On target: five strides towards sustainability


On target: five strides towards sustainability

Dubai has committed to reducing electricity and water usage by 30 per cent by 2030, and for clean energy to account for 75 per cent of power output by 2050. The emirate also aims to become one of the world’s lowest carbon footprint cities by 2050. We highlight five key initiatives taking Dubai towards its targets


Solar energy​

Through the construction of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the largest single-site solar park in the world, Dubai is now recognised as a leader in the solar industry. Launched in 2012, each phase of the project has dramatically helped to reduce the cost of solar technology. The solar park currently has a production capacity of 713MW, with a further 1,250MW under construction. By 2030, the site will have a capacity of 5,000MW, representing a total investment of AED50bn.

Complementing its utility scale projects, Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA) has rolled out a distributed solar energy programme, which encourages commercial and residential building owners to install photovoltaic solar panels on the roofs of their premises. Since it was launched in 2015, a total of 125MW of solar capacity has been added through the programme, through more than 1,354 rooftop installations.

DEWA has estimated that Dubai will need to have 42,000MW of clean and renewable energy capacity installed in order to reach the 75 per cent target by 2050, meaning the emirate will remain at the forefront of developments in the clean energy space.

Electric vehicles

One of the barriers towards the greater take up of electric vehicles across the globe has been the lack of supporting infrastructure. It is the classic chicken and egg scenario – demand is needed to justify investing in infrastructure, but without the infrastructure there can be no demand. In Dubai, DEWA has rolled out 200 electric vehicle charging stations throughout the emirate to make it easy for people to switch from diesel and petrol cars.

It has installed charging stations at locations including leisure and retail destinations, clinics and hospitals, petrol stations, government offices, Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai International Financial Centre and Dubai International airport.

To further drive the uptake of electric vehicles, DEWA also provides a range of incentives and discounts for owners through partnerships with government entities and private sector companies. Earlier this year, it teamed up with Dubai Islamic Bank to offer finance deals for electric vehicles. Until the end of this year, owners can also charge their cars for free.

Dubai government institutions have pledged that 10 per cent of their newly purchased cars will be be electric or hybrid, with the proportion of electric and hybrid cars in use rising to 10 per cent by 2030.​

Green building regulations

More than 19,000 buildings have been constructed under Dubai’s green building regulations and specifications, which were introduced for government establishments in 2011 and made mandatory for all buildings in 2014. The purpose of the regulations is to improve the efficiency of buildings by reducing the consumption of energy, water and materials during construction and the lifecycle of the building, thereby lessening the impact of the property on the environment.

The green building regulations are considered the highest impact programme under DEWA’s Demand Side Management (DSM) strategy, which aims to reduce power and water consumption by 30 per cent by 2030. The regulations are expected to account for just under a third of the total electricity and water savings, with minimal cost implications.

In 2016, the Dubai Green Building Evaluation System was introduced to provide buildings with ratings for their compliance with the regulations. The rating system is split into four classifications: platinum, gold, silver and bronze. Projects have to achieve the bronze rating in order to receive a building completion certificate.

The concept of Nearly Zero Energy Buildings is receiving growing interest in Dubai and is expected to become an important trend in the decade ahead.


Sustainable hotels

Dubai Tourism & Commerce Marketing (DTCM) launched a sustainable tourism strategy in 2016, with the aim of reducing the sector’s environmental impact. The strategy included a 12-point guide for hotels to help them cut their energy and water consumption and waste production. In May of this year, DTCM went a step further and issued its Dubai Sustainable Tourism mandate, establishing 19 sustainability requirements that hotel establishments must meet. The requirements cover areas such as energy, food and water management, guest education, employee training, sustainability committees and corporate social responsibility programmes for local communities.

DTCM says that it will begin auditing compliance with the mandate following an 18-month implementation period. To support the hotels in their endeavours, it has been conducting a series of training sessions throughout this year. Since 2017, hotels have been required to submit monthly emissions data using DTCM’s carbon calculator.

In addition to benefiting the environment, it has been estimated a hotel could cut its costs by 15-20 per cent each year by managing its resources more efficiently, through measures such as installing energy efficient bulbs and motion sensitive lighting, and lower flow rate showers, toilets and washbasins. An increase of just 1 degree Celsius can also save up to 5 per cent in air-conditioning costs.

Retrofitting buildings

At least a quarter of the existing building stock in Dubai is considered inefficient as the properties were constructed before the introduction of the emirate’s green building codes. DEWA has set itself the target of retrofitting 30,000 buildings to make them more efficient under its DSM strategy. 

he estimated cost of the retroffiting programme is AED30bn. Etihad Energy Services Company (Etihad ESCO), a subsidiary of DEWA, is driving the retroffiting activities through Taqati, which was established in 2016 as the dedicated programme management office for the DSM strategy. In 2018, Etihad ESCO installed high-efficiency lighting systems in hundreds of public and private buildings, including at DIFC, Jebel Ali Free Zone and Healthcare City, in addition to installing solar arrays under the Shams Dubai distributed power programme. Combined, its 2018 projects saved 114.75 million kilowatt hours of electricity and 132.15 million gallons of water. This translates into an annual reduction in carbon emissions of about 56,600 tonnes. This year, Etihad ESCO is aiming to retrofit 2,439 facilities.

Between 2010 and 2018, Dubai’s per capita consumption of electricity dropped by 14 per cent, and per capita water use fell 15 per cent, thanks to the DSM strategy.


  • Dubai
  • Energy
  • Solar