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The importance of ‘load print’ in getting a true measure of consumption

Dr Adib Moubadder, the CEO of Dubai-headquartered Emicool, in a free-wheeling interview with Surendar Balakrishnan of Climate Control Middle East. Excerpts…

| | Jun 16, 2019 | 12:23 pm
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Besides your scope as a District Cooling provider of supplying chilled water, measuring consumption and billing customers, what are you doing to address the specific needs of the global community in the context of the outcome of discussions in Paris and Kigali? 

Thank you for this question. It’s a debate in the market now, and it has a lot of dimensions, really – on how to synchronise your sustainable development initiatives and carbon emission initiatives with your core responsibilities. The implementation is a really challenging one. In my opinion, policy-makers, after coming from initiatives, like the G8, should cascade down to a certain environmental authority, and this environmental authority, in turn, should pass the details further down to the people. When it comes to sustainable development-related initiatives, we are seeing a paradigm shift in the UAE, which is positive, but we are missing out on strict implementation measures. In my view, implementation needs three major components to be successful.

First of all, you have to support the mission of the companies that have initiatives relating to reducing carbon emissions. You have to convince them how to move forward towards improvement, and there should be incentives. For instance, Local Order 27 was issued a few years back, and in response, we built thermal storage tanks in all our plants. DEWA have promised they will give peak and off-peak rates, and we are waiting for that to be implemented. So, you build, and you end up increasing your capital cost. You are not getting the benefit of it, except by reducing the load of the chillers, because the tariff has not been changed. One of the major strategic pillars of Emicool is environmental impact, and research and development. We are really investing in R&D, but to cascade it down, if there is no initiative and you do not let the end user feel the changes, it would be really a strategy that has not been implemented. To give you another example, there is talk of a carbon bank. There are many strategic approaches, but the implementation needs to be there, as well. First of all, we are not managing the timeframe of the implementation. We would like to have RSB to continue the line of thought and implement rules and guidelines. All of us agreed on it, and it took time, so time is an element that affects the implementation of any strategic approach. But when you look at the entire region, the UAE is taking care of these initiatives and working towards implementation. We have the UAE Energy Strategy 2050. And Dubai wants to increase the penetration of District Cooling, and we would love to see District Cooling really moving towards a new era of development of growth.

Dr Adib Moubadder

A major challenge is that the customer is still not feeling the benefits of District Cooling. Could you please elaborate?

The master developer is reducing capex but is not sharing with the end-user, so this needs to be examined. There should be support of all authorities towards District Cooling, and urban planning must make District Cooling mandatory, as is the case in many European countries. The concept of District Heating is considered mandatory above a certain megawatt profile, to ensure there is capex reduction for the government authorities related to the generation of electricity, production of gas turbines or diesel. Without the new trends, the cost of doing so would be high, plus there is the potential of causing damage to the environment. We are seeing a drastic boom in energy generation, worldwide, and massive volumes of fuel are being burnt to generate electricity. We have to cut down on this, and District Cooling is one of the strategic pillars for doing so.

Are you working with master planners, architects and other upstream stakeholders in a collaborative manner to reduce heat load in buildings, so you are able to optimise the cost of constructing District Cooling schemes, which could, in turn, give cost benefits to customers?

To be honest, this issue is being discussed with many developers, but the master developer is being driven by the thoughts of his consultants. And to be honest, consultants in the UAE and in the Gulf region, in general, still believe they should take into consideration peak summer demand while designing. Now, peak summer demand happens only in July and August. If you get the data weather parameters from a reliable data source, we find this happens only a few hours in a year. Also, ASHRAE has a standard, which encourages you to go for a factor of safety, but this does not take into consideration the diversity benefits of District Cooling, and so in many cases, the building load is overdesigned to capacity. At Emicool, we have a lot of initiatives to work on a dynamic load concept, which could help us arrive at an accurate figure.

To what extent are you using artificial intelligence in your District Cooling scheme?

We have advanced AI through our ERP system, and we now know exactly the factors of safety that have to be taken. And we are able to measure consumption every four hours, which means we have real data. We simulate this real data to original selected load, which gives us what I call a ‘load print’. It is totally different and unique – we believe it is different from the curve produced by consultants.

By how much?

It depends on which month we are assessing and on the variability of the weather. So, if someone comes and tells you, it is 15, 20 or 30% at certain time of the year, we can’t be sure, because global warming, and the change it has brought about in the weather, no longer allows us to adopt a linear model. We are seeing fluctuations in temperature. Speaking of this year, we haven’t seen such cold or low temperatures in April and May maybe in the past five or six years. People take accumulated data for the month, so the demand has been reduced than any other year, which means customers also start buying into the concept of sustainability. Returning to the question, there should be a sort of a dynamic load curve driven by experts in the market, which ought to be given to the government. So, when a person goes to Dubai Municipality for heat load, the question posed to him should be, ‘Is it for DC or not DC?’ If DC, he should be told to take a certain trend. That way, we can really shave the peak load, and we could give the end-user better results.

As a utility provider, what’s your response to the Low Delta T Syndrome? Do you penalise your customers if they don’t return the water at a certain specified temperature?

The Low Delta T penalty is clear, it’s a contractual right, and it is worldwide. It’s a syndrome, which could affect efficiency and damage all the sustainability initiatives you have built in the plant. The idea is that you need to generate chilled water with the lowest kilowatt – that’s the concept. Once you have a Low Delta T Syndrome in a building, or a group of buildings, it has a massive repercussion at the plant.

So, you do impose a penalty?

We are a very customer-focused company. The idea is not to penalise. We are always looking at the options to improve delta T, and we give a grace period, which I think has been computed up to three or four years, to ensure the customer has the right occupancy profile, because it is also unfair for low occupancy. I’m trying to be customer-focused. Do you know we are the only company since inception that has not increased any of our tariffs. We haven’t increased any, except the consumption, which is correlated to DEWA escalation of rates. All other charges are steady.

With respect to Low Delta T, do you make any provisions for those customers who have undertaken energy-retrofit in their buildings? The context, of course, is the emphasis the Government of Dubai is placing on retrofitting existing buildings. 

Retrofit is crucial for the success of District Cooling, and it will reduce the load demand of a building. We have done a lot of initiatives towards this. We are doing R&D for special chillers, and within a very short duration, you would be able to sit with us and discuss the new concept, where we will be shaving the load.

But if the cooling load of a building comes down, the customer would not be returning the water at the specified temperature, yes? Isn’t that a conflict?

No, it is not. And that is the beauty of it. It is a conflict if your building is not served by District Cooling. As a utility, we don’t make too much profit on consumption – it’s minimal, and in certain cases, it is less than four per cent. Our objective is to reduce consumption, so that we can reduce our utility bill.


Surendar Balakrishnan is the Editor of Climate Control Middle East magazine, and Co-Founder and Editorial Director of CPI Industry. He may be contacted at surendar@cpi-industry.com

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