Interview: Nicholas Carter

How well positioned is Abu Dhabi to meet rising demand in electricity, and what will be the main determinants of future demand?

NICHOLAS CARTER: With several new plants scheduled to come on-line over the remainder of the decade, Abu Dhabi is in a good position to increase electrical power and water supplies to meet rising needs. Future demand will rest on two main factors. First, it will depend on the developments in the oil and gas industry which are commissioned by the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. The company is expected to require up to 4 GW of electricity by 2020. Second, and perhaps more importantly, consumption patterns will be influenced by the general economic environment in developed as well as emerging countries in the region. In fact, demand is always dependent upon external factors that are normally beyond our control, but we do have a good projection going forward to 2020. Overall, we expect total load to reach about 20 GW, a nearly two-fold increase from current levels, which also includes meeting some demand from the northern emirates.

What regulatory and supervisory measures must be taken to balance supply and demand while improving the network’s overall efficiency?

CARTER: From a regulatory perspective, the primary issues are to ensure that the single buyer, Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Company, procures sufficient capacity to meet demand and the Abu Dhabi Transmission and Despatch Company, effectively plans, designs and installs networks that will carry the necessary levels of power and water to the major centres of consumption. This is particularly crucial for the Western Region, where eight power plants will be in operation by 2020 (including the four nuclear plants).

Of course the other side of the coin is to try and reduce demand. In this regard we will continue to make major strides in the provision of a wide range of information to customers using our Waterwise and Powerwise offices to bring about a change in people’s behaviour, which in turn can help in decreasing demand going forward. We are keen to promote seasonal charging to reduce consumption and limit the excessive use of air conditioning in the summer. Smart pricing can be implemented all the more easily as the distribution network is equipped with full electronic metering, which facilitates the storage and analysis of consumer data. In practice there are many things which the RSB can promote to help reduce demand. Our pilot projects in relation to demand-side management for chiller load peak shifting, time of day and solar rooftop trials have shown us how effective such projects can be to inform policy changes in the future.

What can be done to encourage greater levels of investment in renewable energy projects?

CARTER: The launch of Shams 1 illustrates that Abu Dhabi is committed to investing in renewable energy.

However, the major challenge with renewable generation sources is power storage. If this can be improved, then the energy will be available when most needed and constitute a real alternative to traditional energy sources. Regarding policy incentives, we strongly believe that the best way to promote renewable energy sources is at the customer level through the implementation of feed-in tariffs. For the past few years, we have been overseeing rooftop generation projects to help us determine such tariffs for these projects.

In what way is regulation being adjusted to curtail water misuse and promote the recycling of water?

CARTER: Water is not always being used as efficiently as it could be. While the return-to-sewer ratio in Singapore is over 90%, Abu Dhabi achieves a 35% ratio.

Our target is to achieve at least 50% by 2020. Thus, we are promoting the efficient use of all recycled water through smart irrigation policies and we have introduced our three-taps policy to promote more informed decision-making on where drinking, recycled or ground water should be used for major consumption points.