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‘DC’s success is proportionally linked to optimisation of opex and capex’

Sanela Habbab, Chief Operating Officer at Emicool, shares her insight on challenges facing the District Cooling industry, emphasising on the need for greater cooperation among relevant stakeholders to battle wrong perceptions and increase penetration. Excerpts from the interview…

| | Jun 18, 2017 | 1:25 pm
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WHAT ARE THE BOTTLENECKS IN THE DRIVE TOWARDS GREATER PENETRATION OF DISTRICT COOLING IN THE GCC REGION?
Dubai’s hot climate involves a significant cooling load that puts away half of the annual electricity consumption, with 70% at peak times. This fact is quite alarming and urges all responsible residents to seek out the most efficient air conditioning solution.

With no doubt, District Cooling is more efficient than standalone air conditioning systems. Water-cooling solutions offer superior energy efficiency of 50-60% compared to air-cooling alternatives. Other substantial benefits of District Cooling are the reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse emissions and the implementation of thermal energy storage, which optimises the load and reduces initial investment. This improves the quality of life of the end user by enhancing indoor air quality, and protects the ozone layer from depletion.

Given the above points, there should be no bottlenecks for the penetration of District Cooling. Yet, there are many. The greatest bottleneck in the drive towards greater penetration of District Cooling is the end users’ current untrue perception of District Cooling services in Dubai. On the whole, District Cooling is largely considered as an unfair and very expensive air conditioning solution, owing to Master Developers, who have taken advantage of District Cooling without [giving a] proportional share of its benefits to the development’s end users. In contrast, RSB and TAQATI have taken serious action in repairing the current unjust image of District Cooling; and Emicool supports the action in all aspects.

IS THE LACK OF PROPER HYDRAULIC BALANCING PROVING TO BE A BOTTLENECK, IN THE SENSE THAT POOR HYDRAULIC BALANCING IS LEADING TO A SITUATION WHERE THE PROJECTS AT THE END OF THE RETICULATION NETWORK ARE NOT GETTING ADEQUATE CHILLED WATER?
Hydraulic balancing is one of the very important dynamics that are required to be assessed in the District Cooling network design. The District Cooling industry and technology have evolved the controls to advanced levels, which makes hydraulic balancing achievable despite the dynamic and volatile chilled water energy demand patterns of end users. Dubai-based District Cooling-qualified consultancies have gained adequate experience that can easily overcome the related topics. The master key for success is in appointing a professional and experienced District Cooling consultant and, equally important, a qualified District Cooling contractor, where quality will not be compromised for short-term gains, leading to discomfort for the end users. On the other hand, customer satisfaction is another motivation to ensure that chilled water reaches the end of the reticulation network and serves the purpose of air conditioning.

ARE CURRENT DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION PRACTICES IN THE MARKET PROVING TO BE A BOTTLENECK WHEN IT COMES TO OPTIMISING OPEX AND CAPEX?

District Cooling’s design and construction success is directly and proportionally linked to suitable optimisation of opex and capex for District Cooling.

However, there are always challenges that the project must overcome, and thus, compromises have to be made. Either it is a limited area that does not allow for thermal energy storage, which leads to an increase in capex and opex, or it is a height limitation, which increases capex. Each project has its own specifications that put our expertise to the test, to strike balance at the competitive edge and implement the most efficient and sustainable air conditioning solution for District Cooling. Emicool embraces innovation in any aspect that can contribute to energy-efficiency improvements, such as the utilisation of renewable energy – solar power and serious consideration of the cogeneration concept implementation for new Emicool District Cooling plants.

HOW DO YOU THINK DUBAI IS FARING WITH REGARD TO MEETING ITS GOAL OF 40% PENETRATION OF DISTRICT COOLING OUT OF THE TOTAL COOLING DEMAND IN THE EMIRATE?

Dubai’s vision is in line with responsible energy consumption. With that in mind, the RSB and TAQATI play an important role towards achieving the vision. Current District Cooling penetration in Dubai, according to an independent assessment by RSB is 17-18% of Dubai’s cooling demand. RSB has prepared a draft of the District Cooling regulation that is yet to be released. The regulation will address District Cooling service providers’/operators’ energy efficiencies that are considered as major areas of improvement. However, we strongly believe that the involvement of end users in energy awareness as a global concern will further enhance energy conservation and will shift the population to a higher level of attentiveness that will not be guided by short-sighted objectives. Instead, the energy-efficient solution in the form of District Cooling will be welcomed rather than any other less efficient air conditioning system.

TAQATI has structured a scope to increase penetration of District Cooling from 16% in 2011 to 40% in 2030 by regulating the District Cooling industry and supporting the connection of existing buildings to District Cooling to improve their energy efficiency and utilisation of the available capacity in Dubai, where possible. Emicool has made a considerable effort and orchestrated two concession agreements with the nearest developments of MotorCity: Dubai Sports City and Akoya by DAMAC. These agreements are to amplify the efficiency of the available MotorCity plant. The networks are on track and the first chilled water supplies are anticipated in mid-July 2017. District Cooling service providers require support from strong regulatory officials to extend any available services, wherever applicable.

Although the goal is quite aggressive, it is achievable with the united efforts of all the involved parties that are determined to maintain Dubai’s vision.


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