According to the UN, 85 per cent of the UAE's population resided in urban areas as of 2014, and this is forecasted to reach 91 per cent by 2050.
Dubai - The study reveals that energy usage in the UAE has grown at an annual average of four per cent over the past six years, and is projected to increase to five per cent through 2020.
The UAE's gross domestic electricity consumption has more than doubled over the past 10 years, and is expected to grow even more rapidly over the next five years as the country undergoes substantial population and economic growth, according to a study by management consultancy Strategy &, formerly Booz & Company.
The study reveals that energy usage in the UAE has grown at an annual average of four per cent over the past six years, and is projected to increase to five per cent through 2020. A recent forum organised by the Energy Working Group of the UAE-UK Business Council and facilitated by Strategy&, highlighted three key aspects of energy efficiency which comprise of smart cities, building efficiency and water usage. Although numerous initiatives have already been launched in the UAE, implementing additional comprehensive measures and policies can help reap the full benefits of an improved energy efficiency strategy, as challenges cannot be overcome in isolation.
While UAE's increased urbanization is a sign of the country's growth and progress, it also presents some challenges alongside. According to the UN, 85 per cent of the UAE's population resided in urban areas as of 2014, and this is forecasted to reach 91 per cent by 2050. The UAE, therefore, needs to have integrated infrastructure planning as a prerequisite to any urban master plan. Per-Ola Karlsson, a senior partner with Strategy&, formerly Booz & Company in Dubai, said one of the best way of doing this, which takes advantage of digitization and the Big Data that urban populations produce, is through the so-called 'smart city approach'. "This term typically entails integrated infrastructure planning that applies digital technologies to deliver better services and, critically for the UAE, reduce energy consumption. Smart cities allow city planners and managers to improve efficiency at the intersection of different infrastructure sectors, such as electricity, water, transport, telecommunications, cooling and waste."
The study reveals that there have been commendable efforts on behalf of UAE governments to manage energy consumption. For example - Abu Dhabi has deployed an advanced electric metering system that monitors usage over time, and encourages customers to reduce consumption. Similarly, Dubai now has several interrelated programs in place to substantially reduce electricity consumption.
Another important feature of smart cities is transportation, an area in which technology has advanced dramatically. The UAE is encouraging the use of electric cars and building the necessary infrastructure to support them.
Karlsson said a most effective way to drive a smart city initiative is to influence citizens' behavior through awareness programmes.
A second essential aspect to consider is improving building efficiency, also referred to as "green" or "sustainable" construction. In Dubai, the government has issued a set of green building regulations and specifications that cover planning, the use of resources, materials, and waste. Notably, the regulations are intended to improve the sustainability performance of buildings throughout their entire life cycles, from design through construction, operation, and ultimate tear-down.
"Although the UAE already has a range of building efficiency measures in place, government authorities will still need to develop more detailed regulations and frameworks that dictate energy efficiency in buildings, particularly during construction. This has to be supported by enhanced communication and information campaigns that persuade real estate companies to improve the energy efficiency of their projects without regulation," The government should also encourage the use of innovative building technologies, materials, and systems adapted to the region's requirements that would substantially improve the efficiency of buildings," said Christopher Decker, a Principal with Strategy& in Dubai.
The third aspect of energy efficiency involves water consumption and desalination processes. Water consumption in the UAE is about 740 cubic meters per capita per annum (m3 pcpa), or roughly 50 per cent higher than the 500 m3 pcpa world average. Also, the energy required to desalinate seawater represents approximately 30 per ecnt of the country's total yearly power consumption.
Jad Moussalli, a manager with Strategy& based in Dubai, said the majority of the country's water is generated as a by-product of thermal energy plants, through combined water-and-power infrastructure.