Tabreed to explore more geothermal energy projects in UAE

The company will 'eventually' use its green finance framework to attract green equity funds, executive says

Chiller plant room with six units at a Tabreed Cooling Plant in Abu Dhabi. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
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The National Central Cooling Company, better known as Tabreed, along with Adnoc, is exploring more geothermal energy projects to meet the rising cooling demand in the UAE, the Arab world’s second-largest economy.

Both Tabreed and the Abu Dhabi-based energy company recently announced the Gulf region’s first geothermal energy project, which is expected to meet 10 per cent of Masdar City’s cooling needs.

“We will continue exploring the geothermal potential in all [of the] Abu Dhabi and Al Ain area to further deploy this technology,” Antonio Di Cecca, Tabreed’s chief operating officer, told The National in an interview.

At the Masdar City project, hot water generated by the heat from the wells will pass through an absorption cooling system to produce chilled water, which will then be supplied to Tabreed’s district cooling network at the sustainable research and development hub.

“This is a physical plant that will be coupled with the existing district cooling network in Masdar City. We will be able to commission the plant before Cop28 … we are on track and we have already started the construction,” Mr Di Cecca said.

Geothermal energy harnesses the heat generated within the Earth’s core to provide a constant energy source, unlike solar or wind, which are intermittent in nature. Geothermal energy plants also have high-capacity factors, meaning they can run at maximum power for longer periods.

The use of air conditioners and electric fans accounts for about a fifth of the total electricity in buildings around the world, or 10 per cent of all global electricity consumption, according to the International Energy Agency.

Energy demand for space cooling is expected to more than triple by 2050, the agency has said.

In the UAE, cooling makes up for more than 50 per cent of the electricity consumption in buildings, which can increase to 70 per cent during peak times, Mr Di Cecca said.

“Growth in population [and] access to better lifestyle will increase the air conditioning demand, so there is a need for policymakers and for governments to take important decisions on how to tackle [this],” he said.

“There are many different solutions starting from demand management [and] increasing the efficiency of the equipment.”

District cooling, which consists of a pipe network filled with water that is chilled by cooling plants, will play a major role as it helps in aggregating demand, Mr Di Cecca said.

The UAE’s population, which currently stands at 9.89 million people, is projected to continue growing until 2033, when it will hit its peak at 10.71 million people, according to the World Population Review.

Tabreed, one of the largest utility companies in the Middle East, has been rapidly expanding its operations across the region.

Last year, the company listed out its green financing framework to attract green equity funds to invest in its business.

“Our intention is to explore the market and see whether there are good opportunities and eventually use this framework,” Mr Di Cecca said.

The market for green and sustainable bonds and sukuk is booming, specifically in GCC economies, as governments in the oil-rich economic bloc push to meet their net-zero commitments.

This month, Abu Dhabi clean energy company Masdar listed its first green bond on the London Stock Exchange to fund its new clean energy projects.

Masdar completed its issuance for the $750 million green bond offering on July 19 through the sale of 10-year senior unsecured notes. The offering was 5.6 times oversubscribed, with the order book peaking at $4.2 billion, following strong appetite from regional and international investors.

Updated: August 21, 2023, 8:23 AM