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Denmark Dialogue

In a collaborative spirit, Denmark draws diverse gathering of building industry stakeholders in the UAE for the sharing of strategies and solutions relating to District Cooling, building retrofits and Green Buildings

| | Dec 24, 2019 | 10:49 am
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The Trade Council of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark conducted ‘Green Building, Retrofit and District Cooling Seminar 4.0’ on November 11 and 12 in Dubai. Sponsored by DBDH and the Danish Embassy in the UAE, the seminar was an opportunity for the Nordic country to as much share its HVAC- related expertise with a diverse gathering of building industry stakeholders as to listen to thought leaders in the UAE, notably representatives from the UAE Ministry of Energy and Industry and the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy.

Speaking on the occasion, H.E. Franz-Michael Skjold Mellbin, Ambassador of Denmark to the UAE, said, “We have brought together a number of speakers interested in the 4th Industrial Revolution for Green Buildings, retrofits and District Cooling and Heating solutions. We will be discussing District Energy strategies and solutions that hopefully will give improvements to building users and also provide great societal benefits.”

H.E. Mellbin spoke of how Denmark has worked on these projects for many years and has allowed public-private partnerships (PPPs) to develop to bring lasting benefits. He said that any talk on energy efficiency and climate change solutions in the country is in the context of the interests of the user. “When we provide efficiency or do retrofits, we bring direct benefits for the end-user,” he said. “The benefits are lower costs, better indoor climate and increase in livability.

H.E. Mellbin said that Denmark is home to a number of companies, such as ABK, Danfoss, Desmi, Frese and Kamstrup who have developed expertise in the areas of District Cooling. Likewise, he spoke of companies like Combimix, Danfoss, the Danish Technological Institute, Energy Arabia (local representative of Novenco), KE Fibertec, North Q, Rambøll, Rockwool, Smart Ceiling & JS Koncept and VELUX, who have expertise in retrofit and green building projects.Acknowledging that the UAE has set itself high ambitions, he said that bringing Denmark and the UAE together is a way to how we can improve energy efficiency in this part of the world. “Building efficiency is about integrating a systems approach to apply in large building stocks, as we see here,” he said. “We do hope Denmark and the UAE together will create joint solutions, and we believe there is a lot to talk about.”

Speaking after him, H.E. Eng. Fatima Al Foora Al Shamsi, Assistant Undersecretary for Electricity, Water and Future Energy Affairs, Ministry of Energy & Industry, UAE, said that annual growth of demand for energy stands at six per cent in the UAE. The clearest route to manage demand is to focus on energy efficiency, she said. “Energy efficiency is the most sustainable and affordable energy-reduction strategy,” she said.

Air conditioning, she pointed out, is still dominating energy use. It represents more than 70% of energy demand in the country, she said. Efficient cooling through innovation from technology providers would lower energy consumption even further, she added.

Broadly speaking, H.E. Al Shamsi said the country is developing its national energy programme, in collaboration with many entities in the UAE. “We hope we achieve our target, especially the cost of energy,” she said. “We have started the process of revising our strategy and are looking at PPP. Development of technology is essential.”

Ramiz Hamdan from the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy said that the Emirate has ambitious targets in the field of energy. “We are in the middle of an energy transition, and it is based on collaboration, cooperation and coordination,” he said. Hamdan spoke of the Emirate’s Demand Side Management & Energy Rationalization Strategy 2030. He elaborated on how the Department is developing strategic initiatives that diversify and secure energy sources for economic, environmental and social responsibility. Among them are very ambitious grid-scale PV projects and nuclear energy, he highlighted. He echoed H.E. Al Shamsi when he said, the Department is striving to “maximise value through the very first fuel – energy efficiency”.

Hamdan said the Department has developed an energy efficiency strategy that is clear with its targets: 22% reduction in consumption of electricity and 32% reduction in consumption of water by 2030. He said the Abu Dhabi Executive Council has also introduced the first-of-its-kind District Cooling regulations. He added that the Emirate has initiated the registration and accreditation of ESCOs, M&V guidelines and energy services contracting guidelines to spur building retrofit projects in Abu Dhabi.

Speaking after Hamdan, Soren Berg Lorenzen, Head of Planning for Energy at Frederiksberg Utility, in the collaborative and knowledge-sharing spirit of the Seminar, elaborated on how Denmark approaches District Cooling system design in an integrated manner, with a keen eye on the future. Frederiksberg, in the middle of the capital of Denmark, is one of the most densely populated areas in Europe, Lorenzen said. He went on to say that the utility established its District Cooling operations only in 2012, but it is drawing from its “116 years of experience in District Heating”.

Lorenzen spoke of how Denmark is home to 400 District Heating companies and has 30,000 kilometres of District Heating piping network.

