The Business Year

Ahmad M. Bin Shafar

UAE, DUBAI - Energy & Mining

Power Through

CEO, Empower


Ahmad M. Bin Shafar is the CEO of Emirates Central Cooling Systems Corporation (Empower), a position he has occupied since the company’s inception in 2004. He brings over 18 years of experience in senior management positions, including eight years with Standard Chartered Bank in the areas of corporate and retail banking, finance, marketing, and customer relations. He is also the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Empower Logstor Insulated Pipe Systems (ELIPS), a strategic joint venture between Empower and Logstor, a world leader in pre-insulated pipe systems. He was also the first UAE national to ever be nominated to the International District Energy Association (IDEA) Board of Directors, in June 2013. He is a graduate of California State University, where he obtained a Bachelor’s of Science on Business Administration in Management.

"Dubai is searching for green solutions to reduce the Emirate’s carbon footprint and to focus on the push toward clean energy."

What benefits Palm Utilities bring to Empower and the market?

Palm Utilities was an established business, but we found that it was not managed properly. Good management is key in any business. Look at the aviation industry, for example. Emirates Airlines started in 1985 with a capital of $2 million and two hired aircraft. Today, it has a huge capacity. We plan to do the same, and are confident that we can turn it around. And, over the next few months, we believe we will manage that.

You also took on $600 million and spent $500 million on this acquisition. Will you use the remaining $100 million for investment in new projects?

We do have projects and a plan. We covered the price of the acquisition, so the remaining money can be spent correcting the business. Empower is building two pontoons in Business Bay that will cost quite a lot of money. We are paying for them from the revenues and investor finances. It will generate cash through its operations. This is a continuous process. We need a certain level of debt in order to grow, whether at a personal or a business level. You do not take that money to spend on something fancy, as you are taking it to develop your business. The minute we stop growing is the minute we start stagnating. If you keep investing, then you are going to increase the size of your business over time.

“Dubai is searching for green solutions to reduce the Emirate’s carbon footprint and to focus on the push toward clean energy.”

Will this acquisition represent the creation of the largest district cooling service provider company in the world?

I am a member of the International District Energy Association (IDEA), the largest and most authenticated body of district energy, based in the US, which has over 1,700 members in 25 countries that deal with district energy issues. The total tonnage register for the next-largest company shows 700,000 tons of air-conditioned distance cooling units. Empower has 1 million air-conditioned distance cooling units, so we are the largest by far.

What does district cooling bring to Dubai?

Dubai is searching for green solutions to reduce the Emirate’s carbon footprint and to focus on the push toward clean energy. District cooling is a key part of this process. You never know what will happen in 10 years, but you do know about the next two or three years, and district cooling is a part of that future.

What improvements are you arranging in the cooling sector to help the environment?

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.

What is your strategy or sustainable model for Empower in 2014?

Empower has to continue on the same path it has followed for a decade, by working hard and focusing on the future. For 2014, I assume that our turnover will jump to $1.4 billion or $1.5 billion, and I intend to boost my profit in double-digit terms. We will be repaying some of the debts we have on our books—settling around $100 million over 2014—and at the same time we have started paying dividends to our shareholders.

To what extent has Empower improved its market share in the UAE and Dubai following the acquisition of Palm Utilities from Istithmar World?

After the acquisition, we hold 70% of the market in Dubai alone. In the UAE, we have about 60%. It is important to stabilize the market. So, if we fix prices, then all of the other companies will have to compete with us. We want to set the benchmark and act as the main driver of the industry in the UAE in a way that benefits the government, our investors, and our clients.

© The Business Year – July 2014



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