Energy & Mining

Pushing thirty

Reducing water and power consumption

The Sharjah Energy and Water Authority (SEWA) has prescribed ambitious targets to reduce water and power consumption across the Emirate by 30% by 2020. The initiative, which started in 2015, […]

The Sharjah Energy and Water Authority (SEWA) has prescribed ambitious targets to reduce water and power consumption across the Emirate by 30% by 2020. The initiative, which started in 2015, fits within the UAE’s ethos of sustainable development, and will be primarily achieved through water re-usage and optimization of existing assets. This could make savings of 660 MW hours and 33 million gallons of water per day, savings that can be directly passed on to the customer.

As many know, the high amount of energy required for desalination and district cooling puts great pressure on Sharjah’s water and energy consumption needs. Desalination accounts for 98.2% of water consumption in Dubai, with only 1.2% coming from natural sources of potable water, with similar figures expected for Sharjah. The UAE’s per capita water usage stands at 550 litres per day; the same figure was reported in 2008, showing that no dent has been made in eight years. In comparison, the international average sits at 170-330 litres per capita a day. High energy consumption is costly, as the UAE remains a net importer of natural gas, despite having the seventh largest proven gas reserves in the world, roughly 3.5% of the global total. This is because domestic gas is injected into wells to reach higher oil recovery rates.

Sharjah’s desalination capacity is increasing. The Hamriyah water and power plant is being expanded and the Emirate’s desalination capacity will reach 230m gallons of water per day. At the time of writing, SEWA is in the final stage of selecting the project’s winning bid. The plant will move from a simple to a combined cycle, where heat is reused for extra energy—this will add almost 200 MW of output. Peak power demand for Sharjah stood at 2,500 MW in the summer months of 2015, with this figure expected to rise 10% per annum. SEWA was having to import 700 MW of electricity from Abu Dhabi to service this peak demand. Hamriyah water and power plant covers over half of this output, with another two plants making up 1,800 MW of output. No new power stations are planned before 2020, thus the Hamriyah expansion falls inline with a wider policy of enhancing existing assets.

A recent report from the Emirates Wildlife Society and World Wildlife Fund (EWS-WWF) showed that only 3.7% of firms in Sharjah had implemented water or energy saving measurements. This compares to 5.8% in Dubai and 2.1% in Abu Dhabi. The same report shows that the commercial sector accounts for 38% of energy consumption and 19% of water use nationwide.

The change that is being promoted is one of mentality. SEWA understands that water consumption will only reduce when there is a conscious effort from all citizens, residents, and workers to achieve the targets. Many of the programs that have been started were aimed at young children, and implemented within schools across the Emirate. The aim is to change practices through education, by changing approaches to consumption of water and power among the next generation.

In terms of changes that are being made today, SEWA, in association with Sharjah’s Urban Planning Council, is implementing legislation to ensure that developers are creating sustainable residences and workplaces, thus tackling the issue at its source. For example, retrofitting is one way of incorporating more sustainable technology and systems into the energy infrastructure. One reason it hasn’t taken off is the high price it comes at for the tenant or landlord. It is a cost that can be circumnavigated through more careful and regulated planning and results in 40% savings in terms of energy consumption. Forward planning like this will be the key to achieving the 2020 targets.