Energy & Mining

Green Steps


Dubai is a model for public-private cooperation when it comes to the development of a sustainable energy matrix.

Electricity demand in Dubai has shown a CAGR of more than 8% since 2008, and is forecast to continue to grow by 5% to 6% per year over the next decade. Dubai does have its own independent utility, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), and its own oil company, ENOC, but the country mainly runs on natural gas, most of which is imported from Qatar via the Dolphin pipeline.

According to the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, the Emirate aims to develop sustainable energy, improve energy efficiency, and generate 5% of its electric power from renewable energy by 2030, as well as reduce carbon emissions by 5 million tons. The Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030 also targets electricity to be generated 71% from natural gas by 2030, 12% from clean coal, and 12% from nuclear energy. Dubai, early in 2014, announced that it would not build a nuclear reactor of its own, but would contract to purchase power from among four reactors being built in other parts of the UAE, the first of which is expected to come online in 2017.


Public initiatives include the Dubai Carbon Centre of Excellence, which is working with the World Bank to launch the Dubai Green Fund to provide capital for green projects at market-competitive rates. Waleed Ali Ahmed Salman, Chairman of the Board of Dubai Carbon Centre of Excellence, told TBY that, “We also plan to sign with Enpark (a business park) and will sign with Dubai Holding. Real estate and buildings in Dubai are growing fast and there are numerous areas where green economic knowledge adds value. We will work with them to set their strategies for greenhouse gas emissions and sustainable development.”

The UNDP State of Energy Report Dubai 2014, released in June, shows the results of a collaborative effort by the UN Development Program (UNDP) and the Dubai Carbon Centre for Excellence to map the innovations and progress Dubai is making in energy efficiency and renewable energy measures. The report features such data as the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) calculating that per capita energy demand in Dubai, at 11 MWh, is nearly double the average in the EU.

While developing renewable energy sources is good, the fastest and most valuable results are attainable by improving efficiency and lowering demand. The UNDP report was unusual in that it devoted a whole chapter to mega events such as Dubai Expo 2020 and how minimizing the environmental impact of such events makes them more sustainable.

In a move to make Dubai an exemplar of a modern green economy and society, mega events are part of the overall fabric, but the real progress is made in hundreds of small measures. From passenger aircraft taxiing on single engines to cutting fuel usage to the solar-powered interior lighting used on tramcars in Dubai, every little bit adds to the Emirate’s overall effort.

In 2014, Dubai is implementing its first combined campaign to promote efficient lighting and energy awareness, with Dubai Carbon planning to distribute some 800,000 compact fluorescent lamps along with information on energy savings to households, all free of charge. Such measures have already shown impressive results, and with per capita electricity usage down by around 6% in 2013, Dubai was able to delay construction of the 1.6 GW Hassyan power plant.


Solar is in the driver’s seat when it comes to renewable energy. To meet targets, by 2020 Dubai will need to have installed approximately 200 MW of solar capacity and 1,000 MW by 2030. Aside from rooftop solar units, most of the solar capacity will be at the newly established Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, whose initial phase consists of a 13-MW plant.

State-owned oil company ENOC’s subsidiary EMGAS has a compressed natural gas (CNG) project in Dubai to safeguard a healthy and clean environment and reduce pollution. ENOC CEO Saeed Khoory told TBY that, “CNG is set to become the UAE’s preferred alternative fuel of choice for government vehicles, and we at ENOC have been working…to introduce CNG in public transport to reduce environmental pollution. One of ENOC’s pioneering sustainability initiatives was the opening of the first green service station in the Middle East in Dubai.”

No one has put a monetary value on Dubai’s renewable energy market as a whole, but Bloomberg estimated the renewables investment market in the GCC at $3 billion, which the UNDP says will help create 1.8 million jobs in the region by 2030. The market seems to be underestimated, as Emirates Central Cooling Systems Corporation (Empower), which controls 70% of Dubai’s district cooling market, expects $1.5 billion in turnover over 2014.

Empower CEO Ahmad M. Bin Shafar told TBY that, “On the environmental front, we have found a solution in using treated sewage water instead of potable water for district cooling. At some of our plants, we recycle the water and put it back into the system. We save a lot on potable water, while at the same time achieving clean and environmentally friendly air conditioning that reduces the city’s carbon footprint.”


In demand-side management programs, the private sector plays a role in the form of Energy Services Companies (ESCOs) and Energy Performance Contracting (EPC). Some ESCOs operating in Dubai include Energy Management Services, Pacific Controls, Veolia Azalia, and international companies such as Schneider Electric, Trane, Dalkia, Tata Solutions, and GDF Suez.

Etihad Energy Services was set up in 2013 by DEWA to oversee the refitting of existing buildings of Dubai so that they consume less energy, electricity, and water. Stephane Le Gentil, CEO of Etihad Energy Services, told TBY that, “The regulations are already in place, at least for our level of operations, though regulations concerning overall CO2 emissions in Dubai are still needed. A few regulations were put in place in February 2014 to create an energy services company framework. The Regulatory and Supervisory Bureau of Dubai (RSBD) has worked on creating such a framework, including an accreditation scheme, and we now have a contractual base that we can use and that is publicly available.”

Dubai faces many challenges in supplying sufficient power to allow the economy to grow while also providing clean energy at competitive rates. Cutting the energy and water consumption of both new and existing buildings is one side of the equation, but the suppliers also can reduce their usage. While Dubai’s largest single consumer of electric power, Dubai Aluminum, has improved its processes and reduced water and power use, electricity generator DEWA cut its line losses from 6.3% in 2001 to 3.5% in 2011.

Benoit Dubarle, Schneider Electric’s Country President for UAE, Oman, and Pakistan, told TBY that, “This region is one of the most energy intensive in the world, because water is hard to find and seawater needs to be processed. We have very innovative software to make water plants efficient. The third segment is utilities. Growth in Dubai, and in the region generally, means that many new substations are required. We’re working closely with the utility providers in the region to help make the most of the energy produced.”

One thing is clear; while Dubai may record four times the global per capita average for energy usage, it is also at a world-class level in working to address energy issues and put sustainable energy solutions at the forefront of economic development policy.