x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Electricity charges to rise in Abu Dhabi

With some of the cheapest electricity and water costs in the world soon to end, fees based on demand may be on the way.

ABU DHABI // Water and electricity officials have confirmed rates will rise in the capital to encourage residents to better consider the strain on the world's resources.

The Executive Council is considering a new cost structure that would lead to price hikes to reduce overall levels of consumption across the emirate, said the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority (Adwea).

The changes will push people to consider more carefully the burden on resources every time they turn on a light or a tap, said Humaid al Shamsi, a spokesman for Adwea.

"They studied many aspects for this proposal," he said. "And one aspect is to have people think more about using what they use, before they do. This is for the environment and to reduce the costs."

Mr al Shamsi's comments came after the deputy director general of the Abu Dhabi Distribution Company (ADDC), Abdulrahman al Dhaheri, told last week's Middle East Power and Electricity Generation Fair that water and electricity prices would increase soon. The Executive Council is expected to decide on future pricing by the end of this month.

The new system would replace the current flat-rate system - one of the cheapest in the world - that charges Emirati homes and businesses five fils per kilowatt-hour and expatriates 15 fils. Water is free for Emiratis and one fil per gallon for non-nationals.

When a consumer uses 1,000 watts an hour, that's a kilowatt-hour. A typical medium window-unit air conditioner is 1,000 watts.

Environmentalists have argued a flat-rate system does little to dissuade overusing resources.

"Now they are thinking of proposing something to have it based on timing, like Etisalat billing, with peak-times use," Mr al Shamsi said. "So if you use your electricity heavily, like from 10 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon, it will charge you more than if you're using it at night."

Another possibility is a "slab tariffs system" similar to what is in place in Dubai and Sharjah. That system involves gradually increasing pricing tiers and has been proved to effectively lower power and water consumption.

"Right now people are using the water and electricity at very low prices," Mr al Shamsi said. "When it costs more, people will start conserving more."

Tamara Withers, a sustainability officer with the Emirates Wildlife Society, said the average Abu Dhabi resident consumes more than 550 litres of water per day - triple the global average.

"There are simple things that can be done," she said. "Take a five-minute shower rather than a bath and you can reduce usage by 38 litres a day. In terms of energy, look at the thermostat and turn it up by two degrees. You might not feel a difference, but you'll see a difference in your final bill."

Darren Barwick, a British ADDC customer, pays about Dh900 a month for water and electricity in his household. He favours peak-use hydro rates, "both for environmental reasons and so as not to throw away so much money".

"I don't want it to go up for all times, but to make it cheaper for off-peak-hours service would be better," said Mr Barwick, 44. "They need to encourage you to use less by making it a bit cheaper."

Khalfan Salem, an Emirati resident, agreed with the scheme to reduce overall consumption. But with a utility bill of Dh1,900 a month to run a villa housing four people and a maid, the prospect of higher costs did not sit well.

"It's already too much now," said Mr Salem, 42. "They should think about the location of the country. Nine months it is hot here and people have to use AC all the time."