One of the themes that emerged during the recently concluded 5th International District Cooling Conference and Trade Show, in Doha, Qatar, was that the industry needed to do a better job at getting its point across to the authorities, in a bid to earn a level playing field for district cooling.
Dr Anwar Hassan, one of the delegates at the conference, conducted by the International District Energy Association (IDEA), perhaps put it across most succinctly when he indicated that it was about time the industry talked the walk. He felt it was no longer enough for the industry to say that district cooling can reduce power consumption, save on footprint costs, slash maintenance costs and offer better service while doing so; it had to go ahead and provide hard, cold facts to substantiate the statements.
I cannot agree more with Dr Hassan. It is important for the longevity and well being of the industry that it evolves a culture of collecting, analysing and sharing the data. This is a task easier said than done, though, because it involves the need to be transparent and forthright. District cooling companies in the region have different approaches and operating procedures to providing chilled water, which impacts the data that emerges; as a result, companies are, perhaps, reluctant to share the data, apprehensive that their operations may appear to be inefficient in comparison to their competitors. A second challenge is the cost and the time involved in collecting the data; in many ways, this is an offshoot of the first challenge.
Impractical as this suggestion may sound, the industry urgently needs a certain dose of intellectual honesty to survive. And also unity.
Almost from the beginning of district cooling in the region, there has been a certain polarisation in the industry. This is painfully evident during the conference season (which now is all-year round, such is the surfeit of platforms), when there is hardly one event that attracts all the key players. For reasons best known to them, different players stay away from different events, preferring to attend, what they feel, is the most important of all. As a result, there is hardly a single platform for a comprehensive discussion on issues.
As Climate Control Middle East, we attempt to bridge the gap and share all that is discussed during the various conferences, but in all honesty, while it has its merits, this approach to communication is, at times, second to face-to-face interaction.