Dubai lowers use of district cooling despite hot summer

Dubai’s usage of district cooling dropped last month – even as temperatures soared.

This comes as utilities across the region are shifting their strategies to balance supply and demand – and as consumers do their bit to lean on their AC a little less. Emirates Central Cooling Systems Corporation (Empower) said yesterday that district cooling consumption last month fell 19.6 per cent from the same month last year.

Empower’s clients include such places as the Dubai International Financial Centre and Business Bay. Empower’s chief executive Ahmad Bin Shafar attributed the consumption drop to its campaign, Set to 24°C and Save. He said the statistics showing a reduction in end-user consumption highlighted the campaign’s effectiveness. “Despite the higher customer base we have this year compared to last year, we have succeeded in reaching a larger segment of them during this campaign and consolidating their commitment to use district cooling services rationally,” he said.

District cooling is the chilled water that is delivered to cool the air in buildings, and more cooling measures are needed during the summer months.

Last month’s weather was hotter than in August the year before.

Temperatures averaged 49°C last month compared to 41°C a year earlier, according to figures from Accuweather.

The utility’s strategy falls in line with government efforts across the region to ease the burden of energy subsidies. GCC countries have reduced energy subsidies by nearly half, to 3.4 per cent of GDP this year compared to 6.5 per cent two years ago, according to Emirates NBD.

The IMF estimates that energy subsidies have cost the UAE as much as US$29 billion annually.

While governments in the region have been looking to decrease subsidies to alleviate budgets, utilities are struggling to meet the increase in electricity usage with additional infrastructure required.

Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) said that if its customers kept their thermostats at 24°C, it could avoid installing about 300 megawatts of electricity generation equipment. The country’s energy demand is growing at about 9 per cent per year, according to the UAE State of Energy Report.

Dewa also added that raising indoor temperatures a few degrees would save 270 million kilowatt-hours annually, resulting in about Dh81 million in cost savings. In addition, the amount of electricity saved could be used to provide 11,000 apartments with power for one year.

For Michael Kortbawi, a partner at Dubai-based Bin Shabib & Associates law firm, setting his air conditioner to 24°C began last year after seeing an announcement. “I thought maybe if locals were saying this, I’d give it a try and maybe it would work,” he said.

He realised that 24°C was a perfect temperature for him as a solo occupant, but he still questions if there is a significant change in his bill. “The cooling invoices are still very expensive,” he said.

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