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Government support a shot in the arm for HVAC retrofit projects in the UAE

The backing of bodies like the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA), Dubai Supreme Council of Energy bodes well for HVAC-related building retrofit initiatives in the UAE, says industry insider.

| | Apr 19, 2016 | 10:40 am
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Dubai, UAE: Government involvement is helping the building retrofit movement in the UAE, said Mehmood Abdul Rehman, Managing Partner of UAE-based Greenfield Trading. Government bodies, like the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA) and the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, are driving retrofit projects, he added.

Dubai has embarked upon an ambitious drive to retrofit 30,000 buildings by the year 2030, with the aim of achieving 30% energy savings. Rehman is optimistic the efforts will bear fruit.

In the present time, Rehman said, there is a greater retrofit culture, thanks to government involvement. “Today, I feel it should be even more feasible [to undertake retrofit projects], because there was nobody backing the performance-contracting initiatives, then,” he said.

An industry veteran who undertakes energy modelling projects, Rehman said he has been involved in performance-contracting projects in the UAE since 1996. One of his marquee projects was the Emirates Training College, where he saved around 40% energy through retrofitting the building. “We achieved more than a million kilo-watt hours in savings,” he said.

Financing was a problem then, Rehman said, but quickly added that it was not impossible to get banks to fund projects. “Even then, some banks were ready to finance the projects, and we managed to raise the funds,” he said. It all boiled down to who grasped the concept and who did not, he added.

In addition to government support, the increase in electricity tariffs, he said, is helping push building owners towards seeking greater energy efficiency. There was a time when the tariff was 16-20 UAE Fils, he said, and added, today, it is 42 Fils. This, he said, is giving manufacturers like him the incentive to try and develop systems that cut down on electricity use, because there is a market of building owners eager to save on electricity-related expenses. And if manufacturers can offer a payback of 2-2.5 years, he added, then greater is the chance of acceptance of the products.

A typical constraint to retrofit efforts in the GCC region, Rehman said, has been that decision-making has traditionally rested with expatriates working on the projects. Their first instinct, he added, was to avoid taking risks. Today, though, Rehman said, the circumstances are different, because owners and landlords are involved through the mechanism of ESCO. As a result, decision-making has become smooth and easy, he added. “In the case of a JAFZA (Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority) building, for instance, they are ready to accept a payback of seven years,” he said. “It’s a dream. If people had been accepting this over the last decade or last two decades, this would have been a different country by now. So it’s very, very promising.”


(The writer is the Editor of Climate Control Middle East and the Editorial Director & Associate Publisher of CPI Industry.)


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