x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 September 2017

Residents applaud their pioneering peer's move towards greener energy

Neighbours of a man who has installed solar panels on his roof to save on rising energy costs say they have been inspired to follow in his footsteps.

DUBAI // Tony Caden's sustainable energy project has caught the interest of his neighbours.

Hundreds of homeowners in the 700-villa Jumeirah Islands community protested last year when the developer Nakheel issued a new district-cooling contract, raising the cost of use from 56 fils for a ton of refrigeration an hour to Dh1.40.

After months of resistance, the rate was lowered this year to Dh1.

District cooling is an industrial process that produces and pumps cooled water from a remote plant to support air-conditioning systems inside a "district" of many villas and buildings.

Several Jumeirah Islands residents said they expected their average monthly district-cooling bill to rise to about Dh4,500 from Dh3,000 last year.

But with his system in place since April 16, Mr Caden estimates he is already saving 66 per cent in energy costs after he stopped using district cooling.

His monthly energy bill between July and September last year for district cooling, plus costs for power from the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa), was Dh3,130.

With the use of his own chiller and the solar panels, his monthly energy bill is now down to about Dh1,030 for electricity from Dewa.

Mr Caden is not allowed to cover his home with more solar panels because of community rules. But if he could, he would be able to produce more power than his home uses.

He could not, however, feed surplus power back into the national grid as that is not yet possible in the UAE.

The concept of buying power produced by privately owned solar projects is encouraged in more than 100 countries, including those in the European Union.

In the UAE, some schools and public parks already use solar panels to light car parks and gardens. Some hotels use solar panels to heat water.

In March this year, Dewa indicated for the first time that it was looking at linking the main electricity supply with power generated from independent solar panels, when it appointed a team of consultants to look into the feasibility of it.

A contract was also awarded to set up a 1,000-megawatt solar park in Dubai, worth Dh11.5 billion, which is to supply 5 per cent of the UAE's power needs by 2030.

The Jumeirah Islands resident Vijay Devnani believes Mr Caden's project is a step in the right direction.

"Within a year or two I think we will be headed in that direction, and just like Europe you will be able to sell it back to the utility," Mr Devnani said.

"It's new here now but soon it could be in Jumeirah Islands or anywhere else. It's a great option for the whole city of Dubai."

rtalwar@thenational.ae