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People Meter: Wastewater Potential

Peter Neuschaefer, Waagner Gulf Biro, talks about wastewater solutions

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Peter Neuschaefer, director of environment, water and energy in the Middle East for Waagner Biro Gulf.
Peter Neuschaefer, director of environment, water and energy in the Middle East for Waagner Biro Gulf.

Peter Neuschaefer, director of environment, water and energy in the Middle East for Waagner Biro Gulf, talks to UME about his environmentally friendly wastewater solutions.

Can you outline your products and projects relating to renewable energy, water and power conservation?
When I joined Waagner Biro Gulf in 2004, our CEO and I decided to develop a new division in Water, Energy and Environment Technologies. By 2005, we were able to successfully treat wastewater by filtering it through a reed bed. Since then, we have installed 20 reed bed systems at different locations in the Emirates and in Qatar.

We are now launching the TerraSave concept which combines different technologies: photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP), the cooling of these PV modules using treated wastewater, harvesting the reeds as biomass, and the storage of the solar power into batteries, so getting CO2 reduction results.

The TerraSave concept requires little energy, doesn’t pollute the atmosphere with CO2, doesn’t need skilled labour for the maintenance, can treat even heavy metals, can pass as landscaped area, and enables the trade with the green house gas certificates (CER’s).

There is no sludge, and thus methane, production, and we don’t need chemical additives. Since 2006 we are happy to have the UNESCO regional office of the Middle East as an observer at our pilot project, a labour camp here in Dubai. In 2009, we won the Qatar Today Green Innovation Award, proof that our TerraSave concept is finding acceptance.

What is driving the demand for these solutions?
Energy and Water savings. Basically our solutions are common sense. Of course we have to prove the return of investment all the time, but this is not all about returns. It is also about the long term solution, about sustainability.

Is environmental consciousness a real factor in decision making in the power and water sector?
No, it is still the investment. I try to demonstrate the benefits of the low running costs and low maintenance costs of our concepts, which are maybe 70 percent less than conventional concepts. But unfortunately, running and maintenance costs are not appreciated by buyers, and are not considered as money savings at tender phases or product offer stages.

Are households and business waking up to the need to conserve water and power resources?
Yes, I see some changes, but it is still too early to say there is a big movement coming from the end consumer. So long as the government doesn’t change regulations and laws it is difficult for households and businesses change their habits.

Laws and regulations were the key driver in Europe in forcing anybody to have an environmental consciousness. But looking at the actual movements in terms of laws and regulation in the Emirates, I am sure it will come very soon.

Is a rising environmental consciousness translating into business opportunities for companies which supply environmentally friendly solutions?
Yes it is. Green technologies are an engine for growth in many countries. It drives scientists to create new innovations which can be used for new business opportunities.

When did you first start perceiving environmental consciousness in the Middle East, and how did it manifest itself?
I saw big changes in environmental consciousness in the last two years, let's say after the world wide economical downturn. For me this was a step to the right direction, as I came to the region in 1997 with the environment consciousness and awareness I had acquired in Europe.

In the 1970s we had many environment disasters, and there was not enough fuel was available to drive a car on Sundays and so on. That changed the attitudes of people in Germany.

What more needs to be done by governments to affect change?
The governments have been making the right decisions in the past years. We cannot expect young nations to change radically in a very short time. In Europe, we were at this point 30 years ago. But the Middle East can develop much faster than we did, because the mistakes made in Europe can be avoided here.

It is important for people to understand that promoting investment into a sustainable building or city requires radical change. The government can implement the regulations to force this through, and to push these new technologies. In the end the government benefits through less maintenance and investments in municipalities.

Which countries are doing the most to promote energy efficiency and water conservation?
From my point of view it is Germany and some other European countries. In recent years the US has pushed hard to successfully implement renewable energy and water reuse policies.

In the Middle East I see a strong movement towards adopting environmentally friendly solutions. Estidama, a regulation for a green buildings implemented by the UAE authorities, provides standards and help. In addition, I would like to mention the Masdar project as a good example of a green development.

Which renewable and water conservation methods are best suited to the region?
As we are in a hot desert region, the things we have to consider most are the reuse of water and the lowest consumption of energy. But I believe that solutions focusing on the sun’s energy have a future: solar desalination; solar warm water production, energy storage, decentralised solar air. And so will energy storage, natural wastewater treatment, biomass production and natural aquifers.

How important are renewables and water conservation to Middle Eastern countries trying to meet increasing demand for power and water?
If we look into the future we have to consider the fast growing population in these regions. Decentralised water and power generation and wastewater treatment can help meet this rising demand.

What technological breakthroughs are we going to see in these fields in the coming years?
I am looking at future green technologies all over the world and I see decentralised sun powered energy (for air conditioning, for example) and natural wastewater treatment as the most efficient technology for this region. They are much more energy efficient as the conventional technologies.

Let take the example of district cooling technology which is one of the cheapest cooling concepts, but it is centralised. The problem we are faced with now is getting the billing for the service right. Everybody likes to know what he consumes on energy or water. If you are able to reduce your energy bill by saving energy, you like to see it at end of the month.

But if you centralise a cooling technology, for example, environmental consciousness is not encouraged and the efforts of each consumer to save energy and water are undermined.

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