The global position
Today, a worldwide movement back towards social, economic and environmental sustainability is underway. As cities occupy 3 per cent of the earth’s land mass, yet account for almost 80 per cent of energy consumption and nearly 75 per cent of carbon emissions, it is imperative for their 3.5 billion inhabitants to live in a more environmentally friendly and sustainable manner.
To this end, most big cities have established strategies to become more sustainable. According to the United Nations Development Programme, in 2016, 810 environment projects were underway in 143 cities across the globe with a total investment value of $3.13bn, while another $14.12bn of co-financing had been leveraged for environmental and sustainable development projects.
Vancouver in Canada is aiming to become the world’s greenest city by 2020 and has introduced an overcharging plan that tackles the areas of carbon reduction, waste management and ecosystem management. Edmonton, also in Canada, is implementing challenging projects such as building a waste to biofuel plant, which will convert 100,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste into 36 million litres of biofuels a year, reducing the city’s carbon footprint by 6 million tonnes over the next 25 years with the aim of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
Many other cities around the world, including Durban in South Africa, Bogota in Columbia, Melbourne in Australia and Oslo in Norway, are implementing similar projects, with the ambition of becoming some of the most sustainable cities in the world.
A greener Dubai
Ranked among the fastest growing metropolitan areas, Dubai is no exception. The government has committed to many environmentally friendly projects in a bid to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In November 2015, Dubai government launched an ambitious programme to position the emirate as the global capital of the green economy. It plans to achieve this via the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, which commits to a 30 per cent reduction in electricity and water consumption by 2030, and aims for 75 per cent of our energy requirements to be met by clean sources by 2050. It also aims for Dubai to have one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world.
The flagship project in the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 is the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, one of the world’s largest single site solar developments, covering an area of 30 square miles.
The park will have a capacity of 5,000MW by the time it is completed in 2030, at a total investment cost of AED50bn ($14bn). The huge project is helping to transform the global solar industry and reduce the cost of utility-scale solar while pushing the boundaries of solar technologies.
The latest phase of the project, due to be operational in 2020, is especially groundbreaking with the world’s biggest thermal energy storage capacity of 15 hours. One of the long-time barriers to the wider deployment of solar power has been the inability to store the energy produced, so with this project, Dubai is advancing the industry for the benefit of the city.
It shows just what Dubai can do. We are fortunate to have a decisive and fast-acting government, the capability to build whatever we want, and to build it quickly. Sustainability is now at the heart of everything our government does - it is also the central theme of the Expo 2020.
An energy saving culture is rapidly developing here in Dubai; we are seeing green building embraced by the construction industry and clean energy generation is now being explored, which is huge progress. All the major companies and organisations here are coming up with initiatives to support the government’s environment strategy and DWTC is certainly among them.
Four years ago, shortly after I joined DWTC, we started our own energy efficiency initiatives, beginning with a review of the standard operating procedures of our building to ensure that lights and air conditioning are only turned on when they are really needed. We also installed more than 10,000 LED lights and recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Dubai Municipality to use Dubai Lamps, which consume 90 per cent less energy than conventional light bulbs. Developed by Dubai Municipality in partnership with Philips, the Dubai Lamp uses just 1 to 3 watts of electricity.
These simple steps have reduced our energy consumption significantly – so far this year our electricity usage is down by 10 per cent compared with last year, and that is with us hosting the same number of events.
Such tangible results are really important as we can measure the positive outcome of our efforts. This also provides motivation to continue looking for more ways to curb our energy usage and, of course, it also helps to get additional budgets signed off.
Our efforts to be more sustainable extend beyond energy usage. We have retrofitted our buildings with water-saving taps, and have explored ways to increase waste recycling. There are some interesting possibilities out there, for example you can now get food waste digesters that can convert leftovers into water.
We have also installed 11 electric car charging stations in support of the big push to encourage people to use electric cars under the Dubai Green Mobility initiative. We are basically trying to build a sustainable mindset, so we are constantly looking at and thinking about how we can do things better.
Every government-related entity and public department in Dubai is working towards the goal of reducing energy and water consumption by 30 per cent by 2030, and we are all constantly monitoring where we are against where we want to be.
And in doing so collectively, Dubai will become the leader of the green economy, not just regionally but on an international scale.
This year at DWTC, our focus has been on solar power. In March, we completed a project to install 3,000 photovoltaic solar panels on the roof above Sheikh Rashid Hall. The panels have a combined capacity of 1MW peak and will help save 2,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.
We have also constructed a six-storey car park, which has solar panels on the roof with the capacity of 400KW peak. And by the end of this year, we hope to have a further 3MW of photovoltaic solar panels in place. This means that in just one year we will have installed 4.4MW of solar capacity. And if you think of our efforts being repeated by other government-related entities and public departments across Dubai, the numbers quickly start to add up.
In July 2017, Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA) launched the Shams programme, which makes it easier for consumers to install solar panels. The electricity generated by the panels is fed into DEWA’s grid and the value of the amount produced is deducted from the consumer’s consumption charges.
The payback period for solar rooftop installations is around five years, thanks to the sharp fall in the cost of the technology in recent years. This makes the Shams Dubai initiative especially attractive.
Unfortunately, we have limited space suitable for solar at DWTC which limits our ability to implement more solar projects.