eLife. DEWA’s services are also available on its web application (dewa.gov.ae).

The WETEX event in April will be bigger than ever. How important has this event become to DEWA?

WETEX has become one of the world’s largest specialised and comprehensive exhibitions in the field, which brings together various stakeholders in energy, water, environment, sustainable development, and oil and gas under one roof. This year, its theme is ‘At the Forefront of Sustainability’ and will bring a range of these technologies and solutions that will encourage the increased efficiency in the use of electricity and water.

The exhibition serves as an ideal platform for key market players to reach agreements and partnerships, showcase their services and solutions to a large number of customers as well as stimulate research and development projects in the fields of sustainability.

Over 1,500 companies have registered for WETEX 2015 so far, and the exhibition is expected to attract a record number of visitors, following the success of last year’s event which received over 22,000 visitors. We invite all companies, organisations, reach & development centres to visit WETEX this year which will be held from 21-23 April, at the Dubai International Convention Centre. WETEX and the World Green Economy Summit (WGES), which will take place on 22-23 April, during Green Week, to establish Dubai as a global hub for green and sustainable economy.

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