Elaborating on the demand-side profile in the context of District Cooling, he touched on two aspects, in particular that require attention – energy transfer stations (ETSes) and the accurate estimation of cooling load.

In the case of ETSes, Lorenzen said, the issue is relating to who owns them. “We would like to own the ETSes in the buildings,” he said. “Some of the inefficiencies in building are from ETSes, so having control over them would be good.”

With regard to the estimate of the cooling needed, he said, it is one of the primary issues in Denmark. “It seems very difficult for engineers to predict,” he said. “They tend to overestimate the cooling need.”

In terms of production units, Lorenzen said, Denmark uses many different technologies and approaches for District Energy, such as absorption heat pumps; electrical compression chillers; free cooling via sea, lake and air during winter; and integration with District Heating via heat pumps. And in terms of thermal energy storage, he said, while steel tanks are common in District Heating, aquifer thermal energy storage (ATES) is growing in popularity. “We drink our groundwater in Denmark, so we have to make sure we don’t thermally pollute the water, though,” he said.

Lorenzen said District Heating and District Cooling regimens in Denmark are underpinned by a strong government framework. At the Municipality level, he said, this includes urban planning and strategic energy planning. At a federal level, the government intervention, he said, is in the forms of laws, regulations, and national targets and plans. “In Denmark,” he said, “we have a law that can force people to connect to District Heating.” Speaking in relation to the utility he represents, he said only 44 buildings in the whole network are not connected to District Heating. “It is hassle-free to be part of the scheme,” he said.

Giving a UAE perspective on District Cooling utilities, Muna Al Nahdi, Manager – Energy Management, South Energy, said District Cooling is a key driver for sustainable development. Quoting a UN report, she said the world’s population stood at 4.2 billion people in 2018, with a strong urban leaning, which she said was responsible for 70% of carbon emissions. Sustainable development, she said, cannot be achieved without a significant transformation in the way we build and manage our cities.

Speaking specifically on the Dubai South development, of which South Energy is a part, Al Nahdi pointed out that the development spans an area of 145 square kilometres. Dubai South’s energy strategy, she said, comprises six programmes managed by South Energy. Among them are District Cooling, clean energy and renewables, Building energy efficiency retrofits, efficient infrastructure and a centralised domestic gas network.

Speaking specifically on District Cooling, she said, it improves system reliability and provides better cooling quality. Dubai South, she said, has a potential demand of 1.2 million tonnes of refrigeration (TR). As of today, she said, South Energy has a connected load profile of 25,000 TR and hopes to achieve 36,500 TR by 2020.

With a view to creating an appealing model for building owners, Al Nahdi said, the South Energy approach to District Cooling includes engaging the customers and understanding their needs, as opposed to making assumptions made by planners. “We set targets and draw a roadmap, because whatever decisions are made at this time are critical, because they will determine the performance over the next 20 years,” she said.

Al Nahdi said it is important to be a partner of customers and to work as a team. We have noticed that HVAC systems typically are overdesigned by 30-40% capacity. So, our approach involves issuing a set of guidelines to design the HVAC system, reviewing the final load calculations of the secondary-side system, and agreeing on correct assumptions and peak loads.

Broadly speaking, she said, South Energy’s approach hinges on better planning, which includes adopting smaller-sized, more dynamic integrated plants, which are scalable. “Not only that, we utilise lands of low commercial value, reduce pumping equipment and target a cost- effective system,” she said. “We also aim for reduced O&M costs. We have learnt our lesson and do not do large-sized plants. Our philosophy is not to oversize the plants. We review the customer’s design and determine actual demand, because large-capacity plants face partial-load issues, are difficult to control or optimise, have low Delta T problems and increase O&M costs.”

Al Nahdi said, South Energy follows an approach of exploring new technologies and applying advanced design principles. The scope includes selecting the best thermal energy systems and high-quality equipment with better efficiency. The utility is also considering other innovative technologies, such as trigeneration, and a control and command centre.

George Berbari, CEO of consulting firm, DC PRO Engineering, said South Energy is a utility that is most receptive to new ideas, which he added, is refreshing.

Speaking, then, on the need for carbon-neutral cities, Berbari said District Cooling has a distinct and decisive role to play in achieving neutrality. He called for a new approach to plant design, new utility and District Cooling rates, and an integrated chilled water network in the Middle East region. “At the moment, many District Cooling companies are fighting each other and are not allowing passage through energy corridors,” he said.

Berbari bemoaned the lack of trust among District Cooling companies in the region. “We need a neutral body to step in,” he said. “The municipalities could own 40-50% of the plants, so that we get a neutral voice. Given the situation, here is an opportunity for Denmark to export its knowledge. It’s a very rare model you have in Denmark, and you can seriously help us here in the Middle East, with your soft diplomacy approach.”


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