Though sub-meters available in the UAE match up to international standards, the implementation process of sub-metering itself comes with a few caveats, says Ramesh Ramadurai, CFO and COO of Empower, in an interview with Naveena Sadasivam.
The concept of utility sub-metering that allows end-users to be billed for individual measured utility usage is not new. Even sub-metering of district cooling, which was perceived to be relatively new, has gained ground in the UAE, though it is evolving into a more standardised system that is fair to all stakeholders.
In an energy-hungry world, where conservation is the key and the onus is increasingly perceived to be on the consumer, sub-metering not only means ascertaining, quantifying and billing individual consumption of district cooling – or for that matter any form of utility that uses energy and resources – but it also means increasing efficiency, lowering consumption and encouraging frugality. Therefore, sub-metering has begun to play a crucial role in the measurement and billing of consumption. With new software tools available to more accurately keep tabs on individual consumption, sub-metering has become even more cutting-edge. Ramesh Ramadurai, CFO and COO of EMPOWER, the district cooling utility provider, answers a few vital questions on the subject.
Are you happy with the quality of sub-meters in the market?
The sub-meters available in the UAE are comparable to the ones used worldwide. In terms of quality and functionality, they are just as good and fit for the purpose.
What, in your opinion, needs improvement? Do you have issues with reliability and accuracy of sub-meters?
If installed and commissioned properly, sub-meters are reliable and accurate. Regular inspection of sub-meters will help maintain the overall integrity of the sub-metering solution.
Could you give specific examples where you think more needs to be done?
I would like to highlight the following issues that need to be tackled while providing a sub-metering solution:
- Lack of coordination between the building contractor and the sub-metering system integrator
- Lack of clarity in the scope of works between the building contractor and the sub-metering system integrator
- Difficulty in assigning responsibilities due to lack of clarity in scope of works between the building contractor and the sub-metering system integrator
- Issues with delay/availability of appropriate services from the telecom service
- Requirement to provide services before completion of proper installation and commissioning of sub-metering solution
Do you think installation practices of sub-meters are up to the mark?
It is important to closely monitor, supervise and coordinate the installation activity of sub-meters. If not attended to, the contractor/system integrator may not properly install sub-meters or may not verify the accuracy of the data provided for sub-meters. This may result in wrong billing and may lead to customer complaints and, consequently, customer dissatisfaction.
What role does the external environment, like ambient conditions, sandstorms and humidity play on sub-meters?
Sub-meters are installed inside buildings, and are generally unaffected by the external environmental conditions.
Have you received any complaints from end-users? If so, what are the issues?
Complaints from customers are generally for high/abnormal/ average consumption readings in cases of meter tampering or meter failure. Such complaints can be proactively investigated and resolved by regular monitoring of meter readings and by examining physical condition of the meters.
Is tampering of sub-meters an issue?
Yes, tampering of sub-meters is an issue, and such actions can be discouraged by levying penalties or fines. We have observed that a high fine for tampering acts as a deterrent.
What new projects, if any, do you have in the region?
Empower has been actively promoting the concept of sub-metering. Developers and end-users are now more aware of the benefits of sub-metering and prefer sub-metering solutions for their buildings/units.
Empower has witnessed an increasing demand for sub-metering solutions in the new upcoming developments, and is currently installing sub-metering solutions in various buildings located in Business Bay, DIFC, and IMPZ projects. Even building owners who had not planned for sub-metering initially are approaching us for sub-metering solutions in their projects.
Are there any new initiatives or developments taking place at Empower?
We continuously work towards increasing customer awareness in utilising energy resources responsibly, and have recently initiated a programme to educate customers and provide them with useful tips regarding better utilisation and conservation of energy, and effectively utilising the district cooling services.