x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

More power plants not the answer, expert says

New technology, better management and higher prices during peak times can solve nation's energy problems, an expert says.

Rather than building more power plants, utility companies should first look at more efficient technologies and consider charging higher prices for power in the summer, a leading energy expert has said. The demand for electricity in the UAE is growing faster than almost anywhere else in the world, but utilities have been slow to adopt proven solutions, said Dr Abdalla al Amiri, the general secretary of the Emirates Energy Award. The organisation recognises best practices in energy efficiency.

"There are many technologies that we spend a lot of time discussing, rather than implementing," he said. He also said charging consumers more for electricity during times of high demand would be a better solution than the current pricing system that "does not encourage anyone to save", Dr al Amiri said. A key priority for utility companies is to reduce peak loads in the summer, which come at great environmental and monetary cost. Peak power usage in the summer surpasses the winter peak by 40 per cent, most of it because of cooling demands.

As a consequence, in the summer months utilities have to burn diesel, a dirtier fuel, in addition to natural gas. A system called "inlet air cooling" lowers the temperature of the hot summer air to get more efficient operation from the turbines used to produce electricity. "This has been debated for more than 10 years," Dr al Amiri said. "Inlet air cooling can recover between five and 25 per cent of power output lost during hot summer months."

The Abu Dhabi Water and Energy Authority said it has been using inlet cooling since 2004 but did not provide details about the system. "We constantly look for the recent technology to improve efficiency and quality of production while minimising the effects on the environment," the company said in a statement in response to questions from The National. Dr al Amiri also said utilities could better manage the demand for electricity.

One method, called thermal energy storage, suits large real estate developments with significant air conditioning needs. Big chillers can run at night to produce cold water, which can be stored in an insulated tank and used to provide cooling during the day, he said. @Email:vtodorova@thenational.ae