It is too easy to take for granted the provision of energy to run our homes, workplaces and vehicles. A combination of factors – including the abundance of gas and oil in the UAE, and the fact that petrol prices and energy bills are subsidised – has led to some complacency.
According to World Bank figures for 2012, the UAE has one of the world’s highest per-capita energy consumption rates. We each use the equivalent of 8,271.5 kilograms of oil per year, compared with just 90 in Afghanistan, 1,806.8 in China and 7,164.5 in the United States. Only six nations – Brunei, Luxembourg, Kuwait, Qatar, Trinidad and Tobago and Iceland – use more energy per person. There are mitigating circumstances, not the least of which are the energy required to desalinate seawater and the energy-intensive nature of oil extraction, but reducing our reliance on traditional forms of energy will soon be imperative.
The Government is leading the way in addressing the situation, with the implementation of schemes to conserve energy use and, in particular, to limit the nation’s reliance on non-renewable resources. The Shams 1 solar plant in Abu Dhabi’s Western Region is already generating enough power to serve 20,000 homes, while Dubai has just inaugurated its Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, with similar aims. The first stage of the Barakah nuclear power plant is expected to come online in 2017, providing a significant boost to the electricity grid.
There are also positive signs that individuals and corporations are beginning to embrace the idea of sustainable energy.
Many new office and residential buildings incorporate energy-saving design elements such as insulation and solar panelling. And, as The National reported over the weekend, five Dubai residences have been retrofitted with energy-efficient devices in a pilot project conducted by a private-sector company, Smart4Power. One resident said that, as a result, her monthly bill had dropped by Dh350.
They are setting examples that all householders can follow: using energy-efficient light bulbs, covering windows with solar-protecting film to keep out the heat, changing air-conditioning settings, and installing flow-rate adjusters on taps and shower fittings.
There will come a time when subsidies are unsustainable and consumers will have to pay market prices for their power and water. But with a few alterations to our homes and our lifestyles, we can all be well-prepared.