Interview: Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer

Where will proposed investment be focused in order to reduce dependency on fossil fuels?

SAEED MOHAMMED AL TAYER: Currently, combined power generation and desalinated water production is most efficiently produced using natural gas and liquefied natural gas as the primary fuel, amounting to 99%. This is supplemented by liquid fuel from diesel oil, at 1%. As per the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy (DIES) 2030, the proposed future generation mix will be diversified. It will consist of a combination of gas, solar, clean coal and nuclear energy sources. By 2020 gas will constitute 85%, solar will be 1% and clean coal 14%. By 2030 gas will be 71%, solar 5%, nuclear 12% and clean coal 12%.

The diversification will reduce dependence on gas, while meeting Dubai’s security of supply and environmental objectives. The total capital expenditure required for fuel diversification and demand-side management initiatives is estimated to be some $10bn, with potential energy savings of about $20bn.

How will the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park contribute to the energy mix?

AL TAYER: In accordance with DIES 2030, the additional solar power generating capacity required will be 1% of the total installed power capacity by 2020 and 5% by 2030. A site of 48 sq km at Saih Al Dahal has been reserved for the solar park, which can accommodate a solar power plant capacity of up to 1000 MW. Upon completion, this will be one of the biggest solar parks in the region. The first plant, with 13 MW capacity, is scheduled to be commissioned by third quarter of 2013.

What measures are being introduced to ensure commercial and residential utility rates will remain unchanged, despite increases in oil prices?

AL TAYER: The current electricity tariff consists of two components – a slab-based component and a variable fuel surcharge component. The adjustment to fuel surcharges is applied based on the actual fuel costs incurred by Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), as compared to the average fuel costs paid in 2010. Many continuous improvements are being made in efficient power generation and desalination water production, effective utilisation of facilities, resources and transmission and distribution networks. These contribute to the appropriate management of energy rates. Additionally, the fuel diversification strategy will mitigate the volatility in oil and gas prices and assist in controlling the related fuel surcharge. Also, application of a slab tariff encourages customers to lower consumption.

How has increased water demand strained existing capacity? What is being done to address this?

AL TAYER: Desalinating water is an energy consuming process, requiring a considerable amount of power. Just as the power generation process does, desalination requires continuous optimisation.

Desalinated water is the main source of supply in Dubai. For 2011, the emirate’s water supply consisted of 97.6% desalinated water and 2.4% groundwater.

To meet the continuously growing water demand, DEWA water management practices, which are in place, address two main fronts. On the supply side, continuous optimisation practice at desalination plants consists of proper asset management, thus improving plant efficiency. On the network side, integrated water network management practices, such as network zoning and leakage management, are key activities within DEWA. For instance, as a result of intensive leakage management activities, unaccounted water was reduced from 42% in 1988 to 11.26% by mid-2012. There are plans to reduce this figure even further with the introduction of new metering, and pressure management.

On the demand front, water demand is managed through conservation plans, including the Green Buildings Regulations and the use of recycled water (TSE, Gray and Brackish water) for non-domestic applications like district cooling, irrigation and industry. All this, in addition to adopting a slab tariff, is designed to help encourage more conservation by the consumer.