Abu Dhabi could save itself the cost of two power stations and a water desalination plant if it steps up measures to promote energy efficiency, a government study has found. Low prices, a lack of efficiency standards and consumers' wasteful habits have combined to push up power and water consumption far beyond the real requirements of the emirate, the study commissioned by the Executive Affairs Authority said.
A concerted effort to reduce electricity demand, including an overhaul of building codes, a public campaign to encourage conservation and a new incentive scheme for consumers to replace old air conditioners and other appliances could shave 2,532 megawatts (Mw) off the emirate's expected demand of 17,500Mw in 2020. In a best-case scenario, the authors of the report said, the installation of more efficient irrigation technologies and water-efficient taps and toilets could reduce consumption by 30 per cent, or 71 million imperial gallons (322.7 million litres) a day, equivalent to the capacity of a desalination plant.
"There's a clear business case for both water and electricity particularly as it relates to cooling and lighting," said Glenn Osmond, a senior director at RTI International, the consulting firm that completed the study. Consumption of electricity and water per head in the emirate is among the highest in the world, in part because government subsidies keep water and electricity bills low. Experts have said a reform of prices, or tariffs, should be a government priority as natural gas - the main feedstock for power plants - runs short and leaders proceed with a plan to build costly nuclear power plants and invest in renewable energy.
A new pricing scheme for water and electricity would have a significant impact on consumption patterns, said Abdulhamid Nassouri, the director of asset management at the Abu Dhabi Distribution Company, which supplies consumers in the capital with power and water. "It's a matter on which the Government must persist," he said. "I think it's going to take longer if we rely on the good nature of the people."
However, the study suggested demand could be reduced significantly even without a change in prices, said Guy Winebrenner, a senior vice president at Mactec, an engineering firm that helped complete the study. "There are many things that can be done without having the clear price signal present," he said. The Government, for example, could offer rebates to consumers to return older appliances and replace them with newer models, or set strict building codes that prohibit the installation of inefficient insulation or air conditioning in new buildings.
"The key is, when they get replaced, what are they going to be replaced with," Mr Winebrenner said. "It'll never be cheaper to do it than right now." email@example.com