Interview: Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer

What specific challenges does Dubai face in enhancing the role of technology in carbon reduction goals?

SAEED MOHAMMED AL TAYER: In January 2012 Dubai announced the launch of a long-term initiative to build a green economy in the UAE: the Green Economy for Sustainable Development. The initiative seeks to enhance the country’s competitiveness and the sustainability of its development, and preserve the environment. Key goals of the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy include reducing demand for energy by 30% by 2030, which is to be achieved through a combination of supply and demand side management (DSM). DSM requires the participation of consumers with different backgrounds; it is a challenge to make changes across sectors.

Our consumers have a significant role to play but we need to raise their awareness to win their hearts and minds. DEWA has established the Etihad Energy Service Company, a super energy services company (ESCO), in order to implement the mechanisms of managing and reducing demand with the participation of several partners by providing financial and technical guarantees at a performance level.

Dubai has also recently announced a project to transform Dubai into a smart city, linking the emirate’s government services and the public through the use of smart devices accessed freely using high-speed wireless internet connections. Smart cities will definitely contribute to efforts to achieve sustainable economic growth and relieve pressure on infrastructure, natural resources and the environment through innovation, providing solutions through the use of modern technologies, including information and communication technologies (ICT). The first pillar of smart cities is smart grids, from which a range of services, including electricity, water, communications and others, emerge. DEWA has set its strategy and roadmap of smart power and water grids at the value of Dh7bn ($1.9bn) to support an efficient and reliable communications infrastructure that will drive the demand management programme and connect renewable energy sources.

What types of foreign expertise and partnerships can help spur developmental projects and increase installed capacity of electricity and water in Dubai?

AL TAYER: With its vision to become a sustainable utilities provider, DEWA collaborates with industry leaders from different countries and seeks expertise through consultancy services wherever needed. We have in-house expertise in gas-based combined-cycle and cogeneration technologies, as well as external expertise for our fuel diversification and renewable-energy projects. Emerging technologies, like solar desalination, are one area DEWA will be focusing on in future.

What changes could be made in energy policy to attract more investment to greener projects?

AL TAYER: We have already explored renewable resource avenues for Dubai, such as wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, and so forth. We have found that solar power is the most significant and strategic renewable resource in the UAE. Dubai has on-going plans to expand the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, which will generate 1000 MW by 2030, and which, on completion, will be one of the biggest solar parks in the region, and possibly the world. This will make a substantial contribution to Dubai’s future energy.

With consumption rates soaring, how is policy being formulated in terms of encouraging responsible usage and conservation at the domestic level?

AL TAYER: Most of the consumption in the region is air conditioning, so changing customer behaviour would optimise energy use. This can be aided by many approaches: awareness initiatives; customer carbon footprints on bills; rewards for conservation; campaigns at schools and mosques; and so on. Home appliances are being targeted for energy-efficiency standardisation and efforts made to encourage building retrofits, while additional efforts seek to use electricity more efficiently and green building regulations have been issued in Dubai to rationalise power and water usage.