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‘In Ras Al Khaimah, we aim to have one regulation to simplify the impact on the value chain’

Andrea Di Gregorio, Director of Energy Efficiency and Renewables, Municipality Department, Ras Al Khaimah, outlines the emirate’s roadmap towards its 2040 energy targets, elaborates on the Green Building codes, standards and regulations that are set to be implemented and provides an update on the retrofit programme being rolled out by the municipality. Excerpts from the interview with Hannah Jo Uy…

| | Dec 6, 2018 | 4:43 pm
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Could you provide us with an update on the energy-efficiency initiatives being rolled out in Ras Al Khaimah?

Andrea Di Gregorio, Director of Energy Efficiency and Renewables, Municipality Department, Ras Al Khaimah

We started about a year ago with the establishment of the Energy Efficiency and Renewables Office (REEM) within the Municipality of Ras Al Khaimah (RAK). The office was started to drive the development and implementation of a long-term strategy, which comprises nine programmes that will lead Ras Al Khaimah to save 30% of electricity, save 20% of water and generate 20%of the electricity needs from renewable sources by 2040. We have targets on a yearly basis until then.
This has been agreed upon by a series of stakeholders; our office is just one as a coordinator of strategy, and we are also implementing a few of the programmes. Some of the programmes are led by other government entities, such as the municipality itself, the public service department, the investment and development office, and the environmental protection and development authority. There are also federal entities, such as Federal Electricity and Water Authority (FEWA) and the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA), which are driving the efficient appliances programme.

Will RAK implement more stringent building codes to meet the targets?
Absolutely. The Green Building codes are probably the most important programme in terms of contributing to the overall energy savings. It is number one for us, and it has been recently activated. There has been significant work done over the past year to develop the codes. Now, the code is available for voluntary application in its pilot phase, until the enforcement date is announced; then, it will become mandatory for all buildings in RAK. This is our intention. There is a path toward that milestone, which is primarily a path of fine-tuning the internal processes of the municipality to manage the building permit process.

So, would training programmes be conducted to help facilitate the process?
Absolutely. There will be an announcement soon, perhaps towards the end of November, with a dedicated event to the programme. The green building regulations have been called Barjeel, in recognition of the historical practices in building design, when a building didn’t need electricity for cooling, as it was using natural ventilation.

How involved are different stakeholders in the development, and activation, of the programmes?
We involved developers, researchers, universities and government early on, even in the design of the programme, and they offered advice on the right levels of efficiency we can target, what level of efficiency entails [which products] and the payback time, after which technology goes towards leading edge and is more expensive. It is a process we put in place, and we intend to replicate for every type of regulation.

How do the Green Building regulations vary across different types of developments?
With the Green Building regulations, the code is modular. For small buildings, we have small requirements that we call fundamental regulations. These are for simple buildings, like villas or residential apartment buildings, which will have to comply with few requirements. More complex, larger buildings, like hotels, malls and, sometimes, schools, depending on the size, will need to comply with more requirements. For the more complicated building, we have what we call comprehensive regulation, which extends from energy efficiency to environmental and waste management requirements. We also have regulations for special buildings, iconic architectural structures that may not be able to comply with one or two of the requirements. For those, we have a particular and balanced approach, wherein they need to go deeper with some of the other requirements to compensate.

While there will be minimum standards towards efficiency, will there be mechanisms in place to incentivise stakeholders?
We definitely want to incentivise higher than minimum standards. This will happen in two ways. One way is the development of a rating scheme. This is a milestone in our roadmap for 2020/2021. We don’t want to flood the market with new regulations, we also need to pace it over time. In 2020/2021, we expect the activation of an energy rating scheme for buildings, which will give recognition to developers building higher than minimum standards.
Then, we also want to activate an advisory service for developers, who want to get support in developing higher than minimum standard buildings. The municipality will offer support to really efficient buildings that go towards nearly zero energy designs. We are happy to support the developers, sit with them and find design solutions to help them achieve their targets. This will be activated very soon, perhaps even towards the end of next year.
A building compliant with regulation will be recognised. The Barjeel certification and the rating scheme see the collaboration of the municipality and many other government entities. Even free zones will be involved. Differently from what happens to this part of the world, where different administrative areas tend to have different codes, in RAK, we still aim to have one regulation to simplify the impact on the value chain and allow stakeholders to comply with one single code.

Will the municipality adopt the standards and regulations set by ESMA, with regard to HVAC systems, in its building codes?
ESMA has done a great job over the past years in developing standards for different categories of products, such as air conditioners and refrigerators. These standards provide awareness to consumers. From our side, we use those standards in our codes. The Green Building regulations, for example, refer to certain degrees of ESMA efficiency or require minimum two-star or three-star [equipment] depending on the type of building. Our standards are very consistent with ESMA’s. We also want to develop programmes targeting the general public and the small and medium enterprises, which are the ones that buy most of these appliances, to incentivise them to adopt higher efficiency products. These would be the programmes dedicated to the population, to be launched in a couple of years.

There seems to be a very dense roadmap in the next 3-5 years?
Yes. We need to put all the programmes in place and make sure that every one of them is activated. After three or five years, the Green Building regulations and standards will be raised to the next level, with more stringent insulation and higher efficiency standards for air conditioning. The retrofit programme will extend from the government to the private sector more intensively; some financing mechanisms will be activated. We already know, more or less, what needs to be done in the second wave, but now we need to focus on activating all the programmes and ensure that each of them has a right basis to start.

Could you further elaborate on the retrofit programme being driven by the municipality?
The programme aims to retrofit at least 3,000 buildings by 2040, but there will be more of them, depending on how deep we enter the residential sector. There have already been programmes this year, led by FEWA, for the residential sector to adopt water-saving devices. Over 10,000 residential units were involved in that. So, when we say 3,000 buildings, we refer to important structures, primarily government and commercial buildings with high energy intensity. The number is just indicative of the high priority buildings, but then others will also come. For the retrofit, we focus primarily on air conditioning, lighting, water fixtures and, sometimes, insulation.

Will RAK’s building standards make a move for particular solutions – be it in the form of District Cooling or particular systems?
We are technology- and supplier-agnostic. We do not promote one technology against another. We welcome all new and effective technologies, as long as they are attractive for the participant. We normally target the savings, rather than the technology, in our retrofit programme. Our tenders are organised in a way that promotes the highest energy savings. We leave it to the supplier or the ESCO to make a case for the technology they want to propose. Of course, there will also be considerations at a community level, if your question is for District Cooling. Wherever District Cooling brings an advantage for the final consumer, it will be considered in our community-level guidelines that we will develop in the coming years, but it needs to be economically attractive.

 

Hannah Jo Uy is Assistant Editor at Climate Control Middle East magazine. She may be contacted at hannah@cpi-industry.com


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