x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Energy authority to help people cut above average electricity and water consumption

The Federal Electricity and Water Authority wants to educate and change attitudes in a country that has, per capita, one of the highest consumption rates in the world.

DUBAI // Homeowners, businesses and mosques in five of the seven emirates whose electricity and water consumption is above average are being urged to cut their usage.

As part of a strategy to make people more aware of the country’s finite resources, the Federal Electricity and Water Authority (Fewa) is to keep a close eye on consumption in its areas of jurisdiction.

The measure applies to expatriates, businesses and mosques, who pay for the use of utilities, as well as Emirati households.

“We will have the history of consumption for each entity, or each premises,” said Mohammed Saleh, the director general of Fewa.

“From that history, we will be targeting the people who are above the normal. We will work with them together, to bring that down to the normal level and to cut that extra consumption.”

The UAE has one of the highest energy consumptions, per capita, in the world, with the average citizen consuming 20 to 30 kilowatt hours per day. The international average is 7 to 15 kilowatt hours.

Mr Saleh declined to say what was a “normal” level in the UAE, adding that it varied depending on the size and function of the premises. However, on an international per-capita basis, normal would be 15 kilowatt hours.

“The targets will be based on their premises, rather than having global targets,” he said. “We have our database and, from that database, we’ll establish communication with those people.”

He said the authority did not want to set specific targets to be achieved within a certain timeframe. Instead, it was about gradual change.

“What we want to do is to change the culture of the people,” he said. “That will take at least five to seven years.”

Fewa is the provider for emirates other than Abu Dhabi and Dubai, which both have their own respective authorities.

Last month, Fewa announced it would increase its tariff for electricity and water by 14 to 17 per cent.

The Minister of Energy, Suhail Mohammed Faraj Al Mazrouei, said Fewa’s strategy was part of a national plan.

“As a regulator, we are closely involved in structuring and promoting those initiatives,” he said. “This is part of a nationwide strategy to ensure energy security.”

A similar campaign has run in Dubai for the past few years, which involved inspectors travelling to key government and business consumers and helping them conserve resources.

In the first nine months of 2012, the authority saved 2.7 million kilowatt hours of electricity and 20 million gallons of water, which translated to a saving of about Dh1.75 million. More recent figures were not immediately available.

This is the first time that a utility provider has targeted residential premises, though there will be no punishment for overconsumption.

“It’s an initiative, it’s not mandatory,” said Mr Al Mazrouei. “But it’s more than a basic awareness campaign, because we will engage with them directly over their consumption.”

The United Nations Development Programme announced that Arab countries may need to invest more than US$200 billion (Dh734.6bn) over the next 10 years to secure water resources.

The government provides free utilities to Emirati households, and Mr Saleh said that will not change, but he still wants to change local attitudes towards conserving resources.

“To do that you have to let them know that these resources are limited,” said Mr Saleh. “We will target students and young people. We will take them to the desalination plant so they will see how difficult it is just to get one drop of water.”

He added that Fewa would target people on a sector by sector basis and that some of the worst perpetrators when it comes to wasteful consumption are mosques.

“Prayer time is only five times a day and each prayer is maximum only 30 minutes,” Mr Saleh said. “But the A/C is running all day. That’s misusing the power.

“Also, when people do ablutions, they open the taps fully and let them run.

“We want to educate people better, and change the culture. Only then can we have a lasting change and secure our resources for the future.”

mcroucher@thenational.ae