x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Higher utility bills anger Dubai families

Dubai residents say they have seen their electricity and water bills rise drastically, even though they have tried to use fewer resources.

DUBAI // When Bronwyn Byrnes and her family moved into a three-bedroom villa with maid's quarters a few months ago, the water and electricity bill was about Dh1,500, but it has now more than doubled.

"We just got the Dh3,100 bill," said the Australian housewife and mother of one. "We have been away on holiday and the bill went up."

Mrs Byrnes, who is expecting a second child, said the family has been forced to take drastic action to try to cut the bill from the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa).

Her family has joined others across the emirate who have recently seen drastic increases, despite limited or even reduced usage.

"We move around in the dark, I switch everything off at the wall at night except the satellite receiver, a night light for baby and two small air purifier units in the bedrooms," Mrs Byrnes said.

Meanwhile, Dewa has recorded a 42 per cent jump in revenue, with residents paying Dh2billion more in utility bills for the first half of this year, compared with the same period last year.

Dewa had taken in Dh6.6bn in revenues during the first half of the year with its income rising by nine per cent to Dh1.63bn, according to a filing made to the Nasdaq Dubai.

Several Dubai residents said they are not surprised at the huge revenues received by the utility company: they have felt it in their purses.

"Many, many friends have complained about the increased tariff this year and the use of 'averages' and exact unit amount on the bill," Mrs Byrnes said.

The energy expert Robert Bryniak said that, despite some residents reporting large increases, he believed the increases were broadly in line with Dewa's 15 per cent price increase in January.

"You would have to take it on a case-by-case basis, but I think the increased bills are in line with what Dewa set out," said Mr Bryniak, who is the chief executive of the regional utilities consultancy Golden Sands.

"What is probably happening is that people or organisations who were heavy users to begin with will see much larger increases in their bills."

He said most utility companies around the world did not make regular monthly checks on meters, and instead based the bills on averages.

"This is why during the summer you might see bills increase as it does not reflect the meter but the average from the last time it was checked."

He said he expected to see a shift towards individual metering in the future because customers wanted to see their efforts at energy efficiency reflected in their monthly bills.

Salman Qureshi, a Pakistani national who lives in a two-bedroom apartment in Al Qusais, is unsure just how his bill is calculated and would like to see a change to individual metering.

Mr Qureshi has seen steep increases in his utility bill even though he has tried to cut down on power and water usage.

He said that even though "hardly anyone is ever home," his monthly bill has doubled to Dh1,700.

"I don't think it's fair that when people try to conserve and use less energy it doesn't reflect in the bill," he said. "We should be billed for only what we use. That would be fair."

Omar Ismail, an Emirati, agreed.

"My bill seems to have jumped up from about Dh700 to Dh1,300 per month, and Dh1,700 this month, and this is at a time when we were trying to be more conservative with our energy spending," he said.

Dewa did not respond to requests for comment.