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Air conditioners in Abu Dhabi

Demand-Side Management in Abu Dhabi

Expert analysis and planning support efforts to reduce consumption and boost energy efficiency in a fast-growing and subsidized economy

Faced with high levels of greenhouse gas emissions and disproportionate reliance on natural gas for electricity and production of potable water, the United Arab Emirates launched a strategy to moderate energy and water consumption and diversify supply sources by 2030. For countries like the UAE, growing energy and water demand coupled with sustainability and security issues have driven leaders to make efficiency and sustainability a top priority.

With energy and water costs heavily subsidized throughout the region, there has been little incentive historically for households or businesses to limit consumption.  Subsidization can create a distortion between the true costs for production and the prices consumers are asked to pay. Because they do not accurately capture or reflect opportunity costs, these relatively low prices compromise incentive mechanisms aimed at reducing consumption.

Performing Energy Efficiency Assessments, Value Forecasts, and Pilot Tests against the Backdrop of Societal and Environmental Factors

Faced with the challenge of designing a unique program for a subsidized approach, in 2008 our team of economists, market analysts, and engineers performed demand-side management analyses for the Executive Affairs Authority in the United Arab Emirates.

Our final report included international best practices, summaries of successful demand –side management (DSM) programs worldwide, and recommendations for implementing DSM in the Emirate. Based on this report, we led to a pilot project focused on maintenance of air conditioning systems (A/C) in 10 buildings aimed to represent the challenges posed by energy consumption in the country. We created a maintenance protocol and a survey of A/C maintenance vendors in Abu Dhabi to better understand their challenges. The data collected allowed our team to estimate the resources necessary to scale up an Emirate-wide maintenance program, and outline the potential environmental benefits of implementation.

In 2011, we developed the Comprehensive Cooling Plan (CCP) Database, which integrated utility customer data with geographical information systems data on more than 100,000 buildings in Abu Dhabi. Using the database, our team was able to estimate the technical potential, economic impacts, and environmental impacts associated with implementing strategies aimed at reducing energy consumption associated with A/C systems.

The following year, we presented a hybrid strategy to the Abu Dhabi government, sharing proposed measures, benefit and cost projects through 2025, an implementation schedule, and a series of pilot studies to explore the viability of full-scale implementation. Later that year, we developed and conducted a pre-test of the CCP Building Survey on several buildings in Abu Dhabi to refine the survey and implementation strategy and gather requirements for the full building survey.

Our experts trained 32 A/C technicians who surveyed more than 1,200 buildings and more than 200 villas. We developed a web-based portal to provide access to the data for government agencies and other stakeholders in Abu Dhabi and, based on the data, identified representative buildings for planned pilot projects on chiller optimization.

In 2013, we launched a study to analyze metered usage data to measure the impacts of weather and building characteristics, uncover trends in the degradation of efficiency, and inform decisions about frequency of maintenance.

Advancing DSM across the Emirate

Over the course of seven years, our team supported demand-side management in Abu Dhabi at every stage:

  • Baselining technical and economic savings potential
  • Developing a comprehensive DSM strategy for the Emirate
  • Conducting pilot projects to demonstrate achievable savings and cost effectiveness
  • Supporting actual implementation of the DSM program within the Abu Dhabi Distribution Company.

Our team developed a series of presentations to help build momentum for this effort within the country. By building an air-tight business case that helped resolve conflicting mandates, we were able to forge consensus and buy-in among diverse stakeholders.

At every stage of the process, our team played an integral role in demonstrating the role of energy efficiency and demand-side management in the face of significant growth and government-subsidized energy. This project helped boost awareness of DSM in the region and sparked collaboration among key agencies to pursue potential solutions. These agencies are continuing to build on our study findings to support their own DSM initiatives and promote integrated decision-making, planning, and implementation.